NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- The Christopher Newport University football team won for the third straight week Saturday, holding off Ferrum College at POMOCO Stadium, 27-21. The Homecoming Weekend victory keeps the Captains in a first-place tie in the USA South Athletic Conference.
The teams exchanged leads in the opening half, and Ferrum held a 14-10 lead at the intermission. CNU grabbed the lead back on the first play from scrimmage in the second half on a 52-yard pass play from sophomore Christian Woelfel-Monsivais (Fredericksburg, Va.) to senior T.J. Foster (Randolph, Va.).
"That play really set the tone," head coach Matt Kelchner said after the win. "We talked at halftime and thought we had position to break that play open and it worked out. Christian made a great throw and it put us up."
The Captains would not relinquish the lead. Senior tailback Keith Gaines rushed 28 times for 149 yards and scored on runs of 16 yards in the first half and 10 yards early in the fourth quarter to put CNU ahead, 24-14.
Ferrum rallied with a big play late in the fourth quarter. With the Captains on top, 27-14, junior quarterback Marcus Mayo hit sophomore receiver Derrick West on a 56-yard scoring strike to cut the lead to six. The ensuing on-sides kick was recovered by the Panthers with just over three minutes to play.
CNU's defense held the Panthers in the final minutes to preserve the win. Senior linebacker Adrin Diggs (Smithfield, Va.) posted a career-high 17 tackles and junior linebacker Mike King (Centreville, Va.) made 12 stops.
"Our defense was really special," Kelchner said. "We gave up a few big plays, but for the most part we held them down pretty good."
Woelfel-Monsivais, making his first start of the season at quarterback, was 10 of 14 with a touchdown and no interceptions. He also ran for 35 yards on 10 carries. He becomes the third different starter for CNU this season following injuries to previous starters Matt Long and Lyndon Garner.
Foster caught four passes for 101 yards and a score. Senior receiver Scott Arvai (Manassas, Va.) also caught four balls for a career-best 64 yards.
Captains freshman kicker Stephen Denuel (Moseley, Va.) connected for field goals of 35 and 23 yards.
Ferrum's Mayo finished with 73 yards rushing and 207 yards passing. He was 13 of 22 with two scores and an interception.
The win for the Captains, in front of 3,517 at POMOCO Stadium, improved the overall record to 4-4 after a 1-4 start. CNU is now 4-1 in the USA South and in a three-way tie for the top spot.
Ferrum had its three-game winning streak snapped and is now 3-5 overall and 3-2 in conference play.
"That was a tough win," Kelchner continued. "Dave Davis always has his kids playing hard and they've got a lot of talent. Mayo is really hard to stop and gives them a lot of options."
CNU has now won nine of 10 career meetings with the Panthers.
The Captains travel to Maryville, Tennessee, next Saturday to play Maryville College. Game time is set for 1:30 pm.