Story and photo courtesy of Widener Athletics
Senior James McFadden booted a 33-yard field goal in overtime for 18th-ranked Widener, which rallied from down 16 points late for an incredible 40-37 Middle Atlantic Conference victory at Lebanon Valley in Annville, Pa.
Down 37-21 with 5:44 remaining, Widener (5-0, 4-0 MAC) remained confident on offense despite being down two scores. Senior Chris Haupt (Bloomsburg, PA) fired a 38-yard pass to sophomore Anthony Davis (Upland, PA) that he hauled in at the five yard line to quiet the home crowd. Sophomore Tyler Rank (Wyomissing, PA) bulldozed his way in from one yard with 4:40 to play for a 37-29 deficit and a one-possession game.
The defense needed to make a big play and it did. LVC (3-2, 2-2) threw the dice on third down and six at its own 36 yard line with 2 1/2 minutes left by deciding to pass. Junior Colin Masterson (Swarthmore, PA) made them pay as he took a deflected pass and ran it 64 yards down the right sideline for the touchdown. Sophomore Couve LaFate (Wilmington, DE) then took a pitch from Haupt on the two-point conversion and scored with 2:11 left for a 37-37 tie.
Widener freshman Vaughn Nichols-Taylor (Newark, DE) appeared to have completed the turnaround by returning an interception for a touchdown with 21 seconds left, but a roughing the passer penalty was called on the Pride that all but sent the contest into overtime.
Lebanon Valley got the ball first in overtime and Widener’s defense did its job, forcing the home team to only travel 12 yards. The Dutchmen were forced to kick a field goal, but Sean Fakete’s attempt from 30 yards went wide left.
The Pride then got the ball, ran LaFate three times for nine yards and left it up to McFadden, last week’s MAC Special Teams Player of the Week. He did his part on his first field goal attempt of the season, drilling one for the improbable win and Widener’s first 5-0 start since 2002.
Haupt, the reigning MAC Offensive Player of the Week, completed 22-of-37 passes for 257 yards. Freshman Philip Ragona (Oceanside, NY) had six receptions for 61 yards and senior Joe Wojceichowski (Riverside, NJ) made nine tackles for the Pride, who went 5-for-8 on fourth-down conversions.
Leo Kyte played great for the Dutchmen, completing 23-of-38 passes for 395 yards and two touchdowns. Joey Miller was not to blame as he notched 11 receptions for 182 yards and two scores.
Widener’s defense came up with a big play early in the game. Lebanon Valley went for it on fourth down and one at its own 29 yard line and handed it to Evan Fink, who was met at the line by sophomore Nicholas White (Bellmore, NY) and freshman Shakore Philip (Bay Shore, NY) for a change of possession.
The next huge defensive stop resulted in a 7-0 Widener lead with 8:24 left in the first quarter. Kyte stepped back in his end zone to throw and instead found Pride sophomore Ameer Sorrell (Port Norris, NJ), who returned the interception five yards for the score.
Widener got its first offensive touchdown with 5:35 to play in the first half for a 14-0 cushion on a one-yard plunge from Rank. Haupt completed passes of 32 yards to senior Dom DePasquale (Williamstown, PA) and 24 yards to Davis on the drive.
Lebanon Valley on the ensuing possession needed just one play to make it a 14-7 contest with 5:16 left. Miller caught a pass from Kyte, made several moves near the goal line and turned it into a 75-yard scoring pass.
Haupt was key on the next drive that gave Widener a 21-7 lead with 2:17 remaining in the half. He kept the march alive on fourth down and two at the LVC 48 yard line with a 10-yard run. He capped it on third down and 18 at the 30 with a touchdown pass to freshman Connor Schlegel (Denver, PA), who made a leaping catch near the back of the end zone.
The Dutchmen closed to 21-13 with 22 seconds to play in the half when Kyte hit Miller on a five-yard fade route in the corner of the end zone. The margin stayed at eight after Sorrell made another big play by blocking the extra point.
LVC received the opening kickoff in the second half and the offense again produced. Kyte completed a 43-yard pass to Yahya McIntyre to the Pride’s two yard line and Evan Fink two plays later punched it in from the one for a 21-20 margin with 11:35 to go in the third quarter.
Widener then got the misfortune on a controversial call as the officials ruled LVC’s Derek Nye intercepted a ball in the end zone that looked close to the ground. The Dutchmen turned that into a six-play, 64-yard drive, ending with a 28-yard field goal from Fakete with 6:19 to go in the third for LVC’s first lead at 23-21.
The Pride went to the bag of tricks on fourth down at their own 40 early in the fourth quarter, but a fake punt was mishandled by a personal protector and turned over to the Dutchmen.
LVC’s defense then came up big when Jerome Duncan intercepted a pass at the Widener 32 yard line. The offense worked its way down the field and punched it in on a three-yard carry from Fink with 11:19 to play for a 30-21 Dutchmen lead.
The breaks continued to go the Dutchmen’s way on the ensuing kickoff when Davis fumbled and it was recovered by John Harsch at the Widener 39 yard line. Fink scored his third touchdown of the game when he ran it home from seven yards for a 37-21 lead with 5:44 remaining.
Widener next Saturday hosts Stevenson on Homecoming Weekend, beginning at 1:00 pm.