SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - In what has become almost an annual occurrence, the Wittenberg Tigers handily defeated the visiting Hiram Terriers 71-7.
The win kept the Tigers in a three-way tie for first place in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC), heading into the regular season finale at Oberlin on Saturday, Nov. 10. Wittenberg is now 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the NCAC, deadlocked atop the standings with Ohio Wesleyan and Kenyon.
Wittenberg has never lost to Hiram on the gridiron, including 11 meetings as NCAC rivals dating back to 2000. In 13 all-time meetings between the two teams, the Tigers have outscored Hiram by a whopping 791-68 margin.
The Tigers actually got off to a relatively slow start in the latest meeting, scoring just once in the first quarter on a 28-yard run by junior quarterback Reed Florence (South Charleston, Ohio/South Charleston). Then came a 35-point outburst in the second quarter, as the Tigers finished the 15-minute frame one away from a school record for points in a quarter.
Florence kicked off the scoring in the second quarter with a 13-yard burst, and then he threw for three straight scores. The first covered 32 yards to sophomore wide receiver Zac Wilson (Eaton, Ohio/Eaton), followed by a one-yard toss to junior wideout Desi Kirkman (Lima, Ohio/Central Catholic) and a 20-yard strike to junior wideout Brendon Cunningham (Kettering, Ohio/Fairmont).
The Tigers took a 42-0 lead into the locker room at halftime after junior linebacker Spencer Leno (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon) got into the scoring act for the first time in his collegiate career. He picked off a pass and returned it 54 yards to paydirt with 1:05 left before intermission.
From that point, Wittenberg emptied its bench 80 different players saw action by game's end. Among those who found their way into the boxscore for the first time in their collegiate careers included freshman running back Sean Gary (Indianapolis, Ind./Decatur Central) on a 23-yard run, freshman quarterback Zack Jenkins (Frostproof, Fla./Frostproof) with a one-yard run and junior linebacker Tyler Slade (Louisville, Colo./Monarch) with a 40-yard interception return.
Rounding out the scoring were senior Sean Williams (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield) with a 36-yard field goal in the third quarter and junior running back JaVanh Sanders (Las Vegas, Nev./Centennial) with an 11-yard run, also in the third quarter.
Wittenberg piled up 461 yards of total offense in the game, compared with 144 for Hiram. The Tigers were effective both through the air and on the ground, finishing with 210 yards passing and 251 yards rushing.
Florence tossed a pair of uncharacteristic interceptions in the first half, but he still completed 15 of his 20 passes for 162 yards. He added four carries for 49 yards. He was the first of four Tiger quarterbacks to see action in the game, with junior Noah Johanson (Medina, Ohio/Medina) adding 31 yards passing and 33 yards rushing.
Sanders led the Tigers in rushing with 10 carries for 94 yards. Cunningham was the top receiver with eight catches for 98 yards.
Defensively, junior linebacker Evan Killilea (Columbus, Ohio/DeSales) led with eight tackles, including 2.5 for loss, and two passes broken up. Leno added seven tackles and freshman defensive back Dalen Wess (Cincinnati, Ohio/Roger Bacon) chipped in with six tackles, including one for loss, and a forced fumble.