BEAVER FALLS, Pa. – For a second-straight week, the Waynesburg University football team hit the road to face a Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) opponent with a high-scoring offense led by one of the conference’s top quarterbacks and multiple dynamic playmakers. During Saturday’s game with Geneva, the Yellow Jackets also faced a fourth-quarter deficit and a very real threat of their undefeated season coming to an end for a second-straight contest. Luckily for the visiting team, it was also able to pull out a second-straight nail-biting victory, this time holding off the Golden Tornadoes by a 21-20 final.
With the win, Waynesburg moved to 8-0 for the first time since 1966, which was the same year the Yellow Jackets won the NAIA national championship. The Jackets also moved to 6-0 in PAC play, which keeps them at the top of the conference standings. Geneva fell to 2-5 overall and 2-3 in conference action.
Things started out well for Waynesburg, whose defense forced a fumble that was recovered by senior linebacker Jordan Helmick on the first possession of the day. After taking possession of the ball at their own 40-yard line, the Jackets marched 60 yards on 12 plays, the last of which was an 11-yard touchdown run by junior running back Bertrand Ngampa, that put the visitors up 6-0 with 6:56 to go in the first quarter. Junior kicker Alex Henry knocked in the PAT to make the score 7-0.
That lead was short-lived, as Geneva marched 90 yards in just four plays on its next possession to cut the Jackets’ lead to 7-6. A successful extra point try tied the game up at 7-7 with 5:55 showing on the first-quarter clock. That was the first of two-straight Golden Tornado touchdowns, but on the second of those scores, which came midway through the second quarter, the Jackets blocked the PAT try and kept the score at 13-6. It was the third blocked kicked in the past two weeks for Waynesburg and like the two blocks in last week’s 23-21 win at Bethany, it wound up playing a major role in a Jacket win.
Still trailing 13-7 when the second half got underway, the Yellow Jackets set up shop at their own 42-yard line for their first possession of the third quarter. Waynesburg turned to its biggest strength in 2012, its running game, to go 58 yards in eight plays, all on the ground, and tie the game up with a two-yard touchdown run by senior running back Dominic Moore. Henry’s second extra point of the day gave the lead back to Waynesburg (14-13) early in the half.
That slim advantage didn’t last long as the home team marched right down the field on the top defense in the PAC for an 11-play, 77-yard touchdown drive that gave the Golden Tornadoes the lead back at 20-14 with just under eight minutes to go in the third quarter. However, that was the last time the Jacket defense allowed the number-one scoring attack in the conference (31.7 ppg) to put any points on the board. The defense’s determination allowed an opportunity for the Jacket offense to pull off yet another come-from-behind win in 2012.
After Waynesburg stopped Geneva on fourth-and-one with just over seven minutes left to play in the game, the Yellow Jackets took over at the Tornado 41-yard line. Ngampa gashed Geneva for back-to-back runs of 16 and 13 yards to move his team to the opposing 12-yard line. After a four-yard run by Moore inched the Jackets even closer to the potential go-ahead score, sophomore quarterback Carter Hill struck through the air for an eight-yard touchdown pass to junior Mike Ferraro. With five-and-a-half minutes left in regulation, Henry knocked down the eventual game-winning kick that moved Waynesburg ahead 21-20. Last week, the first-year junior nailed down the eventual game-winning field goal at Bethany.
With the lead and momentum back with the visitors, Geneva looked poised to finally end Waynesburg’s unbeaten year. With the ball resting at the Yellow Jacket 34-yard line and less than two minutes left in regulation, junior Ryan Harr intercepted Rocco Colavecchia at the Jacket three-yard line. Unfortunately, the Jackets weren’t able to run off all the time remaining on the game clock and with just 1:12 left to play, the home team got one more shot at a homecoming win.
After failing to advance the ball past Waynesburg’s 27-yard line, Geneva head coach Geno DeMarco sent out the reigning PAC Special Teams Player of the Week, kicker Bryan Visingardi, to try a potential game-winning 45-yard field goal. The kick was a low line drive that missed short of its mark, and with just 11 seconds left to play, Hill kneeled on the ball one time to clinch victory for the road team.
Ngampa led the Jackets to victory for a second-straight week by rushing for a game-high 120 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. He spearheaded a Waynesburg rushing attack that eclipsed its season average of 200.1 yards per game by going 213 yards and two scores on 49 totes.
Hill overcame some early turnover problems to throw the game-winning touchdown pass as part of a 14-of-24 day. The sophomore racked up 149 yards and was picked off twice in the winning effort. Hill did a fine job of spreading the ball around by completing at least one pass, but no more than two, to nine different receivers.
Freshman safety Mike Lopuchovsky led the Jacket defensive effort by posting a team-high seven tackles, including six solo stops. Geneva’s Dillon Goodell put together a truly impressive day defensively, by piling up 18 tackles, 15 of which were solo stops, and recording both of Geneva’s interceptions.
Saturday’s game was one that both teams, even the victorious Jackets, would like to move on from quickly. The two squads combined for 22 penalties that resulted in 166 yards. Waynesburg was flagged 13 times for 99 yards. Both teams committed a pair of turnovers, as well.
After spending their past two games on the road, Waynesburg returns to John F. Wiley Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 27, to welcome another long-time rival in Westminster to town. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
NOTE: Saturday’s win was Waynesburg’s fifth in a row that came by seven points or less.