Saturday, September 24, 2016

Widener Football - The Pride Survives Wilkes to Remain Unbeaten in Conference Play

Photo Courtesy of Widener University Athletics
CHESTER, Pa. (Sept. 24, 2016) -  Freshman Michael Raczak (Jamison, Pa.) booted his first two career field goals, including one which stood for the game-winning score, as the Widener University football team survived a second-half scare to record a 25-23 win over Wilkes on Saturday afternoon at Leslie C. Quick Stadium.

Widener was in cruise control at the beginning, scoring 22 unanswered points to open the game and building up a 19-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. Sophomore Donte Harrell (Downingtown, Pa.) put the Pride on the board with a 1-yard rush on the team’s first possession of the game before sophomore D’Andre Sapp (Queens, N.Y.) hauled in a pass from senior Alex Krivda (Sellersville, Pa.) and ran 41 yards for a score at the 8:12 mark.

After sophomore Brandon Bowler’s (Dowingtown, Pa.) extra point attempt was blocked by Jones Mensah, Widener padded its lead when senior captain Alex Stewart (Pittsgrove, N.J.) intercepted a pass and ran 29 yards to paydirt for the Pride’s second pick six in as many games on the defensive end. Bowler once again had his ensuing kick blocked, but the hosts still found themselves leading comfortably at 19-0 less than eight minutes into the game. Widener then went ahead by a 22-0 score when Raczak converted his first field goal at any level from 35 yards out with 7:40 on the clock.

Despite the slow start, Wilkes (1-3, MAC 1-2) kept fighting and seized momentum when a roughing the passer penalty against the Pride on 1st-and-10 from the Colonel 45-yard line placed the visitors in Widener territory. Following two pass completions and two rushes, Ryan Dailey found the end zone on a 2-yard scamper to put the Colonels on the board. A field goal from Mike Hauck in the final minute made it 22-10 heading into the break.

After a scoreless third quarter in which the teams traded off punts to each other, Wilkes was able to make it a one-possession game on a 7-play, 82-yard drive that ended with Dailey finding Garrett Armstrong in the air. The quarterback also had a 30-yard completion to William Deemer during the stretch to create a 22-17 score with 12:50 remaining in regulation.

The Pride initially got a good scare when its first play from scrimmage resulted in an interception, but the hosts got the ball right back when senior Byron Cooper (Philadelphia, Pa.) sacked Dailey two plays later and forced the Wilkes quarterback to cough up the ball. Junior Casey Kerschner (Adamstown, Pa.) recovered the fumble, which resulted in Raczak converting a 32-yard field goal which would eventually prove to be the difference.

Trailing by eight points with under 10 minutes left and starting from its own 20, Wilkes effectively used the passing game to break into Widener territory. Dailey connected with Deemer for a 50-yard strike before finding his favorite receiver again on a close play that was ruled a catch inbounds and placed the ball on the seven-yard line. Jacob Brook then needed two rushing attempts to find the end zone and make it 25-23.

Wilkes elected to go for the tie with players, coaches and fans from both teams holding their breath. A pass attempt, however, failed and was broken up by sophomore Jordan Powell (Morristown, N.J.) to keep the Pride ahead. The Widener defense took over the rest of the way by forcing Wilkes to punt the ball away on its next two possessions, and the rushing game took over by eventually allowing the hosts to run out the clock. Following a 44-yard rush by Harrell and another first down courtesy of freshman Chris Randle (Lindenwood, N.J.), Krivda was able to take a knee until the final horn sounded.

Harrell led the Widener offensive attack for the second straight game by rushing for 143 yards on 23 attempts. Sapp led all Pride receivers with six catches for 87 yards, while Krivda was 17-for-30 and finished with 157 yards in the air. Byron Cooper paced the defense with 6.5 tackles and four sacks totaling a loss of 19 yards. He also forced a fumble.

On special teams, Raczak had the best game of his young career. In addition to kicking his first two field goals at any level, the freshman also came through by averaging 40.6 yards on seven punt attempts and placing three of them inside the 20-yard line.

Dailey registered 238 yards passing to lead Wilkes offensively, while Deemer finished with 10 catches and 147 yards receiving. Brook finished with 53 yards on the ground. Tanner Stengel paced the defense with a season-high 15 tackles.

Widener (2-1, MAC 2-0) will look to remain unbeaten in conference play when it visits Lycoming on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 1:30 p.m.

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