Junior Austin Jarbo picked out with the most opportune time for his first completion of the game.
With Wilmington faced fourth and 10, and 53 yards away from the end zone with a shade more than one minute remaining in the game, Jarbo hit a streaking Brandon Mitchell (Pittsburgh, PA/Fox Chapel) for the eventual game-winning 53-yard touchdown strike to give the Fightin' Quakers the 14-10 victory Saturday over the Bluffton Beavers in non-conference action on Townsend Field in Williams Stadium.
"Luke(Creditt) has been our most consistent quarterback in camp, and that is why he is the starter, but Jarbo is a competitor," said Wilmington head coach Stacey Hairston. "We are trying to teach him to play within the system, and he doesn't have to do it all himself. Today, he was a team player. He sat back and cheered for his teammates when he wasn't in there, and when he was in there, he did his best to help the team out. At the end of the game, when we needed it, he delivered. It says a lot about his character after the offense struggled the whole game."
The irony of the connection is both players were in the tightly contested quarterback competition this fall. Mitchell, who finished with five catches for 108 yards, moved to receiver just five days ago. Four of Mitchell's five receptions came on either third down or fourth down, and they all were for first down.
"If he didn't win the battle at quarterback, he is too good a competitor, too good of a player, too good of an athlete to not be on the field," said Hairston. "We put him at receiver because he is a major factor. Every team has to worry about him, and when that happens, you have (Justin Lee) and Aroyal (Wright) on the backside. We could be very scary once we start clicking on offense."
The victory snapped a 23-game losing streak and a 12-game skid in season openers.
"We are maturing," said Hairston. "For the last three weeks, we talked about winning. We said no matter what, we have learn how to win. We try to teach them how to win, and we took a big step today."
Sophomore Kentrell Lodge (Cleveland, OH/Salem (GA)) ended any hope of a Bluffton comeback with his first career interception as time expired.
Bluffton took the early lead on a 37-yard field goal that was set up by a fumble on WC's first drive. The Beaver took advantage by driving 33 yards on eight plays. Wilmington had a chance to tie the game on its ensuing possession by junior Grant Brown missed his 42-yard attempt.
The score stayed 3-0 until freshman Jay Higgins (Hollywood, FL/Cooper City) put his physical attributes on full display. The 6-4 cornerback took his first career pick 43-yard for the game's first touchdown with 8:33 remaining in the third quarter. He added another interception in the fourth quarter to halt a BC drive.
"A guy who has been a ball hawk all camp, Jay Higgins, steps up and makes a great play like that – it's huge because now we take the lead," said Hairston. "At that point in the game, if they don't score again, we win."
But, the Beavers did score again; a touchdown with 11:07 remaining in the game – giving Bluffton a 10-7 lead.
The advantage looked safe when sophomore quarterback Luke Creditt (Wilmington, OH/Waynesville) was picked off in the red zone with 4:11 remaining. However, the defense which was stellar all game long, stepped up and forced a three-and-out to give the Fightin' Quakers one last chance.
"All through camp, our defense practiced very hard and started believing that we could be a physical defense," said Hairston. "At times we were so physical we were beating each other up. We went into the game with confidence knowing we could be physical on defense."
After a four yard loss on the first play, Wilmington got those yards back with a four-yard pass. But an incomplete pass on third down left WC down to its last gasp. In addition, Creditt was injured on the play bringing Jarbo in with the weight of the game on his shoulders.
No worries as the junior delivered.
Creditt finished 13-of-28 for 158 yards and one interception. Senior Justin Lee (Middletown, OH/Madision) added four catches for 58 yards, while sophomore Aroyal Wright (Cincinnati, OH/Newport (KY)) had four receptions for 47 yards.
Senior Kyle Davis (Wilmington, OH/Wilmington) carried the load with 12 rushes for 80 yards.
Defensively, senior Nick Williams (Cleveland, OH/ Fairview) recorded 12 tackles, 1.5 for loss, a pass break-up and one quarterback hurry. Junior David Henry (Wilmington, OH/Wilmington) added 11 tackles, one for loss and a quarterback hurry.
Senior Tarrell Starckey (Richmond, VA/Highland Springs), in his first game at safety, tallied nine stops, one pass break-up and a quarterback hurry.
Wilmington (1-0), after a bye week, opens Ohio Athletic Conference action 7 p.m. September 19 against Capital.