WILMINGTON — The Wilmington College football team overcame a 13-point deficit at halftime to defeat Otterbein University 32-26 in an Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) contest on Homecoming Weekend on Saturday.
“The crowd and the atmosphere today was incredible,” Acting Head Coach Corey Fillipovich said. “Coach Doup and his staff do a great job and do enough to put you in some binds, but were are able to get out of of them today. I have a resilient group.”
The Cardinals scored the only points of the first quarter, a 23-yard field goal off the foot of Caleb Meade, as the Fightin’ Quaker defense stood tall in the red zone late in the first quarter. After another WC punt, the visitors got the ball at their own eight-yard line and marched 92 cards in 12 plays as Siraj Muhammed found pay dirt from one yard out. The very next drive, it was the host’s turn to find the end zone as three Ben Hobbs runs and two 20-plus yard completions from Adam Dixon to Ace Taylor and Gavin Foushee respectively setup a 10-yard Dixon scamper midway through the second quarter.
Otterbein, which was looking to snap a three-game losing streak to Wilmington scored on its final two drives of the half – a touchdown from Eason Hardouin to Owen Menge and a 31-yard field goal as the final play of the half.
“Defensively, we got caught behind the chains too much in the first half,” commented Fillipovich. “Our focus going into the second half was to win first down.”
The Cardinals, who had over 300 yards of offense in the first half, looked to add to their 20-7 advantage as the defense forced a WC three-and-out on the first possession of the second half. Fillipovich’s defense stood tall, however, forcing a three-and-out of their own, setting up the WC offense to catch fire. The Quakers did just that as Dixon completed four consecutive passes, and Nehemiah Jenkins tallied two 19-yard rushes to move the ball into the red zone. On the first play deep in Otterbein territory, Dixon lofted a 50-50 ball to fifth-year wide receiver Itika Wynn Jr., who hauled in the touchdown.
Another WC stop followed, and a long strike from Dixon to Lathan Jones setup a Seth Best 35-yard field goal to cut the deficit to just three at 20-17. After two stops, Otterbein drove into Quaker territory, but couldn’t convert a field goal from 27 yards out as the fourth quarter began. Three players later, Dixon to Jones again, this time for 74 yards, put the hosts on top 24-20 for the first time in the game. The Cardinals would regain the lead, however, on consecutive field goals as the go-ahead field goal was setup by an interception at midfield. On the visitor’s next possession, however, Elijah Carson intercepted a Hardouin pass, which would setup the game-winning score. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Dixon hit Foushee on a post for the 28-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was successful, and the Quaker defense held up to earn the victory.
Otterbein outgained Wilmington slightly 501-453 and also held the ball for over 13 more minutes, but couldn’t convert enough in the red zone. Both teams faced 17 third down attempts with the Quakers converting seven times and the Cardinals just four.
Individually, Dixon finished 19-of-36 for 350 yards and three scores to go along with the two interceptions. Jenkins carried 16 times for 79 yards while Lathan Jones tallied a career-high 204 yards receiving on just four catches.
“Nemo [Nehemiah Jenkins] is one of our guys we recruited from Florida and has just gotten better and better,” Fillipovich said. “We got him in the game a little bit last week, and got him some more carries today. He made some big runs at big times.”
Hardouin completed 26-of-47 for the Cardinals for 361 yards and a touchdown with six of those completions to tight end Christian Pataky for 97 yards. Muhammed carried 21 times for 125 yards and one score.
Defensively, Zac Schmidt led the way with 13 tackles including five for loss while Jarod Lee and Joey Weikel and 10 and nine tackles respectively. Jake Sheriff joined Weikel, Alijah Fleming and Lincoln Washington to makeup the four Quaker sacks. Vincent Fisher led Otterbein in defeat with seven tackles.
“Those are confident guys,” said Fillopovich. “When you speak and play confidently, it just spreads through your program. All four of those men are leaders and very physical.”
Wilmington (2-1, 1-1 OAC) heads to Capital University next weekend.