Tigers Complete Run To NCAC Title With 56-0 Win Over Allegheny
SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - The Wittenberg Tigers put the finishing touches on their eighth outright North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) championship with a dominating 56-0 victory over visiting Allegheny.
The 2013 title is Wittenberg's 12th overall since joining the NCAC in 1989, and its fourth in the last five years. The Tigers had already secured the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament with a win a week earlier over Wabash, but the shutout of the Gators ensured Wittenberg plenty of momentum heading into the Big Dance.
The day started with recognition of one of the largest senior classes in Wittenberg football history as more than 30 players lined the track in front of the stands with family and friends. The Tigers then proceeded to ambush Allegheny, which dropped to 0-10 overall and 0-9 in the NCAC, for 49 first-half points.
Senior quarterback Reed Florence (South Charleston, Ohio/Southeastern) continued his record-breaking season with two rushing touchdowns two passing scores before hanging up his helmet midway through the second quarter. Sophomore running back Jimmy Dehnke (Canton, Ohio/Massillon Jackson) added a 14-yard touchdown run, senior tight end Stephen Zumdick (Erlanger, Ky./Dixie Heights) caught touchdown passes from Florence and sophomore Zack Jenkins (Frostproof, Fla./Frostproof), senior wide receiver Desi Kirkman (Lima, Ohio/Central Catholic) hauled in a TD pass, and senior tailback JaVanh Sanders (Las Vegas, Nev./Centennial) rounded out the first-half blitz with a 71-yard TD scamper.
It was the first of two scoring runs for Sanders, and it was the longest run from scrimmage of the season for the Tigers as a team. He carried the load for much of the second half, finishing with a team season-high of 194 yards on 18 carries.
Florence was efficient, completing 10-of-12 passes for 119 yards. Senior quarterback Noah Johanson (Medina, Ohio/Medina) added 7-of-8 passing for 88 yards and Jenkins went 2-for-3 for 37 yards. Nine different players caughts at least one pass in the game, led by sophomore wide receiver Zach Culvahouse (Fort Myers, Fla./Estero) with five catches for 63 yards.
A host of Tigers got into the act on the other side of the ball as well, but it was freshman defensive lineman Brady Vanover (Maineville, Ohio/Kings) who made two of the game's biggest plays. He blocked a first-half punt to set up one score and he made his first career interception to set up another.
Senior linebacker Spencer Leno (Massillon, Ohio/Washington) led the Tiger defense, which posted its third shutout of the season, with five tackles. Wittenberg has held five of its 10 regular season opponents to nine points or less.
Ranked 10th in the latest American Football Coaches Association poll and 11th by d3football.com, Wittenberg heads into the NCAA Division III Tournament with a record of 9-1, including nine straight wins since opening the season with a 49-24 loss to NCAA Division I Butler. The Tigers, ranked fourth in the latest North Region rankings, will learn their postseason fate on Sunday.
First round NCAA Division III Tournament games will take place at noon Saturday, Nov. 23. The Tigers have a 20-13 record in 15 all-time national tournament appearances.