As the green clad Wilmington College football players met in front of the home stands to belt out a fight song that many learned during the week, the smiles on their faces told the story.
Behind a school-record tying 381 rushing yards, the Fightin' Quakers drew first blood in the Quaker Bowl series with a resounding 49-20 victory over Earlham Saturday in non-conference action on Townsend Field in Williams Stadium.
Senior Eric Flynn Jr. (Cleveland, OH/Central Catholic) led the way with 120 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns, while senior quarterback Luke Creditt (Wilmington, OH/Waynesville) added 116 yards on 12 carries and one score. Junior Gino Hinton (Maple Heights, OH/Maple Heights) added 77 yards on 11 attempts before the starters were pulled at the end of the third quarter.
"It was very cool for our offensive line and our backs, shoot even Luke is a back too," said Wilmington head coach Bryan Moore. "That part was extremely cool to get a piece of history; to get this whole team to be a part of history … incredible."
The 381 yards ties the previous mark set against Bluffton in 1993.
Wilmington's offensive line of senior Sterling Clark (Cincinnati, OH/Northwest), junior Saul Boysel (Bellefontaine, OH/Benjamin Logan), sophomore Nick Moore (Carlisle, OH/Carlisle), sophomore Kelvin Valdes (Miami, FL/Felix Verela) and senior Lane Hacker (Cloverdale, IN/South Putnam) paved the way for the record-tying performance. Additionally, they didn't allow a single sack in 17 pass attempts.
From beginning, Wilmington's offensive hummed along like a brand new Tesla fresh of the assembly line. The Fightin' Quakers took the opening drive 73 yards on eight plays – four rushes and four passes – and it was capped by senior P.J. Meyer's (Cincinnati, OH/Elder) 20-yard touchdown reception.
The starting offense scored on six of their seven possessions, and the Fightin' Quakers didn't trot the punting team onto the field once.
Creditt was also 8-for-15 for 167 yards and two touchdowns – both to Meyer. His development under Moore was evident as the Fightin' Quakers took the field with a 15-point lead and 80 seconds remaining in the first half.
"Me and Luke were talking on the sidelines, I knew I wanted to take one shot, and I figured we would do it on second down," said Moore. "He kind of talked me into a formation in which he was getting a look he was comfortable with P.J. on the outside. We called a pretty conservative three-step, quick route, but it does have that option, if we got the coverage; we have P.J. on a vertical route. If the safety was buried in, we were going to green-light it. If we didn't complete it, we were going to run the clock out. And we hit on it."
WC 'hit on it' to the tune of an 80-yard touchdown strike to take the 28-6 lead into the locker room.
Wilmington came out of halftime with its foot on the proverbial gas as they found the end zone on each of its first three drives of the second half.
Defensively, the Fightin' Quakers had their hands full with Earlham's talented and gritty quarterback, Wes Hundley. The senior combined for 293 yards – 141 rushing and 152 passing – to lead the Quakers. Despite Hundley's offensive exploits, the defense was stout throughout the game. Most of Hundley's rushing yards came on broken plays.
"Wes, and I have coached against him for three straight years, is one of my favorite players in college football. He is the ultimate competitor," said Moore. "We knew what he was going to be about.
"One of the things we talked about as soon as we got here was a defensive identity," Moore continued. "We wanted to run to the football, and tackle better. We wanted it to be noticeable on the field, and we saw that today. There were a lot of gang tackles. There weren't a lot of one on one, open-field opportunities, and with Wes, he can hurt you by himself. He can beat you in space, and our guys kept running to the football. That is a great compliment to our coaching staff and to the players for buying into that mentality."
Sophomore Bryan Gonzalez (Miami, FL/Jackson) led the defensive effort with 10 tackles and one sack, while senior David Henry (Wilmington, OH/Wilmington), senior C.J. Thompson (Cincinnati, OH/Northwest), freshman Olen Keil (Lebanon, OH/Lebanon) and freshman Parris Weathersby (Cincinnati, OH/Holy Cross (KY)) all had six tackles each. Keil led the team with two pass breakups.
Saturday's victory was the culmination of six months of work for a coaching staff that took over a team with one win in the last four years. In fact, there are only 19 players remaining from the last time Wilmington enjoyed the sweet taste of victory.
For Moore, however, this game wasn't about his first chance to stroll a college sideline as a head coach.
"From the time we ran onto the field to the time we sang that fight song, every thought I had was about our seniors and coaches," said Moore. "When I made the decision to come here and leave a good program, I knew what I was taking over. I wanted to give the seniors a moment. I wanted to give them an opportunity to enjoy the game of football, and I think they got that today. For the coaches that left some pretty good jobs to come here, I wanted them to have that moment as well."
Once the game was over, and all the hoopla of a season-opening victory had simmered down – Moore took a little time for himself.
"Of all the stuff we prepared for, I didn't prepare myself for this moment," said Moore. "I didn't prepare myself for how it would feel after the win. Most of it was learning that darn fight song, giving something back to this college and give something to the seniors. Everything was geared toward the players. But this is a whole lot better feeling than I thought it would be, and there is no better place to be doing it at than right here, right now."
After a bye week, Wilmington (1-0) steps into Ohio Athletic Conference action by traveling to Otterbein 2 p.m. September 16.