FB: Defenses’ second half shut-out leads Wilkes to victory

EDWARDSVILLE, Pa. — The Wilkes football team was able to defeat visiting Lebanon Valley College 30-20 in a MAC Freedom Showdown on Saturday afternoon at Schmidt Stadium.

“There is always a sense of urgency to kind of get back into the win column, and do what you need to do coming off a loss,” said head coach Jonathon Drach. “From our standpoint, we are always trying to improve. This was a good opportunity for us to do that today, and we took care of what we needed to take care of.”

Wilkes got off to a quick start in the first quarter. The defense was able to force a three-and-out on the Flying Dutchman’s first possession of the game.

The Wilkes offense stormed down the field and sophomore running back Kamal Reed caught a pass from senior quarterback Jose Tabora for the first touchdown of the game. On this drive, Tabora broke another school record, this time for most completions all-time.

The Colonels used a nice balance of running and passing calls to march down the field.

“We knew that coming into this game, we were going to have to be strong up front,” said sophomore running back Elijah Jules. “We told the offensive line that we needed to get a big push. Our offense goes as far as our run game takes us, and it took us a long way today.”

Lebanon Valley once again went three- and-out, and the punt was blocked by the Colonels, and returned for a touchdown by first-year defensive back Ryan Travis. Wilkes was now leading 13-0.

With Wilkes pressuring to pull away early, the Dutchman used back to back impressive drives to get themselves right back into the game. LVC quarterback Braden Bohannon was attacking the Colonel defense through the air, and was racking up the yards. With back to back touchdowns by LVC, they were now leading 14-13.

Wilkes was able to regain the lead late in the second quarter. Following some impressive runs by Reed and Jules, Tabora threw his second touchdown pass of the day to first-year tight end Jason Dean. Tabora ended up finishing the day with 139 yards along with his two touchdown passes.

LVC responded quickly as Bohannon connected with one of his wide receivers for a 31-yard bomb down the sideline with less than a minute remaining before halftime. The extra point was blocked by the Colonels, and the two teams went into the locker room tied at 20 a piece.

It seemed the two teams would go back and forth trading blows all afternoon long in an offensive shootout, but the story was much different in the second half.

After Wilkes got a field goal on their opening drive of the half, the defense really turned it on and shut down the Flying Dutchman offense.

“Going into halftime, we knew we didn’t put everything we had onto the table,” said junior linebacker Billy Doron. “We talked to our coaches, we reflected on ourselves, and we came out in the second half much stronger.”

The teams traded punts for much of the second half. It felt like the next team that scored would win. Thankfully for the Colonels, they were able to deliver a final blow to their opposition.

With just under four minutes left on the clock, and Wilkes with the ball around midfield, Jules broke for a run down the left sideline after he broke a few tackles, and scored a 49-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Jules was a tough man to bring down all afternoon as he finished with 124 yards on16 carries and three catches for 33 yards. He was a force to be reckoned with, and was able to deliver the knockout punch to LVC.

“I mainly just followed my blocks, and had trust in the play,” said Jules. “I believed the plays we were running were good calls, and I knew we had leverage on the outside, so I just followed the blocks and got to the endzone.”

The Wilkes defense was able to keep the Dutchman from putting a comeback effort together. Their secondary was lock- down, while the defensive line pressured Bohannon into making difficult passes.

The defense was stout the entire second half, never letting LVC get into a rhythm and score in the second half

“I’m happy to come out with a win, ready to move on to next weekend, and continue to improve on a day to day basis,” said Drach.

Wilkes will look to build off this momentum as they fight for a conference championship as they travel to Williamsport on Saturday to face Lycoming in another MAC Freedom contest. The game will start at 1 p.m. as the Colonels look for their seventh win of the season.