JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Just like most games this season, the ETSU football team found itself in a slugfest with Mercer Saturday afternoon with the Buccaneers being the last team standing as they were crowned conference champions with a 38-35 victory at Greene Stadium.
The Buccaneers made the first move in the opening quarter with a 43-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Riddell to wide receiver Malik Murray. East Tennessee led 7-3 after the first quarter and led 21-10 at halftime. Riddell and running back Quay Holmes each chalked up a rushing score in the second quarter.
The intensity picked up in the final 30 minutes. Mercer outscored their Johnson City counterparts 18-0 in the third quarter, leading 28-21 heading into the final session of the contest.
Randy Sanders and his squad struck first in the fourth quarter when Riddell hooked up with wide receiver Will Huzzie in the back of the end zone to knot this game up at 28. Mercer responded with a touchdown pass of its own, but crucial interceptions from defensive backs Tyree Robinson and Alijah Huzzie gave the Johnson City team plenty of momentum.
The Buccaneers tallied a 41-yard field goal from Tyler Keltner off the Robinson interception, while Riddell and Murray hooked up once again. This time it was for 13 yards and it gave the Buccaneers a 38-35 lead with 1:47 left in the game.
Mercer got a chance to tie it up, but the 42-yard field goal from Devin Folser sailed wide left.
Riddell shined in this showdown with 265 yards and three touchdowns as the redshirt freshman went 26 of 29. Huzzie was Riddell’s top target with 76 yards and the score on eight catches. Holmes was carrying his weight in the offense as well with 132 yards and one touchdown on 25 attempts.
The defense allowed 518 yards to the Bears, but the three turnovers was crucial to the Buccaneers. Mercer quarterback Fred Payton tallied 375 yards and two touchdowns on 21 of 31 attempts. Wide receiver Ty James was finding the holes in ETSU’s secondary with 224 yards and one touchdown on eight catches. Running back Fred Davis recorded 71 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
The Buccaneers find out who they’ll be squaring off against in the postseason with the FCS Playoff selection show airing on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on ESPNU.