Wilmington 14, Bluffton 10
September 5, 2015
By: Ryan Schadewald, sports information assistant
WILMINGTON, Ohio - The Bluffton Beaver football team kicked off the 2015 season by dropping a heartbreaker to the Wilmington College Quakers, 14-10, on Saturday, Sept. 5. The Beavers (0-1) lost on a 53-yard touchdown toss from Austin Jarbo to Brandon Mitchell with just one minute to go.
The first half would be one dominated by the two defenses. The Beavers put up the only points of the half on their opening possession when they went 33 yards for a 37-yard field goal from Jordan Watkins (Reynoldsburg) to take a 3-0 advantage. After the Quakers missed a field goal, Bluffton would go 56 yards on seven plays, including a big 49-yard strike from Colby Speice (Paulding/Wayne Trace) to Korbin Showalter (Haviland/Wayne Trace), but would fail a fourth down conversion attempt on fourth and 1 from the Wilmington 16 to waste a critical scoring opportunity. The teams continued trading punts for the remainder of the half to go into the locker room at 3-0.
The second half began the way the first half ended with both teams trading punts once again. However, on a second down at their own 41, Speice would get his pass picked off by Jay Higgins and returned 43 yards into the end zone to give the Quakers their first lead (7-3) at the 8:33 mark of the third. Conner Sheehan (Monroeville, Ind./Heritage) would get another chance as the signal caller on the next two drives, one leading to a punt despite 39 yards gained, but the other resulting in another interception to end the third quarter of play.
Following a Wilmington turnover on downs, Speice would return to the contest and lead the Beavers 62 yards to pay dirt, hitting Micah Roberson (Ada) for a four-yard score and the Beavers led 10-7 with 11:07 remaining. The home team drove into Bluffton territory once again and failed to convert another fourth down conversion, but Bluffton went three and out and gave it right back. The Quakers then went on a brilliantly crafted 67-yard drive, but that would grind to a halt with a big pickoff by Matt Holden (Convoy/Crestview) at the Bluffton seven-yard line with just 4:11 remaining.
The Beavers could not run out the clock, though, being forced to punt it back to Wilmington and they would take over at their own 47. The next three plays saw Wilmington go nowhere, however, the Quakers would finally connect on a big play with the game-winning 53 yard touchdown pass down the sideline from Jarbo to Mitchell with just a minute on the clock to take the final lead, 17-14. Speice connected for 14 on a pass to Roberson and he ran for another 20. But their hopes were dashed when he tossed his second pick of the afternoon.
On the offensive side, Bluffton outdid the home team, 375-341, outgaining the Quakers 184-130 on the ground, but losing the edge in the passing department, 211-191. The Quakers tried to give the game away with their nine penalties for 77 yards as well.
The Beavers divided the number of pass attempts between Speice and Sheehan almost perfectly, with Speice going 8-for-16 for 108 yards, while Sheehan completed 7-of-17 pass attempts for 83 yards. Speice also added 45 yards on the ground on five carries. Micah Roberson had a big day in the receiving game, catching nine passes for 88 yards and a score. Devante Thomas-Wright (Kings Clinton Twp./Chippewa Valley) paced the visitors on the ground with 59 yards from 19 carries.
The Beaver defense was led by Gio Spadaro (Macedonia/Nordonia) with six tackles, a forced fumble, and a TFL. The reigning NCAA sack champion, Ryan Aelker (New Bavaria/Holgate), added five tackles, as well as his first sack of the season.
The Beavers will look to get back on the winning track next Saturday, Sept. 12 as they show off the new turf of Salzman Stadium when Bluffton welcomes the Baldwin Wallace College Yellow Jackets. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. Come support your Beavers!