FB: HOCO win keeps Colonels’ record spotless


Kirsten Peters

With a minute to play in the first half, senior defensive tackle Vinne Werner recorded his first-career pick-six after grabbing the ball out of the Alvernia receiver’s hands and sprinting to the endzone to make the score 25-6.

EDWARDSVILLE, Pa. — Wilkes football has struggled to gain positive attention in recent years, but an undefeated season thus far is allowing the Colonels to make a name for themselves. Even last year following a 6-4 season, Wilkes was in the shadow of Misericordia, who burst onto the scene with an 8-2 record.

With this past Saturday’s 45-12 victory over Alvernia, Wilkes improves to 4-0 and is the only team in the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) with a perfect overall record and is one of three teams remaining with a perfect conference record.

This win also earned the Colonels their second-straight Homecoming victory, as the Colonels broke their 17-year homecoming losing streak with a 47-43 win against Albright last October.

Although Wilkes put 47 points on the board, the win was not easy to attain, as the Colonels needed a game-winning drive in the final minutes to break the draught.

However, that was not the case this year, as the Colonels jumped out to an early lead, dominated for the entirety of the game and left no question as to who was the better team on the field.

The Colonels’ mindset? To not worry about their opponent’s strategy and do what they know how to do.

“I just think we needed to take care of what we needed to take care of, really worry about what our jobs are,” said head coach Jonathan Drach, citing focus as Wilkes’ strategy prior to the Homecoming matchup. “We don’t really worry a whole lot about what the other team is doing, we just try to worry about what we need to do.”

This mindset proved successful in the Wilkes-Alvernia contest, as the Colonels started on defense but quickly flipped the script when sophomore defensive back Nahjir Woods intercepted a pass from Golden Wolves quarterback Darrius Sample. After a 23-yard return and two unsportsmanlike penalties, senior quarterback Jose Tabora and the Colonel offense went to work at the Alvernia 11-yard line. 

Wilkes couldn’t manage to get into the endzone, but junior kicker Alexander DeSpirito made a 23-yard field goal to give the Colonels an early 3-0 lead.

On the ensuing kick-off, DeSpirito attempted an onside kick and recovered the ball to put the Wilkes offense back on the field.

This time, Tabora was able to get his team into the endzone, and in record time with only two plays. Junior wide receiver Richard Ermeus hauled in a 52-yard pass from Tabora, putting Wilkes up 10-0.

“It’s how they (Alvernia) align honestly,” said Drach, in regards to the onside-kick decision. “They align an extra five-yards back, for some reason, to add depth so they can get a little deeper in their kick. That opens up the onside kick opportunity for us, and we have a kid who can do it, plus we get to put it on film for everybody else, so now they’ve got to worry about it.”

Drach’s decision to call for the onside kick set set the tone for the game, as the blue and gold never relinquished their lead throughout the remainder of the contest. Not to mention that Drach highlighted this strategy as a tactic Wilkes has in their back pocket that other MAC opponents should be aware of.

Following the 10-0 first quarter, Alvernia had the opportunity to score at the start of the second, with the Golden Wolves’ Malcom Carey finding the endzone from two-yards out. A missed extra-point put six points on the board for Alvernia, making the score 10-6.

Building off of their momentum from the beginning and wanting to reassert their dominace after the Alvernia touchdown, Wilkes stepped up their offense. 

The Colonels drove the field and scored on a fourth-and-goal play to senior tight end Bryce Harrison. 

Wilkes once again took advantage of Alvernia not being prepared, this time on the ensuing point after the touchdown. When the teams lined up to kick the extra point, senior holder/wide receiver Derek Nelson saw the Golden Wolves were misaligned, and he decided to run to the edge for a two-point play instead of the one-point kick.

Alvernia got the ball back with a minute left to play in the first half. They attempted a screen pass, but senior defensive tackle Vinne Werner was all over it. He grabbed the pass from the Alvernia receiver’s hands and sprinted to the endzone for the touchdown and his first career pick-six, adding insult to injury prior to halftime. 

Although Colonel fans, players and coaches were surprised to see Werner in the endzone, this was not the defensive tackle’s first touchdown. Werner recovered a fumble in the endzone against Albright during the 2017 season, making this pick-six his second career touchdown. 

“It was a moment I pictured from from the start of my career at Wilkes,” said Werner. “It was amazing.”

After putting 15 points on the board at the end of the second quarter, the Colonels headed into halftime with a 25-6 lead.

As if their scoring reign wasn’t impressive enough, Wilkes opened the second half with another quick touchdown. This time, Tabora found junior wide receiver Nick Yanik on a 50-yard pass that occurred on the second play from scrimmage of the half. 

“Some of the guys up front did a good job as the game went on being able to handle and run the football,” reflected Drach. “Jose made some big throws and Rich Ermerus and Nick Yanik did a nice job for us as well.”

Tabora attributed this success to practice, as the Colonels had a bye-week prior to their contest against Alvernia that allowed Wilkes to do some extra preparation. 

“Our focus is on execution,” said Tabora. “How we practice determines exactly how we play. My mindset is to stay calm and let the pieces of our hard work come together.”


With practice being the key to the puzzle, Tabora and the Colonel offense executed what they had been preparing for the past two weeks.

However, the Colonel scoring did not stop with Yanik, as Wilkes’ defense was able to stop Alvernia once again and get the ball back at the Alvernia 48-yard line.

Freshman running back Kamaal Reed, who was recently named ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) Rookie of the Month for September, helped sustain the drive. Reed ran the ball five times for 28 yards on the drive, including an eight-yard touchdown run. DeSpirito missed the following extra points, making the game 38-6. 

Despite allowing 28 unanswered points, Alvernia still had some fight in them, and Sample found a seam in the Wilkes defense on an option play. He ran the ball 61 yards to the endzone, the longest run allowed by the Colonel defense this season.

Wilkes’ second team came into the game for the next drive, and sophomore quarterback Heath Hoovler stepped up to the challenge. He manufactured a 10-play, 64-yard drive that chewed up 5:31 on the game clock. He also capped the drive off with a three-yard touchdown run.

The Colonels will put their perfect record to the test against Albright this coming Saturday on the road. 

The Lions are 0-4 on the season, but two of their losses were at the hands of nationally-ranked No. 15 Delaware Valley and No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor.