W&J finds triumph amid tragedy
|When a teammate was killed
last month, "We made it our goal to win a conference championship
for him," wide receiver Alex Baroffio said.
Washington & Jefferson athletics photo
It had been only 37 days since Washington and Jefferson star running back and team captain Tim McNerney had been killed while walking home from bar on an early October morning.
The tragic death had shattered the hearts of family, friends, teammates and a small college town where bad things aren't supposed to happen.
Yet, on Saturday afternoon, on the road in a big rivalry game against Waynesburg that had a share of the PAC title and a playoff berth riding on it, the Presidents had a reason to smile.
They toppled previously unbeaten and 18th-ranked Waynesburg 31-14 at Wiley Stadium, securing a share of their 23rd Presidents' Athletic Conference championship and trip to the postseason for the first time since 2009.
The coaching staff and the players wore smiles as they celebrated the title, the culmination of a regular-season journey like no other before it, and posed for a picture on the field that included a framed photo of McNerney.
"When Tim died, we made it our goal to win a conference championship for him," wide receiver Alex Baroffio said. "I've won titles in high school, but this was the most awesome feeling I've ever had after winning a championship. We are so happy that we are able to honor Tim in this way because he was such a great player, teammate and friend to all of us."
Head coach Mike Sirianni understands the rich history of football success at W&J, but based on what his team has been through this season, the title the Presidents won on Saturday trumps everything else.
After the game, the team presented the trophy to the family of McNerney.
"It was a big game for a lot of reasons, and the most important one being winning it for Tim," Sirianni said. "It was nice to be able to hand the trophy to his family. With what these kids have been through this year, this might have been the biggest win in school history."
So many different players stepped up in the win. Baroffio turned in a breakout performance, making 11 catches for 139 yards. The junior wide receiver caught three touchdown passes as well.
"I had a little extra pep in my step for this game," Baroffio said. "I was pumped up to the play the game, and I played hard the whole time. Everyone seemed to be clicking, and we played very well as a team."
Matt Bliss was 21-of-26 for 251 yards and four touchdowns. Dion Wiegand rushed for 64 yards. John Hunter came through with 15 tackles, and Ian Hennessy added 11 tackles as Waynesburg was limited to 298 yards. Washington and Jefferson racked up 360 yards.
"It was a team effort," Sirianni said. "We were able to move the ball on offense, and we played great defense. We felt like going in if we played, we were going to have a chance to...