TIFFIN, Ohio – Enough about the high-powered Heidelberg University offense, which will finish the season as one of the most potent in the nation.
Enough about the resurgent 'Berg defense, among the nation's leaders in sacks, interceptions and points allowed.
It's time to give some love to the Heidelberg's special teams. After all, they just might have vaulted the Student Princes into the postseason for the first time since 1972.
In the fourth quarter of the 35-34 win against Baldwin Wallace University, Heidelberg blocked an extra point and a would-be game-winning 35-yard field goal.
On the game's final play, BW kicker Chris Mohler lined up for the kick on the right hash. A low snap was handled by holder Andrew Dziak, but Quentin Rembert (Euclid) dove through the line and deflected the kick which came to rest in the end zone. Heidelberg fans stormed the field in celebration
The win propelled Heidelberg to their first nine-win season since the historic 1972 Stagg Bowl Champion team.
Whether Heidelberg's season will extend into the playoffs is up the NCAA Division III Football Selection Committee. The Student Princes hope to be one of seven schools to receive an at-large berth into the 32-team tournament. The tournament field will be announced on Sunday at 6 p.m.
Lost in the excitement surrounding the games conclusion were several outstanding performances by Heidelberg's student-athletes. Freshman running back Bryan Lacey (South Euclid/Benedictine), thrust into a starting role because of an injury to Cartel Brooks (Kokomo, IN/Galion), ran for 201 yards. Senior linebacker Craig Sykes (Centerburg) led the Student Princes with a career-high 19 tackles.
Heidelberg (9-1, 8-1 OAC) scored first, as a 5-yard rush by Dontez Smith (Avon Lake) capped a four-play 68-yard drive. Dan Kilger (Novi, MI) connected on the first of five extra points on the day to give Heidelberg a 7-0 lead.
Two possessions later, Baldwin Wallace (7-3, 6-3 OAC) answered when Tyler Lohr had his own five-yard touchdown rush. Mohler's extra point tied the game.
Momentum quickly returned to the Heidelberg sideline. Robert Gray (Cincinnati/North College Hill) returned the ensuing kickoff in to Yellow Jacket territory. Two plays later, Heidelberg regained the lead on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Michael Mees (North Ridgeville) to Mario Escalante (Highland Hts., KY/Newport Central Catholic).
Mees finished 13-for-25 passing for 193 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown.
On the next BW possession, the Yellow Jackets used two unusual plays to tie the game at 14. With the ball on the Heidelberg 48, tight end Josh Masters took a lateral from quarterback Ryan O'Rourke and launched it to a wide-open Aaron Manders, who was tackled at the five. Three plays later, Lohr took a handoff from O'Rourke and completed a jump-throw touchdown pass to Masters in the back of the end zone.
After an interception thrown by Heidelberg, BW took their first lead of the game when Nolan Sordyl punched it in from the one.
Heidelberg answered when Mees scored his first of three touchdowns. His first touchdown capped a seven-play 66-yard drive.
Undeterred, the Yellow Jackets regained the lead when Sebastian Zuluaga broke a 31-yard touchdown rush on 3rd-and-1. The Yellow Jackets would be penalized for excessive celebration on the play.
Leading 28-21 with 0:42 seconds left in the first half, BW chose to squib the kickoff from their 20 due to the penalty on the touchdown. Austin Bentz (Tiffin/Columbian) returned the bouncing ball back to the BW 48.
Using a defensive pass interference penalty and a 20-yard completion to Donteea Dye (Fairfield), Heidelberg faced 1st-and-10 from the BW 13 with 0:27 in the half. Following a timeout, Mees dropped back to pass, but wisely scrambled forward for a touchdown, faking several BW defenders on the way.
Tied at 28 in the third, both defenses stiffened and forced several punts. Late in the third, BW's Tim Goebel intercepted his second pass of the game. O'Rourke found the end zone on a two-yard rush to give Baldwin Wallace a 34-28 lead. On the point after try, senior Stephen Fejedelem (Ravenna) batted down the kick.
Trailing in the fourth quarter for only the second time all season, Heidelberg's offense responded with a seven-play 63-yard touchdown drive. The drive, which featured a heavy dose of rushes by Lacey, was capped by Mees' third touchdown rush of the contest. Kilger put Heidelberg on top 35-34 with the extra point.
On the year, Kilger is a perfect 48-of-48 on extra points, a Heidelberg record for extra points in a single season.
Baldwin Wallace, trailing by a point, drove to the Heidelberg 19 yard line. Faced with 4th-and-4, BW head coach John Snell elected to go for it, rather than attempt a 36-yard field goal. O'Rourke's pass, intended for Gabe Adams, was broken up by Tim Littles (Swartz Creek, MI).
With the ball and a one-point lead, Heidelberg's offense ate nearly four minutes off of the clock before being forced to punt. The punt from Colin Bultinck (Lafayette, IN/Jefferson) was fair-caught by BW at their 13 yard line with 1:53 left to play.
O'Rourke completed three straight passes, scrambled for seven, and then completed another pass to move the ball into Heidelberg territory. Following a face-mask penalty against Student Princes, Baldwin Wallace had the ball on the Heidelberg 18. Sykes sacked O'Rourke on first down for a modest two-yard loss. Zuluaga rushed ahead for a two-yard gain, which set up the field goal attempt that ended the game.
"I'm proud of my team, with how we've stepped up this season and at the end of this game," said Sykes. "We've built this program over the past four years and we made It through some strife."
When head coach Mike Hallett took over the Heidelberg program, the team was on a 36-game losing streak. Now, six years later, his team is on the cusp of the NCAA Playoffs.
"I can think of nothing more fitting than seeing this group of guys, with the character and attitude they have, become the greatest of Heidelberg's teams," said Hallett, as he addressed a crowd of Heidelberg players and fans gathered in front of University Hall for the ringing of the victory bell.
Baldwin Wallace finished with 502 yards of total offense, compared to 451 for Heidelberg.
Heidelberg set two offensive team records in the victory. With 4,745 yards of total offense for the season, Heidelberg eclipsed the old record of 4,598 yards set in 2010. On the final touchdown of the game, the 2012 team moved ahead of the 1949 squad for points in a season. The 2012 club has 374 points, while the 1949 team had 368.