It came down to making a big play in the final minute of the game and Wilmington College found a way to get the job done.
On the strength of a 53-yard scoring pass from Austin Jarbo to Brandon Mitchell, the Quakers rallied to defeat visiting Bluffton 14-10 Saturday afternoon on Townsend Field at Williams Stadium.
The winning pass was Jarbo’s only completion of the game. Mitchell, the recipient, was the Quakers quarterback a year ago.
Grant Brown tacked on the PAT giving WC the four-point cushion, meaning Bluffton had to go the distance on the ensuing drive to win the game. The Beavers, racing against the clock, pushed the ball to the Wilmington 48, but would get no closer as Quaker Kentrell Lodge intercepted a pass as time expired.
With the win, the misery of a 23-game losing streak and a 12-year opening game losing streak ended for WC. The last win for Wilmington came in the seventh game of the 2011 season when Max Gabbard’s field goal provided a 13-12 win over Marietta. The last victory in a season opener came in 2002, when the Quakers defeated Mount St. Joseph.
For third-year coach Stacey Hairston, it was his first win as Wilmington’s head coach.
“The men just kept fighting and we told them it would come down to what happened in the fourth quarter,” said Hairston. “We had squandered some earlier chances offensively. It came down to our ability to execute.”
The move to Jarbo at QB came at the expense of starter Luke Creditt.
“At the end of the day, Jarbo is a competitor. When we needed it, at the end of the game, he delivered for us,” said Hairston. “Luke has been our most consistent performer at quarterback and that’s why he is the starter. However, Austin came through for us.”
Wilmington grabbed the lead in the third period on a pick-six by Jay Higgins. Brown’s PAT made it a 7-3 Quaker lead.
Down 10-7, Wilmington’s defense held Bluffton and the offense finally got on the scoreboard.
“We’re maturing and getting better,” Hairston said. “For the past three weeks we’ve talked about winning. No matter what happened we must learn how to win. We (coaches) try to teach them how to win and we took a big step today.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Nick Williams collected 12 tackles and one pass break-up. Wilmington High School grad David Henry recorded 11 tackles for the Quakers.
Wilmington has an open date Saturday and will begin play in the Ohio Athletic Conference on Sept. 19 against Capital. The Crusaders lost to No. 17 Wittenberg 38-21 this week. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. on the WC campus.
Sept 5, 2015
Wilmington 14 Bluffton 10
B-J Watkins 37 yard field goals, 11:21
W-Jay Higgins 43 yard interception return (Grant Brown PAT) 8:33
B-M Roberson 4 yard pass from C Speice (J Watkins PAT) 11:07
W-Brandon Mitchell 53 yard pass from Austin Jarbo (Grant Brown PAT) 1:00
FIRST DOWNS: B-18, W-17. RUSHING: B 44-184, W 32-130. PASSING: B 15-33-3, 191 yards, W 14-34-1, 211 yards. TOTAL YARDS: B 375, W 341. FUMBLES-LOST: B 1-0, W 2-1. PENALTY-YARDS: B 5-40, W 9-77.
RUSHING: BL-Thomas-Wright 19-59, Fisher 11-50, Speice 5-45, Carroll 5-21, Sheehan 4-9; WC-Davis 12-80, Manica 1-23, Flynn Jr 6-15, Creditt 10-8, Jarbo 3-4
PASSING: BL-Speice 8-16-2, 108 yards; Sheehan 7-17-1, 83 yards; WC-Creditt 13-28-1, 158 yards; Jarbo 1-6-0, 53 yards
RECEIVING: BL-Roberson 9-88, Showalter 2-46, Dell 1-41, McLaurin 1-13, Thomas-Wright 1-2, Fisher 1-1; WC B. Mithchell 5-108, Lee 4-58, Wright 4-47, Davis 1-(-2)
TACKLES: Nick Williams 12, David Henry 11, Tarrell Starckey 9, Jason Phillips 8, Darren Milligan 6, Amari Bryant 5 (1 sack), Teqon Scott 5, Cody Reigelsperger 4, Trent Waters 4, Ryan Prince 4, Brandon Middleton 3, Kentrell Lodge 2 (1 interception), T. Narcisse-Murphy 2, Nik Logic 2, Jay Higgins 1 (2 interceptions), Shawn Ruth 1, Gunner Kelly 1, Franco Villella 1, Sam Tedtman 1, Daniel Hall 1, Tyler Tarnowski 1.