Statesmen Win Wild 45-44 Contest Vs. Pioneers

Oskaloosa–Ethan Olivas (Fr., Eddyville, Iowa) was given a second chance to be the hero and he delivered with time expired to give the William Penn football team a 45-44 win over MidAmerica Nazarene in a Heart of America Athletic Conference crossover game Saturday.

The Statesmen (1-2), who had come up short in their first two games of the year against top-20 opponents, required a game-winning 38-yard field goal from the freshman to break into the win column.

When WPU and MNU (1-2) face off on the gridiron, it tends to be a barn-burner, highlighted by the first-ever meeting in 2015 going three overtimes (WPU won 51-48). Saturday was no exception with the lead changing hands on four occasions, including three times in the final three minutes of action.

After just 10 minutes of battle, however, it had zero signs of being anything more than a good-ole beatdown as the navy and gold rolled to a 21-0 advantage.

After eventually stopping the no-huddle Pioneer offense in WPU territory, the Statesmen used just one play to grab the lead. Gavin Rountree (Fr., Stephenville, Texas, Sports Management) was handed the ball on an end-around. He got to the corner, turned upfield, and blew past the defense for a 75-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0 at the 12:29 mark.

Another defensive stop gave way to another chance for the offense. A heavy dose of Ben Sherman (Grad., Troy, Pa., Master’s of Sports Management) was successful and the senior was rewarded for his hard work with a six-yard push into the endzone. He rushed five times for 49 yards on the scoring drive.

A third-down sack forced the MNU punter to kick from his goal line on the ensuing visitor possession. Alfonso Battle (Jr., Port St. Lucie, Fla., Exercise Science) then came up with, at the time, the special teams play of the game, as he darted past the Pioneers and blocked the kick. Battle was fortunate to get to the bouncing ball first and fall on top of it to extend the Statesmen lead to 21-0 at the 4:51 juncture of the first quarter.

All was well in William Penn’s world, but as so often happens in sports, momentum shifted in an instant. MNU went 75 yards on 10 plays in its next possession to finally get on the board.

The Statesmen could not answer on their next two drives, while the visitors had little trouble moving down the field and knotting the contest at 21-21 almost exactly 15 minutes after falling behind by a trio of touchdowns.

WPU’s offense eventually sorted out its issues and moved into MidAmerica Nazarene territory at the 25-yard line. Unfortunately, the ball was fumbled and the Pioneers this time came up with the loose pigskin, returning it for a touchdown to claim a shocking 28-21 halftime lead.

The game was far from over, though, as the hosts took the opening drive of the second half and, behind new quarterback Rodney Hall (Fr., Detroit, Mich., Psychology), went 75 yards to tie the score. A 3rd-and-21 pass was nearly picked off, but instead was tipped and landed in the hands of Alex Jung (Sr., Fullerton, Calif., Exercise Science) to tie the contest at 28-28.

The Statesmen were primed to retake the lead on their next possession, but as Hall neared the endzone, the ball was dislodged and went through the endzone for a touchback, leaving the score tied. That tie was a short-lived, however, as MNU scored late in the third quarter to take a 35-28 advantage into the final period.

The final stanza was a show-stopper with the sides combining for 26 points, including a touchdown on a one-yard plunge by Sherman to yet again tie things up with 9:58 still to go.

A Pioneer field goal with 5:03 on the clock then forced the Statesmen to come up with an answer and they did.

Sherman opened up the drive with a 41-yard run; he finished with 204 yards on 22 carries. Four plays later, Hall crossed the goal line from three yards out and WPU was back on top 42-38 with just 2:31 remaining.

William Penn unfortunately could not record a fourth-down stop at its 28-yard line, and on the next play, MNU scored its final points to recapture the lead at 44-42 with 44 ticks left. A crucial extra point attempt sailed wide left, giving the Statesmen a chance to win with a field goal.

Not quite built for a two-minute drill type of drive that necessitates a lot of passing, the Statesmen offense made do, including Hall finding Archer Charles (Jr., Guntersville, Ala., Sports Management) for 17 yards and Rountree for an additional eight.

Hall finished with another five-yard run to the sideline, leaving two seconds on the clock for a 53-yard try by Olivas. The freshman put a great boot on it, and although it had enough distance, his kick sailed just right of the uprights.

As MNU celebrated and WPU was dejected, whistles blew and a yellow piece of cloth lay on the turf next to a possibly injured Olivas. The kicker had been hit hard on his follow-through and a roughing the kicker penalty gave William Penn new life, 15 yards closer with no time on the clock.

A recomposed Olivas walked off his ailment and stayed in the game. From 38 yards this time, he struck the ball even better than the original and put the attempt down the middle for the game-winner. Pandemonium ensued with players and coaches running all over the field and the hero Olivas justifiably being carried on the shoulders of his teammates.

Statistically, the game had everything, including over 1,000 total yards of offense with the Statesmen being outgained 566-529. The hosts gobbled up 474 yards (7.9 yards per rush average) on the ground. In addition to Sherman’s 204, Hall added 78 and Rountree had 75 on his one carry. Starting quarterback Alex Crehan (Grad., Troy, Ill., Master’s of Business Leadership), who was knocked out of the game in the second quarter, finished with 70 yards, while Rives Grogan (So., Mansfield, Texas, Political Science) notched 55 yards as well.

Hall was 3-for-4 passing for 55 yards.

Defensively, D’Mauryon Hunter (So., Bolingbrook, Ill., Sports Management) and Turner Ellis (Fr., Urbandale, Iowa, Secondary Education), who had two for loss, both tallied a team-high 12 tackles. Howard Huerta (Fr., Panorama City, Calif., Sports Management) and Rogan Pforts (So., Wapello, Iowa, Industrial Technology) finished with nine each as well. Donovan Corbett (So., Lithonia, Ga., Sports Management) and Carvelle Jamison (So., Oklahoma City, Okla.) got to the quarterback one time apiece for sacks.

“This was a very exciting win for us,” Head Coach Todd Hafner said. “We battled through so much adversity tonight and fought all the way to the end. I am so proud of how our players competed and the way we stuck together.”

“What can I say about Ethan Olivas and the way he came through in the clutch?!” Hafner added. “I am so happy for our team and our school. Our crowd, led by The Penn Zone, was unbelievable. We thank them for their support as we definitely heard them and they helped us tonight.”

Next Up: William Penn travels to Ozark, Mo. next Friday to face Evangel in a Heart crossover game at 6 p.m.

Posted by on Sep 13 2021. Filed under College Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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