FB: Defense, special teams carry Colonels to first shut-out

EDWARDSVILLE, Pa. — On Sept. 25, Wilkes hosted Alvernia University on Family Day where they posted a 23-0 victory.

“I thought we were a little sloppy on offense but did a great job on defense and special teams and in the end, a win is a win,” said head coach Jonathan Drach. “I thought they did a pretty impressive job to keep them scoreless. Finding ways to win is a good thing and sometimes it’s ugly; sometimes it’s ugly, sometimes it’s not.”

The game was off to a fiery start with Wilkes first-year linebacker Oyame Adoga tracking down an Alvernia rusher 57 yards down the field to force a fumble and get the offense the ball. Wilkes’s offense stalled for their first two drives. Neither team was able to find the endzone.

At the start of the second quarter, junior quarterback Heath Hoovler came in and drove them down the field. Junior tight end Jacob Katz brought them into the red zone with an amazing bobbling catch for 36 yards. The offense then slowed in the red zone, but sophomore kicker Justin Pollack nailed a 29-yard field goal to put Wilkes on the board, bringing the score up 3-0. Both offenses did not do much the rest of the half. The defenses continued to make plays.

Sophomore defensive back Dylan Walck stopped Alvernia’s drive with an interception, looking to give the Colonels some momentum. However, senior quarterback Jose Tabora followed that up with an interception to give the ball back to Alvernia.

After Alvernia regained control of the ball, first-year defensive back LeRoy Marshall made a jaw-dropping interception on the following drive with less than a minute left in the half.

“We were in Cover 2 at half field, the quarterback threw it up, I had to go get it. Our coach said in practice if the ball is in the air, the ball is ours,” said MarshalI. “I had to go get it, a 50-50 ball and it came down to me. I had to make a play, and I did.”

Wilkes went into halftime leading Alvernia 3-0.

Wilkes came out with a bang to start the second half. Sophomore wide receiver Nate Whitaker caught the kick and fake pitched the ball, which completely faked out Alvernia and all the fans. Whitaker then had an open field after breaking an arm tackle and took it to the house for 91 yards, bringing the score to 10-0.

“We ran this play about three or four times in practice to get it instilled in us,” said Whitaker. “It was a new play this week for this team specifically. It worked perfectly, perfect execution.”

Alvernia’s first drive in the second half was cut short when Adoga intercepted the ball to bring Wilkes’s offense onto the field.

Wilkes’s first offensive drive in the second half ended in a touchdown when first-year running back Elijah Jules rushed for 27 yards on five attempts and ended the drive scoring a one yard touchdown to bring the score to 16-0. Pollack missed the extra-point after touchdown.

After back and forth drives, Tabora’s pass got intercepted by Alvernia’s Jamel Fleming and was returned for 33 yards.

Following the interception, Alvernia’s drive was ended after a pick-6 by junior linebacker Nick Gazzola when he returned the ball for 42 yards to bring the score to 23-0.

“Standard zone drop, underthrown ball, I caught it. My blockers were blocking for me and had my team around me. Pretty standard play and a great team win,” said Gazzola. “I was proud of the way we all came together. It was 3-0 going into the half, we played a great second half, we never gave up, we all banded together, we flew to the football. It was a great team win.”

The last quarter of the game was back and forth drives with some bench players getting some playing time. All sides of the ball played well. The game ended with Wilkes beating Alvernia 23-0.

“I think we took a step forward as far as our penalties were concerned,” said Drach. “We had very few penalties as it is, which is a huge point of emphasis.”

The Colonel’s next game is against Stevenson University on Homecoming at noon on Oct. 2.