MARSHALL, TEXAS – Behind five touchdown passes from quarterback Justin Sottilare and four interceptions by defensive back Jared Morris, the third-ranked Wesley College football team defeated East Texas Baptist, 34-14, on Saturday afternoon at Ornelas Stadium. Morris' four interceptions is a Wesley-record.
Like last year's game against the Tigers, Wesley had to come from behind, this time from a 12 point deficit. ETBU got on the board first as its offense took advantage of a short field after an interception started the drive at the Wesley 17-yard line. Two plays into the possession, the Tigers crossed the goal-line, but would miss the extra point.
Wesley turned the ball over on downs on its ensuing drive, giving ETBU the ball at its own 38. A 46-yard pass on the opening play of the drive got the ball inside the red zone before a three-yard pass to Chad Bowers gave the Tigers a 12-point lead as the two-point conversion was unsuccessful.
Devar Robinson then sparked the comeback with a 67-yard kickoff return, starting the Wesley drive inside the ETBU 10-yard line. Three plays later, Sottilare found Matt Barile for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Both teams went scoreless the final 5:39 of the first quarter, but Wesley was in the midst of a scoring drive. Askia Jahad took the first play of the second quarter 14 yards to the ETBU 34-yard line, before the other Barile, Ben Barile caught his first career touchdown pass.
East Texas would tie the score at 14 with 8:38 remaining in the half as a bad snap over the head of Sottilare rolled through the end zone. ETBU had been driving but a fumble recovered by Derrick Bender gave Wesley back the ball at its own nine-yard line.
After forcing the Tigers to punt, Sean Hopkins ran back the kick 48 yards to the ETBU 19. After an eight-yard pass to Steven Koudossou and a five-yard penalty, Sottilare completed a pass to Jahad for a 16-yard touchdown, giving Wesley a 21-14 lead with 5:36 left in the first half.
The Navy & White forced another punt and the Wolverines made quick work of their next drive as Sottilare completed 3-of-4 passes for 41 yards, before hitting Koudossou for a 26-yard score. Jahad was also key on the drive with a 13-yard scamper on second and five.
On ETBU's ensuing possession, Morris hauled in his first pick of the afternoon. Wesley was unable to capitalize and went into the locker room with a 28-14 lead.
As the teams returned to the field, both squads went scoreless in their first three drives. After the second interception by Morris ended the ETBU third possession of the half, Wesley took over at its own 43. After a seven-yard run by Jahad, Sottilare hit Matt Bundy for a 39-yard pass. Two plays later, Sottilare found Ryan Gerlitz in the end zone for his first career catch, finishing the scoring on the day with 3:44 left in the third.
Sottilare finished his day completing 20 of 39 passes for 265 yards and five touchdowns. Exactly half of his completions went to Koudossou (six catches, 76 yards) and Barile (four catches, 41 yards). Jahad, Jeremiah Howe, Ishamar Malcolm and Gerlitz also caught two passes each.
On the ground, Jahad carried the ball 17 times for 61 yards as the Wolverines narrowly outgained the Tigers 321 to 310.
Sophomore Sosthene Kapepula led the Wolverine defense with eight tackles to go with 1.5 tackles for loss and three pass breakups. Senior Devin Hardy also recorded a sack while his classmate Kirk Brooks led the team with a pair of TFL's.
The Wolverines return to action next Saturday when they travel across Route 13 for a clash with seventh-ranked Salisbury at 6:00 pm on September 8.