FB: Arsenal of quarterbacks conquer Devils

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FB: Arsenal of quarterbacks conquer Devils

Senior wide receiver Derek Nelson hurdled over an FDU defensive back for his second touchdown of the game.

Senior wide receiver Derek Nelson hurdled over an FDU defensive back for his second touchdown of the game.

Kirsten Peters

Senior wide receiver Derek Nelson hurdled over an FDU defensive back for his second touchdown of the game.

Kirsten Peters

Kirsten Peters

Senior wide receiver Derek Nelson hurdled over an FDU defensive back for his second touchdown of the game.

Kirsten Peters, Co-Sports Editor

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Five quarterbacks, a safety, multiple kick returns by a defensive lineman and a Superman-like hurdle from an unlikely candidate made Saturday’s game one for the books.

Take all the usual elements of a football game, and throw them out the window because Wilkes’ 45-20 victory over FDU-Florham was anything but normal. 

“I’m pumped up right now,” said Aboubacar Fofana, the freshman wide receiver who notched a career day with four catches for 121 yards and two appearances in the endzone. 

Fofana wasn’t the only player “pumped up,” as the Colonel sideline went wild when senior linebacker Bud Moyer intercepted Tommy Galante’s third-and-six pass for the first turnover of the day. 

Freshman kicker Justin Pollack got Wilkes on the board with a 28-yard field goal for the early 3-0 lead. 

Wilkes was able to put more points on the board before ever securing a touchdown. With an FDU snap on the punt that sailed over the punter’s head and into the back of the endzone, the Colonels clinched two points on the safety.

Another unusual feat: Junior defensive lineman Justin Trolinger had two kick returns in the first half for 23-yards, with one directly after the safety.

With senior quarterback Jose Tabora suspended during the first half, third-string quarterback sophomore Doug Weist found himself on the starting roster. His impressive performance in the 36-35 overtime victory against Misericordia earned him the spot.

But an interception sent Wilkes back to their second-string quarterback, sophomore Heath Hoovler.

“Our QB-room is really ahead of the curve,” said Tabora. “Every quarterback knows what they would have to do if they came in, and they’re all prepared. I had the utmost confidence in all four of them.”

Before Tabora entered the game in the second half, Wilkes posted 18 points and had a four-point lead. 

With Hoovler under center, Fofana seemed to be the perfect match. Thirty-nine and 38-yard passes from Hoovler sent Fofana into the endzone for two touchdowns.

You have to come into every game with that ‘dog mentality’ by getting every ball thrown to you, and today was my day,” said Fofana. 

It is also important to note that freshman quarterback John Washington made an appearance in the first half on the drive between Fofana’s touchdowns. He connected with junior wide receiver Mike O-Donnell for 44-yards down the left sideline. Wilkes attempted a 35-yard field goal, but Pollack’s kick hit the left upright.

“We played a lot of different guys today, which was a bit different for us,” reflected head coach Jonathan Drach. “But they all stepped up and did pretty well. It was nice to have Heath back and get some of those other guys a little bit of extra time in the first half.”

After halftime, the Colonels returned to their first-string man: Tabora. 

“Jose is a dynamic athlete. When the ball is in his hands, he’s pretty difficult to guard. He makes us a very, very versatile offense,” praised Drach of his go-to quarterback. 

With Hoovler and Fofana setting the tone, Tabora capitalized on the strategy that was working against the Devils. Fofana continued the damage with a 40-yard pass from Tabora. Freshman Ja’Quan Sheals ran the ball from one yard out to extend the advantage to 25-14 in the third quarter. 

“We ended up coming out on top by rotating all of our quarterbacks, and we had fun with it,” noted Fofana.

After another three-and-out from FDU, Tabora and senior wide receiver Derek Nelson put on a show out of a fairytale. 

Tabora capped off an 11-play, 87-yard drive to Nelson for a 20-yard touchdown pass over the middle of the field with five minutes to go in the third quarter. 

With Tabora and Nelson in their groove, Nelson scored back-to-back touchdowns. From 11-yards out, Nelson flew through the air over an FDU defensive back in cinematic action that sent the game out of reach for FDU.

Tabora recorded his third touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to O’Donnell from five-yards out, finishing off the 27-point half for the Colonels. Tabora finished 10-for-14 with 145 yards in one half of play.

“Playing football is my favorite thing to do, and due to my actions, I was a little held back from it,” said Tabora, in light of his suspension. “I have to learn how to manage myself in a more professional manner. You have to understand that you walk around with a target on your back. And honestly, I’m all for it. It’s something that’s going to make me a better player and person.”

Junior Wade Rippeon made an appearance at quarterback late in the fourth quarter to complete Drach’s reliance on his arsenal of Colonel quarterbacks.

With Wilkes limiting FDU on their trick plays and remaining disciplined, the Colonels tacked their fifth conference win and are 7-1 overall.

As for next week’s approach, it’s on to the next one for Drach. 

“I stay pretty much unsatisfied continuously — the guys know that,” said Drach. “We have a lot of work to do this week, and we’ll be back in there tomorrow.”

Tabora echoed his coach’s sentiments, “We can’t take our foot off the pedal. We have two big games ahead of us, starting with Stevenson next week. We have to be proud — it’s small victories and claps. The end goal is still in reach.”

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