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Mintz’s last-second interception lifts Averett football to thrilling conference win over Southern Virginia

Things appeared promising for the Southern Virginia University football team in the final 10 seconds of its USA South Conference matchup against Averett University Saturday afternoon …

BUENA VISTA, Va. — Things appeared promising for the Southern Virginia University football team in the final 10 seconds of its USA South Conference matchup against Averett University Saturday afternoon.

Trailing 28–23, Southern Virginia had moved the ball down to the Averett 10-yard line and was primed for the go-ahead score.

However, looks were deceiving as senior Nicholas Mintz stepped in front of a Colton Shumway pass in the end zone for an interception that lifted Averett to a thrilling 28–23 victory over Southern Virginia in conference action.

After blocking an Averett punt, Southern Virginia (2–7, 1–6 USA South) moved the ball down to the Cougars’ 15-yard line thanks to a 21-yard run from Colten Shumway. Jacob Wood followed with a 13-yard run that moved the ball down to the 2-yard line before being brought back for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Two plays later, Shumway went to the end zone for the game-winning score, but Mintz stepped in front of the pass, sending the Cougars onto the field in celebration.

The late-afternoon dramatics didn’t seem to be on the horizon as Averett (4–4, 3–3) entered the fourth quarter with a 28–9 advantage. However, the Vikings refused to go quietly into the night and pulled within two scores on former Tunstall standout and freshman Jalan Troy’s 27-yard touchdown reception that made it 28–16 with 12:29 on the clock.

Southern Virginia got the ball back after forcing an Averett punt on its ensuing possession, but junior Jamal Ash didn’t let the Vikings stay high for long as he recorded a big interception that gave the ball back to the Cougars.

Averett’s offense couldn’t capitalize on its ensuing possession as the Cougars were forced into a punt. On the Vikings’ following drive, Shumway converted a huge fourth-down attempt with a 12-yard strike to Angel Medina and five plays later Southern Virginia cut its deficit to five with Jake Schenz’s 17-yard touchdown reception with 1:23 left in regulation.

In the end, though, the Vikings’ comeback attempt would fall short as Mintz’s interception helped Averett snap a three-game losing streak.

The Cougars’ defense played a huge role in the win, finishing the afternoon with four interceptions. Senior Conner Showalter made a huge play in the third when he recorded a 22-yard pick-6 that gave Averett a 28–9 advantage with just over four minutes. Ash and Mintz each recorded interceptions, while senior Terrell England came down with a pick as well.

Despite the frantic finish, Averett appeared to be in control of the game as it scored a pair of unanswered touchdowns in the third to create some space. The Cougars got the second half started on the right foot with an eight-play, 66-yard scoring drive capped by freshman Bryce Phipps’ 2-yard run that gave Averett a 21–9 lead with 11:53 left in the third.

Showalter stepped up next, helping the Cougars’ defense account for some points when he broke off a 22-yard interception return that made it a 28–9 contest with just over four minutes left in the period.

Averett ended the first half with a bang. After Skylar Johnson’s 17-yard touchdown reception with 35 seconds remaining gave Southern Virginia a 9–7 lead, the Cougars pieced together a quick three-play scoring drive that helped them push back in front.

Junior quarterback Bryce Jackson got the mojo rolling with his 13-yard pass to senior Chase Nixon that moved the ball into Vikings territory. Two plays later, Jackson capped the drive with his 36-yard pass to Nixon that gave the Cougars a 14–9 edge heading into the break.

Despite the late scoring flurry, the first half was a defensive stare down with neither team blinking.

Southern Virginia opened the game strong, moving the ball down to the Averett 2-yard line on its opening possession. The Cougars’ defense rose like bread, though, as Showalter and senior Tristin Quick made a big stop on first-and-goal, and Showalter and Mintz followed with a big defensive stop of their own. Senior Diaunte Neufville followed with a pass deflection that set up fourth down and Derek Bass’ 19-yard field goal that gave the Vikings a 3–0 lead with 7:36 left in the first.

Southern Virginia’s defense forced a fumble on Averett’s first possession, giving the Vikings an early opportunity to take a two-score advantage. However, the Cougars’ defense was up to the challenge, forcing a punt on Southern Virginia’s ensuing possession.

The Cougars didn’t break the seal until midway through the second quarter when Jackson found senior Isaiah Grice for a 22-yard touchdown pass that gave Averett a 7–3 lead with 9:20 left in the half.

Jackson finished the afternoon with a game-high 231 passing yards and a touchdown on 19 completions. Grice was his main guy as he hauled in a game-high 99 receiving yards and a score on nine catches. Nixon finished close behind with 81 yards and a touchdown on five receptions.

Former GW standout and freshman Shawn Watlington paced the Cougars’ rushing attack, picking up 75 yards on 17 carries.

Shumway finished the afternoon 13-for-26 with 197 yards and three scores, while also being picked off twice. Schenk was his main target with 61 yards and a score on four targets, while sophomore Chase Pope hauled in three catches for 48 yards and Johnson finished with 43 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches.

Defensively, the Cougars were led by Showalter who added a game-high 20 tackles to go along with his pick-6. Mintz finished with 12 tackles and a pick, while Neufville recorded 11 tackles.

Junior Dylan Andrew led the Vikings with 10 tackles, while senior Bishope Apodaca finished with nine and junior Jason Siaosi checked in with eight. Freshman Blake Hubert recorded an interception.

Averett returns to action Nov. 6 when it hosts USA South foe LaGrange College at 1 p.m. for Senior Day.

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