With the Homecoming crowd on its feet and loud, a fumble on a two-point conversation swung the momentum away from the Wilmington College football team, and the Fightin' Quakers fell to Marietta Saturday, 43-33, in Ohio Athletic Conference action on Townsend Field in Williams Stadium.
After Luke Creditt (Wilmington, OH/Waynesville) connected with his brother, Matt Creditt (Wilmington, OH/Wilmington) for a two-yard touchdown pass – the Fightin' Quakers trailed by just two points with a little over six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
However, the two-point attempt went awry, and the Pioneers took the fumble back 85-yard for a defensive PAT to give the visitors a four-point lead.
"I trust the kids," said Wilmington head coach Bryan Moore. "We had a play that looked great all week. The players believed in it, I certainly believed in it, and it was a great time to call it. We have been having all kinds of red zone troubles all year long; so we decided to put it in the hands of some kids that have made plays. I don't doubt the call. Obviously, the result couldn't have gone worse. It imploded on us, and certainly swung the momentum. It's a play that happens. It's one we have to try to avoid, but it's not one I would second guess or one that I would take back. I will call that play the next time with the utmost confidence, and probably the next time, we will execute it."
Back-to-back scoring drives for Marietta pushed its lead to 43-26, and it was too much for the Fightin' Quakers to overcome.
Once again, it was a slow start that was the ultimate downfall for WC as Marietta raced out to a 14-0 lead. Wilmington has been outscored 45-21 in the first quarter this season. Additionally, for the second week in a row, the defense allowed a freak touchdown as forced fumble went forward into the end zone, and was fell on by a Marietta offensive lineman for opening score.
After the start, the Wilmington offense rolled for 450 yards in the final three quarters. The Fightin' Quakers finished with yardage advantage, 516 to 472, but just couldn't quite make enough scoring plays.
"I am not disappointed at all (in our effort)," said Moore. "I love these kids. People talk about the culture change that is going on around here, and a lot of the credit comes to my table. The thing I tell people is, it's nothing to do with me. I have been the same guy since I was 23 years old coaching at Thomas More. I have the same fire, same passion each and every day. The only thing that has changed is the kids' attitude. They have bought in, they decided to change. What you saw here today were kids that fought, and they are going to keep fighting. We are undermanned at some positions at times, we get exposed on it, and there is nothing we can do about it right now. But, what we can control is how hard we are fighting and how much this culture is turning. All the credit goes to those kids."
Sophomore Ameer Jackson (Cleveland, OH/Brush) finished with a career-high 162 yards on 10 receptions. In the last two games, Jackson has 18 catches for 253 yards. Matt Creditt added eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown in his first career start.
"He is nowhere close to the kid we had healthy in camp, and that has really changed our whole offense all year long," Moore said of Jackson. "When he is healthy, he is a difference-maker; someone you can build your offense around. Defenses have to change to account for him. He is still making plays, but he is at 50 percent of his potential. In the long run, when that kid is healthy, we definitely have someone to build an offense around."
Luke Creditt continues to thrive under the tutelage of Moore and his offense as he finished with 354 yards passing on 28-of-44 passing, tying a career-high five touchdowns and just one interception. He now has 17 touchdowns passes, eclipsing the 15 total he had coming into the season.
"It's hard to fault the kid, he is competing," said Moore. "I have been him get out some jams with some risky moves too. I am not in position, right now, to pull the reigns back on him. He is the best competitor we have. Would I like for him to slide and stay healthy? Probably, from a job security standpoint; but, he has shown great toughness, and I want everybody on that sideline to see how he competes. He is a great example of what this program can become."
Senior Eric Flynn Jr. (Cleveland, OH/Central Catholic) ran past his career rushing total of 399 yards as he gained 79 yards on 16 attempts, bringing his season total to 421 yards. He added two receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown, that pulled WC to within one score as the time expired on the first half.
Freshman Tre'Quez Parks (Columbus, OH/Beechroft) hauled in Wilmington's first interception of the season, and finished with nine tackles and a forced fumble. Freshman Leroy Wilson (Cincinnati, OH/Princeton) led the team with 11 tackles.
Senior Ryan Prince (Urbana, OH/Urbana) recorded a team-high two sacks and five tackles, while senior David Henry (Wilmington, OH/Wilmington), junior Kyle Ackley (East Liberty, OH/Benjamin Logan) and sophomore Nolan Keller (Cincinnati, OH/LaSalle) all had sacks.
Wilmington (2-4 overall, 1-4 OAC) remains home next week to face #2 Mount Union.