Wolverines tame Wildcats in second half comeback
DOVER, Del. -- The #7 Wesley Wolverines scored 42 second half points, erasing a 20 point halftime deficit, defeating #5 Linfield Wildcats 49-34 in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs. Wesley quarterback Shane McSweeny tossed four touchdowns and ran for two more to lead the Wolverines to the next round of the playoffs.
Linfield jumped to an early 6-0 lead on two short field goals by kicker Josh Kay in the first quarter. The Wildcats stretched their lead to 13-0 with a 6-yard scoring run by running back Josh Hill, capping off a eight-play, 70-yard drive in the second quarter.
Wesley countered on the ensuing possession driving 84 yards in just two plays for thier first points of the game. After the kickoff, McSweeny hit wideout Jeremiah Howe for a 38-yard strike down to the Linfield 46 yard line. Then, McSweeny found a seam in the Wildcat's defense sprinting to the goal line for the score. Dan Tryon found the uprights leaving Wesley down 13-7 in the second quarter.
Linfield continued to execute well on offense, driving once again to Wesley goal line. Wildcat quarterback Mickey Inns completed four of four on the drive including the 1 yard score to wideout Buddy Saxon putting Linfield back on top by 13 at 20-7.
Inns led the Wildcats down the field once more before half, this time connecting with tight end Lucas Jepson on a 33 yard strike with less than a minute left. Kay hit the extra point giving Linfield a healthy 27-7 point lead going into the locker room for half.
The game unraveled quickly for Linfield in the second half, starting with the opening kickoff when Wesley's Miles Little forced a Wildcat fumble on the return giving Wesley excellent field position at the Linfield 24 yard line.
McSweeny found freshman wide out Steve Koudossou for a 15 yard touchdown 5th play of the drive allow Wesley to cut into Linfield's advatage.
Feeling the momentum starting to change, Wesley's defense forced a Linfield punt that went out of bounds at the Wesley 19 yard line. After a long sack, Wesley faced a long 3rd down, but McSweeny found Koudossou again up to midfield, but was then stripped by Linfield Taylor Skore and subsequently recovered by the Wildcats.
Inns drove Linfield quickly down to the Wolverine's 13 yard line, but he was picked off at the 1-yard line by Wesley's Leon Jones who used two great blocks to weave his way 99-yards for the score. With the Tryon extra point, Wesley was only down by one score at 27-20.
After a quick four-play-and-punt by Linfield, Wesley started deep in its own territory at the 1-yard line. It took Wesley only four plays to span that distance, highlighted by a 46-yard strike from McSweeny to wide out Matt Barile out to the Linfield 38, then two plays later, McSweeny found Koudossou behind the Linfield secondary for a 28-yard score at 1:49 of the third quarter. With the Tryon extra point, Wesley errased the 20-point half time deficit and now led by 1.
With the momentum firmly on Wesley's side, scored on its next three possession in the fourth quarter. McSweeny continued his hot hand ways, finding his Irish Connection with tigh end Sean McAndrew for two scores. The first, a 3-yard jump ball capping off a four-play, 51-yard drive and the second, an 8-yard jump ball in the corner of the endzone capping a five-play drive.
The third score and final Wesley score of the quarter, McSweeny finished himself on an 8-yard bull rush through the Linfield defense. Dan Tryon continued to be perfect with the extra points giving Wesley a commanding 49-27 lead late in the fourth quarter.
Linfield wasn't done though, Inns and company ran a successful two-minute drill in the last 5 minutes driving 81-yards on 11 plays ending with a 19-yard strike from Inns to Deidre Wiersma.
Wesley recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the final 1:47 of the game to move on to the national quarterfinals next week where they will meet a familiar and respected foe in Mary-Hardin Baylor, in Belton, Texas.