WC football closes season with thrilling victory 28-27

WESTERVILLE — Kevin Barrett’s two-point conversion pass to Nikita Wynn Jr. with seconds to play Saturday lifted Wilmington College to a 28-27 win over Otterbein in Ohio Athletic Conference on the OU campus.

“Itika [Wynn Jr.] is a problem for opposing defenses and will continue to be for the next couple of years,” said WC head coach Bryan Moore. “He missed a lot of the fourth quarter with cramping, but was put back out there when we needed him. Tough kid.”

The win puts Wilmington’s record at 3-7 on the season and 3-6 in OAC play. Both mark program bests in the last decade.

“Our seniors, most of whom I inherited, get to go out with back-to-back wins, a road OAC win and the memory of an unbelievable game,” said Moore. “I am eternally grateful for them sticking with me. Not everyone is tough enough to go through what they did, and keep getting up and going back to work. I hope today made it all worth it for them.”

Wilmington finished with 455 total yards to Otterbein’s 326. The Quakers, who converted 10-of-18 third-down attempts, held the Cardinals to 146 yards passing and just nine completions.

Barrett finished 21-of-33 for 301 yards and two scores while Gino Hinton Jr. ran for 119 yards and a score in his final collegiate game. Wynn Jr. hauled in seven passes for 103 yards and a touchdown while Clinton-Massie product Luke Richardson had three catches for 96 yards and a score.

Defensively, Tre’Quez Parks finished with 10 tackles while Tavion Bryant had nine. Austin Aiello intercepted a pass while Bryant and Ameer Jackson teamed up for a sack.

“Our defensive staff has done a great job developing that unit throughout the year,” Moore said. “They played well all game and really stepped up the last three to four weeks.”

Though the finish was crazy, the first half was anything but that. The Fightin’ Quakers scored on their opening possession as Hinton capped an 11-play, 53-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run to open the scoring.

The Cardinals equalized midway through the quarter on a 34-yard rush from Bryce Lowry, but Wilmington pushed the ball back into enemy territory as Richardson returned the kickoff for 52 yards. Four plays later, Malik Sims scored, but the point-after attempt failed.

That score, 13-7, would remain until late in the third quarter when a Barrett pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

The Quakers’ defense held on the next possession, and as the fourth quarter opened, Wilmington drove into Otterbein territory once again. On fourth-and-2 from the Cardinal 30, the Quakers went for it, but Sims was stopped a yard short. After another Otterbein punt, Barrett connected with Richardson on a 76-yard score with 7:50 to play in the game. Tyler Butcher’s point-after attempt was true and Wilmington led 20-14.

Unfortunately, the visitors’ defense wouldn’t get a stop a third straight possession as Matt Webb’s 56-yard run set-up an Otterbein touchdown on 4th-and-15. The Cardinals converted the go-ahead extra point to take a 21-20 lead.

Disaster would strike for Wilmington on the next offensive possession as a Barrett pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown with less than 90 seconds to play. Otterbein’s two-point conversion attempt to go up nine failed and the score stood 27-20.

Wilmington was graced with good field position, thanks to an Otterbein unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and after a sack on the first play, Barrett found Ace Taylor for a first down across midfield. After two incompletions, Barrett connected with Wynn for a 32-yard gain to the Cardinal 4. The duo would strike again on the next play, getting Wilmington within 27-26.

Rather than kick the extra point to tie the game with 15 seconds, Moore elected to go for the win. Barrett threw a pass in traffic to, you guessed it, Wynn, who caught the ball to give Wilmington a 28-27 lead and the program’s first road win since defeating Heidelberg University in 2008.

“We have been in quite a few close games like this, and I didn’t get a sense of panic from the guys,” Moore said after the game. “We, as a staff, have been emphatic about getting our team to finish, and today, with seconds to go in the season, they finished.”