WPU Blows Past Graceland with Dominant Second Half

William Penn outpaced the Yellowjackets of Graceland for a homecoming victory.

Oskaloosa–The Statesmen football team overcame a poor first half Saturday by tallying 33 unanswered points to open Heart of America Athletic Conference North Division play with a 53-24 win over Graceland on Homecoming.

William Penn (3-3-1, 1-0 North) trailed 24-20 at intermission, but kept the Yellowjackets (0-7, 0-1 Heart) winless with five consecutive touchdowns en route to a season high in points. A game after winning his 100th contest, Head Coach Todd Hafner guided his navy and gold crew to yet another Homecoming victory. In his 16-year tenure, WPU is 15-1 on Homecoming.

The host defense was a bit porous early on, especially in the passing game as GU moved into Statesmen territory on the opening drive. Fortunately, the initial mistakes were absolved when Colton Horak (Fr., Waco, Iowa, Sports Management) picked off a pass and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown to start the day’s scoring. The interception is Horak’s second of the season.

Graceland answered with a lengthy drive, but the navy and gold went back ahead two big plays later. Alex Crehan (Grad., Troy, Ill., Business Management) first hooked up with Jeremiah Benson (Sr., Kansas City, Mo., Physical Education) for a 50-yard pass, and then called his own number, darting 30 yards to paydirt for a 14-7 edge after the first quarter. Crehan finished with 66 rushing yards and 56 yards on 2-for-7 passing. As a team, William Penn outgained GU 489-388, headlined by 433 yards on the ground.

The Yellowjackets knotted the contest at 14-14 early in the second, only to see WPU go 61 yards on nine plays and retake the lead at 20-14 (missed extra point). Tommy Imbu (So., Edmond, Okla., Business Management) got the glory with a three-yard plunge with 8:08 left until halftime.

The visitors took their first lead on the very next play, returning the ensuing kickoff 91 yards. With the made extra point, GU was up 21-20. Following back-to-back punts by William Penn, the ‘other’ navy and gold team added to its advantage with a field goal as time expired for a 24-20 lead.

A spirited locker room pep talk obviously reenergized the home squad because William Penn completely dominated the final two periods. Ben Sherman (Jr., Troy, Pa., Wellness and Recreation) had himself a game Saturday, tallying almost all of his team-high 183 yards after intermission (six yards in the first half). The junior fullback needed just two carries to march the Statesmen 60 yards on their opening drive of the third period to give them the lead back for good. His first run was 11 and then he crossed the goal line from 49 yards away.

The defensive unit fixed their first-half issues and pitched a 30-minute shutout, beginning with a takeaway on Graceland’s first third-quarter possession as Clive Manuao (Sr., Norwalk, Calif., Business Management) forced a fumble and Jaidin Fletcher (Sr., Upland, Calif., Information Technology) recovered the pigskin.

Imbu then scored for the second time on the afternoon on another three-yard run. He notched 116 yards on 13 attempts.

Another turnover–this one on downs–gave the ball back to the navy and gold and they rolled to another touchdown. Dre Hill (So., Edmond, Okla., Business Management) scored on a four-yard rush as WPU headed into the fourth stanza with a 40-24 edge.

Trevon Gauno (Sr., Houma, La., Sports Management) jumped on the turnover train early in the fourth with an interception, and on the very next snap, Imbu broke free for a 28-yard touchdown–his third of the contest. Gauno now has two interceptions in 2019.

An immediate three-and-out permitted the hosts an opportunity to locate the endzone one more time. Sherman did most of the damage, headlined by a 48-yard punishing run that ended with him being drug down at the Yellowjacket 1-yard line. He finished the drive–and the scoring–on the next play.

The defense made sure there would be no blemishes after the break as Kevin Rusler (Sr., Carson City, Nev., Sociology) forced a fumble and Rogan Pforts (So., Wapello, Iowa, Industrial Technology) fell on the ball. WPU, which finished with four takeaways and zero turnovers of its own, ran out the clock from there.

Jace Neugebauer (So., McArthur, Calif., Business Management) paced the defense with 13 tackles (two for loss) and one pass breakup. Rusler and Fletcher both managed a sack Saturday.

“It took us a while to get going,” Hafner said. “Our halftime message was to just go out and be us. Do what we do, play hard, and have fun. I am so proud of our players for making it happen.”

“Every win is a great win and the way we played in the second half is really who we are,” Hafner added. “We will enjoy this win tonight, but start getting ready tomorrow and prepare to win back the Rock and Ladder Trophy.”

Next Up: William Penn travels to Des Moines next Saturday to face #4 Grand View in Heart North play at noon.

Posted by on Oct 21 2019. Filed under College Sports, Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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