|Bishops stay alive with amazing playoff victory
|WASHINGTON, PA. -- The North Carolina Wesleyan football team continued its impressive 2007 season last Saturday afternoon, knocking off top-seeded Washington & Jefferson by a 35-34 score in overtime in the first round of the NCAA Division III football playoffs at Cameron Stadium.
Senior kicker Brian Vaughn’s point-after in the first overtime proved to be the game-winner. The Blue & Gold have now won nine straight games to move to 9-2 on the season.
The Presidents (10-1) had a chance to win the game in the extra session, but a fake extra-point attempt rush by sophomore kicker Chuck Grabner was stopped by NCWC senior Jezreel Davis.
Washington & Jefferson, which was making its eighth NCAA playoff appearance in the past nine years, grabbed a 7-0 lead at the 5:14 mark of the first quarter after junior quarterback Bobby Swallow drilled a 24-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Tom McCafferty.
N.C. Wesleyan fought back to tie the game early in the second quarter when junior running back Bryan Haywood capped a nine-play, 57-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown rush.
Swallow and McCafferty connected on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 42 seconds left in the first half, but Grabner’s extra-point attempt was blocked, making it a 13-7 W&J lead.
The Bishops assumed their first lead of the game, 14-13, just 12 seconds later when Haywood raced 87 yards down the NCWC sideline for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff. The run was the longest kickoff return in program history and the first-ever for a TD.
Wesleyan took the 14-13 lead into intermission, but it was short-lived as Swallow found McCafferty for their third touchdown (19 yards) on the first possession of the third quarter. Swallow’s two-point conversion pass to junior wideout David Ravida made it a 21-14 game.
The Blue & Gold wasted little time in tying the contest as senior quarterback Cedric Townsend lofted a 40-yard scoring pass to sophomore wide receiver Orlando Webb on a third-and-long play just over three minutes later.
The score remained tied at 21-21 until the 14:26 mark of the third quarter when W&J junior running back Kevin Mathews bolted nine yards through the middle of the NCWC defense for a 28-21 President lead.
The Bishops answered quickly once again as Haywood’s 35-yard kickoff return helped set up his own 3-yard touchdown rush with 11:25 remaining in the game.
The Presidents’ ensuing drive stalled at the NCWC 46-yard line, but junior Zack Zebrasky’s punt was fumbled at the 27-yard line and recovered by W&J freshman Craig Sedunov.
W&J drove to the NCW 2-yard line, but had to settle for a 22-yard Grabner field-goal attempt, which was blocked by junior Davon Collins with 4:35 left to play.
Townsend marched the Bishops into W&J territory, setting up a Vaughn 29-yard field-goal attempt with seven seconds left. Vaughn’s kick, however, missed wide left, and the teams headed to overtime.
Wesleyan had the first possession in the extra period, and Townsend scored on the fourth play of the drive from three yards out.
Vaughn’s extra-point put the Bishops in front 35-28.
Swallow fired his fourth touchdown pass of the game on the Presidents’ fourth play, hitting Ravida on a 3-yard strike.
W&J’s fake extra-point rush attempt was stopped, and the Bishops earned their first-ever NCAA playoff victory.
Townsend completed 19-of-29 passes for 221 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing for 97 yards on 23 attempts. Sophomore running back Teron Bush added 85 yards on 13 carries, while Haywood added 21 yards on the ground. Bush led NCWC receivers with six receptions for 36 yards.
The Bishop defense was led by senior linebacker Justin Augustin’s 11 tackles and two pass breakups.
Swallow finished with 265 passing yards (25-of-39 attempts) and four scores to finish the season with 46 touchdown passes. Mathews gained 103 yards on 24 carries, while McCafferty closed his career with a nine-catch, 147-yard receiving day.
Senior cornerback Doug Melton led the Presidents’ defense with 13 tackles and three pass breakups.
The Bishops outgained W&J by a 474-360 margin, including 253 yards on the ground. N.C. Wesleyan converted 12-of-17 third-down situations.
Wesleyan, the bracket’s No. 8 seed, advances to this Saturday’s second round game at fourth-seeded Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas.
Game time is slated for 1 p.m. (EST) in the Lone Star State as the Bishops look to advance again.