WESTERVILLE, Ohio — In a game that featured almost everything — a blocked PAT returned for two points, a failed fourth down conversation at the goal line that turned into a touchdown for the opposition in two plays and nearly 1,000 yards of total offense — the Wilmington College football team came away with a wild 37-33 victory over Otterbein University in the 2021 fall season finale Saturday.
The win marks the Fightin’ Quakers’ third consecutive win over the Cardinals and third-straight win in Westerville.
“This was a very similar game to the two previous times we’ve played Otterbein,” acting head coach Corey Fillipovich said. “We knew it would go down to the wire. Coach Doup and his staff do a good job, especially with the defense.”
Fillipovich’s defense got a stop on the Cardinals’ first possession, and the Wilmington offense went right to work as Derek Larimer found Itika Wynn Jr. for a 40-yard touchdown that capped an eight-play, 88-yard drive. Larimer hooked up with Ace Taylor for the two-point conversion and the Quakers led 8-0.
Otterbein answered with a long touchdown drive of its own, but Wilmington blocked the PAT and Tre’Quez Parks returned it for two points. The visitors, seemingly fueled by the momentum of that play, were setup by a long kickoff return from Ameer Jackson. One play later, it was 17-6 as Larimer found Lathan Jones for a 34-yard score.
Two straight three-and-outs from the Cardinals followed, and the Wilmington offense once again drove deep into the red zone. This time, however, Otterbein’s defense stood tall, stopping Wilmington on two plays from inside the 2. Momentum seemed to shift on a dime as the two long pass plays that followed made the game 17-13.
“Our thought in going for it was if we didn’t get it, the defense had them [Otterbein] pinned deep,” said Fillipovich. “Our defense had been playing really well up until that point, but credit to Otterbein for making the play. Our team didn’t panic though. When you get to week No. 10, there aren’t too many situations you haven’t been in.”
A Larimer interception on the ensuing drive helped give Otterbein its first lead of the game but it wouldn’t last long as a Gabe Dolen field goal followed by a Wilmington interception on the final play of the first half sent the Quakers into the locker room up 20-19.
The third quarter started very well for Wilmington as a 28-yard run from Ben Hobbs put the visitors up 27-19, and on Otterbein’s next possession, Brandon Weaver sacked quarterback Bryce Hall who fumbled, and Xzerious Stinnett returned it for a touchdown. Wilmington’s defense, anchored by two fifth-year seniors from Columbus — Parks and Tavion Bryant — got the final stop to seal the win.
“Our team just kept making plays when we needed them most,” Fillipovich said. “That’s something we have not done with regularity until these last two weeks.”
Both teams gained between 450-500 yards in the game, but Wilmington held a 3-1 edge in turnover margin as well as controlling the ball for more than 36 minutes. Larimer completed 27-of-34 passes for 308 yards and two scores. Wynn Jr., who leaves the program with top five career marks in receptions, yards and touchdown catches, hauled in 11 passes for 140 yards and a score. Running back Ben Hobbs, who earned the team’s game ball, carried 26 times for 124 yards and a touchdown.
The game marks the end of the careers of 21 seniors, who go out winning their final two games in each of the last two years played in the traditional fall semester.
“This week has been an emotional one. This this group of seniors, who make us coaches look good, are stripped of their titles as football players, but gain membership to the four percent club of players that have played through their senior year,” said Fillipovich. “When adversity struck this season, they just persevered. It’s a special group of young men. Their chapters as student-athletes are over, but they have many chapters in their lives yet to write.”
Wilmington finishes its 2021 fall season with a 2-8 overall record including a 2-7 mark in OAC play.