FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Senior running back Tim McNerney (Butler, Pa./Knoch) rushed for a pair of touchdowns and the Washington & Jefferson defense forced three turnovers during the Presidents’ season-opening 23-6 football victory over Methodist Saturday at Monarch Stadium.
The game, which was played in extreme heat conditions (108 degree heat index), played on without a scoreboard or 25/40 second clocks for the final minutes of the second quarter and the entire second half due to a power outage.
W&J (1-0) scored on its first possession of the season as senior linebacker DeAndre Simmons (Fort Myers, Fla./Riverside) got things started quickly with a 28-yard kickoff return. The Presidents then needed seven plays to travel 52 yards for the touchdown. Junior quarterback Matt Bliss (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) completed three passes on the drive, including a fourth-down, two-yard scoring pass to senior wideout Hunter Creel (Industry, Pa./Western Beaver) at the 12:27 mark of the first quarter.
The Presidents’ defense forced Methodist to punt which was partially blocked by sophomore cornerback Dan Sciortino (Chagrin Falls, Ohio/Kenston). Three plays into the Monarchs’ next series, Sciortino picked off a Max Reber pass at the MU 26-yard line. Washington & Jefferson drove inside the five-yard line before settling for junior Eric Eberle’s (Mifflintown, Pa./Juniata) 22-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead.
Late in the second quarter, the Presidents strung together a 15-play, 59-yard drive and had a first-and-goal situation at the MU 3. However, back-to-back sacks pushed the Presidents back before the ball was turned over on downs.
Methodist used that momentum to drive 84 yards in 10 plays. However, after the power outage knocked out the scoreboard, the Monarchs scrambled on to attempt a field goal in the final seconds, but were unable to get the kick off after the back judge whistled that time had expired in the half.
The Monarchs had the ball in W&J territory on their first drive of the second half, but junior safety B.J. Monacelli (Cassadaga, N.Y./Cassadaga Valley) and senior linebacker John Hunter (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine-Richland) provided the key play of the game. Monacelli stripped the ball from Vaughn Cross after a 16-yard completion and Hunter raced 63 yards down the W&J sideline to the Presidents’ six-yard line. McNerney scored on the next play for a 17-0 lead.
MU punted after a three-play possession and W&J appeared to start pulling away with a 68-yard touchdown drive that McNerney capped with a seven-yard run. Junior running back Dion Wiegand (Pittsburgh, Pa./Keystone Oaks) rushed for 26 yards on the drive, but the extra-point attempt was blocked and W&J led 23-0 with 8:50 left in the third quarter.
Methodist drove 74 plays in 10 plays later in the quarter, but Monacelli intercepted a Reber pass in the end zone to thwart another scoring threat.
The shutout bid came to an end with 9:09 left in the game as Reber drilled an eight-yard touchdown pass to Cross on fourth down. Methodist was unable to handle the snap on the conversion attempt. The Monarchs got the ball back a little over two minutes later, but senior safety Zach DeCicco (Jefferson Hills, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) knocked down a Reber pass on fourth down and W&J ran out the clock.
W&J outgained Methodist 357-278 and possessed the ball for nearly 33 minutes. McNerney rushed 23 times for 91 yards, while Wiegand added 44. Bliss passed for 232 yards (21-31), while junior wide receiver Alex Baroffio (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) caught 11 passes for 127 yards.
Defensively, senior linebacker Nathan Melhorn (Salineville, Ohio/Southern Local) notched eight tackles and one pass breakup, while Monacelli had five stops, forced a fumble, intercepted a pass and knocked down one pass attempt. Junior defensive tackle Chris Heim (Jefferson Hills, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) posted 1.5 sacks.
Reber completed 19-of-33 passes for 181 yards for the Monarchs. Cross caught nine passes for 78 yards, while Van Conyers compiled a game-high nine tackles.
Washington & Jefferson opens its home schedule next Saturday at Cameron Stadium when 11th-ranked St. John Fisher comes down from Rochester, N.Y., to battle its second-straight Presidents’ Athletic Conference opponent at 1:30 pm.