WILMINGTON, Ohio – The defense scored seven points, forced two turnovers and came up with consecutive sacks in the final minute Saturday to lead the Wilmington College football team to a 24-21 Ohio Athletic Conference victory over Capital University at Townsend Field.
“We have 21 seniors and to see the emotions that those guys went through today was special,” acting head coach Corey Fillipovich said. “There’s a lot of stuff that we do to celebrate where they are in their careers, and like it or not, it’s coming to an end soon. Seeing this group push through the adversity of this game and this season couldn’t make me happier.”
Fillipovich, who calls the defense, got his unit to come up with a big play on the game’s first drive as Capital quarterback Luke McCarrell was stuffed for no gain on 4th-and-1. The Fightin’ Quaker offense used the short field to tack on three points as Gabe Dolen’s 25-yard field goal attempt was true, capping a 12-play drive.
Another turnover on downs followed for the Comets, and the Quakers, who faced a fourth down of their own, converted for six as Derek Larimer found a wide open Itika Wynn Jr. in the corner of the endzone for a 14-yard score.
Capital answered with a 65-yard touchdown drive capped by a McCarrell scamper from 22 yards out on the next possession, and after the offense failed to score for the first time, Fillipovich’s defense came up with another game-changing play. On the first play of the drive McCarrell locked onto a wide receiver, but Tre’Quez Parks, one of the fifth-year seniors, stepped in front of the pass and took it to the house for six.
Trailing 17-7, Capital drove deep into Wilmington territory late in the first half, but McCarrell’s pass into the end zone was batted in the air by Austin Aiello and eventually intercepted by Jalaun Covington.
“Those two interceptions were huge,” said Fillipovich. “This is the first time since week No. 1 that we’ve had our starting defense out there. The reps have finally added for not only our side of the ball, but the offense as well. We’re finally starting to gel.”
The offense opened the second half with a five-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard pass from Larimer to Ace Taylor for a touchdown. Even after Capital scored a touchdown on two long pass plays and another midway through the fourth quarter on a ball that deflected off the hands of a Quaker defender, Wilmington’s defense, which had given up at least 35 points in each of the first seven games of the year, didn’t break.
Leading 24-21, the Quaker defense forced yet another turnover on downs late, but after the referees elected to leave the flag tucked in the belt rather than throw it for pass interference, the Comets had one more chance. All that stood in Capital’s way of avenging a loss on the same field seven months ago was 80 yards and 1:12 on the clock.
After one first down and an incompletion, seemingly eight games of frustration came out in two plays. Wilmington, thanks to individual efforts from its best pass rushers, tallied back-to-back sacks that all but ended the game.
“Those guys have been in that situation as we practice a two-minute drill all the time,” said Fillipovich. “I put Tavion Bryant and James Crowder as edge rushers and Brandon Weaver at nose tackle. Those guys were ready for that moment.”
Statistically, Capital out-gained Wilmington 414-310, but the Quakers stepped up when it mattered most, stopping the Comets on all seven of their fourth down attempts. Wilmington’s defense held Capital to just 99 yards rushing on 37 carries.
Individually, Larimer finished 24-of-39 for 255 yards and two scores while Wynn Jr. had nine receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown. Taylor also contributed six receptions for 79 yards and a score.
Defensively, Parks and Bryant led the way with 10 tackles each while those two, alongside Xzerious Stinnett, Perry Gardiner and Brandon Lemley, all had a sack. Four of those individuals are seniors with Parks and Bryant both coming back for fifth years this fall.
Wilmington will conclude the 2021 fall season with a trip to Otterbein University next Saturday.