As the fourth down pass fell harmlessly to the Townsend Field sparking mayhem, elation and a green swarm of football players, the Wilmington College football team had two long streaks come to a delightful end.
Freshman Leroy Wilson (Cincinnati, OH/Princeton) came up with his first pass breakup of the game in overtime to preserve the 37-30 victory for the Fightin' Quakers over Capital, snapping a 16-game skid to the Crusaders and a 40-game Ohio Athletic Conference streak in the process. It is also the first time since 2008 that Wilmington has claimed multiple victories in one season.
"I think you saw an entire football program grow up right in front of your eyes," said Wilmington head coach Bryan Moore. "We still tried to lose that game at times with some celebration penalties, a 30-yard unsportsmanlike penalty; we still made it entirely too hard on ourselves. The first step is to be in those games, and we did that, and to get out of it with a win – we kind of skipped a step.
"What we saw tonight was a football team," Moore continued. "You saw a complete football team that didn't care if they were a freshman, didn't care if they were seniors – they believed in the moment. They believed it was going to be another play. The thing you have right now is a football team that is going to fight, and I am darn proud of them."
Both teams missed an opportunity to win the game in regulation as Wilmington missed a 33-yard field goal with 45 seconds remaining, and Capital missed its 44-yard attempt with three seconds remaining.
Wilmington had the ball first in the extra session as the Crusaders won the toss, and elected for defense. A false start penalty on the first play put WC behind the chains, but it didn't matter when senior Luke Creditt (Wilmington, OH/Waynesville) hit classmate P.J. Meyer (Cincinnati, OH/Elder) with a 30-yard touchdown on third-and-15 to give the Fightin' Quakers the lead for good.
Now it was up to the defense to get a stop.
But getting stops late in the game wasn't necessarily the strength of either team. The two offenses scored in six of the last eight possessions, with the two missed field goals being the only stops, headed it Capital's overtime chance. None of that mattered as Capital faced a fourth-and-15 call from the Wilmington 25. The Crusaders called a timeout prior to the critical call, but the Fightin' Quakers found a way to stave off one final charge.
"The one thing I knew about the kids today, and we learned last week at Otterbein, is that we not going to chase the scoreboard," said Moore. "We were adamant that the blinking lights on the scoreboard were not going to define our football team; it wasn't going to define our culture. We were going to play hard, get in there and compete. I didn't have any doubt our kids were going to compete; how well they execute, that is always the big mystery. I am not surprised we came out with a win; not surprise at all."
It was a closely contest game as neither squad led by more than a touchdown, and it was Wilmington – on the strength of a 30-yard scoring strike from Creditt to sophomore A.J. Hightower (Memphis, TN/Tipton-Rosemark Academy) – that held a one-point lead, 14-13, at halftime.
However, the mood was far from elation in the locker room.
"We talked at halftime about still wanting to play excited, but we didn't want to play emotional," said Moore. "When you play emotional, you don't think – you are reacting. We wanted to carry that excitement over. The seniors – the upperclassmen – as I was going in to settle everybody down right away; it was David Henry and Sterling (Clark) that both grabbed me and said "if you don't mind, we got it." At halftime, the big talk was this was no different than the halftime at Otterbein (when they trailed 28-0) the week before. It's irrelevant what the score is. It's our culture; it's how we play. You have to tune some things up, and play with the same passion in the second half – and let the chips falls where they may."
Even when Capital took the lead with the only points of the third quarter, a 25-yard field goal, the Fightin' Quakers showed their grit and toughness.
After combining for 30 points over the first three quarters, the teams waged an offensive explosion in the fourth quarter – combining for four touchdowns. Wilmington scored twice, a Creditt 12-yard pass to Meyer and a Creditt 32-yard pass to junior Malik Pettiford (Washington Court House, OH/Senior). The Fightin' Quakers capped both scores with two-point conversions.
Creditt was the captain of Wilmington's offensive ship all night long, and what a difference a year makes. The senior signal caller threw for just five touchdowns all of 2016, and he tied that mark in the game. He went 18-of-30 for 297 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. Creditt added 54 yards rushing on 15 carries.
"He is the ultimate competitor," said Moore. "It is not always pretty; not always by the book. But he finds a way to make it happen."
His 18 completions were spread around to eight different receivers as Meyer led the way with 72 yards on four receptions and two touchdowns. Hightower, Pettiford and senior Tim Murphy (Columbus, OH/Grandeview Heights) all had touchdown receptions.
Wilmington continues to get production from its running backs as senior Eric Flynn, Jr. (Cleveland, OH/Central Catholic) finished with 68 yards on 14 attempts and junior Gino Hinton (Maple Heights, OH/Maple Heights) added 42 yards on 12 rushing attempts.
Wilson, in addition to his game-clinching deflection, finished with a team-high nine tackles. Senior C.J. Thompson (Cincinnati, OH/Northwest) recorded eight tackles, and senior David Henry (Wilmington, OH/Wilmington) finished with seven tackles, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.
Senior Ryan Prince (Urbana, OH/Urbana) made his plays count as he finished with four tackles, 3.5 for loss and the lone Wilmington sack of the game.
Wilmington (2-1 overall, 1-1 OAC) travels to nationally-ranked John Carroll (1-2 overall, 1-1 OAC) 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Blue Streaks are coming off a 47-21 loss to Heidelberg.