Story and photo courtesy of Widener Athletics
Widener saw its offense continue to electrify and the defense make several stands in a heart-pounding 34-29 triumph over Albright to remain atop the Middle Atlantic Conference by itself.
Widener on its second drive needed just two plays to take a 7-0 lead. Senior Chris Haupt (Bloomsburg, PA) fired a pass in which senior Steve Marrero (Reading, PA) took to the one yard line, was stripped by Matthew Hnatiuk, but recovered in the end zone for the touchdown.
Things were less dramatic on the next drive as the Pride opened a 14-0 cushion with 6:47 to go in the first quarter. Haupt completed all three pass attempts on the march before handing to junior Terrant Morrison (Smyrna, DE) for an eight-yard scoring run.
Albright was persistent all game as it closed to 14-7 with 3:26 left in the period when TJ Luddy found Scott Pillar on a three-yard scoring pass. Widener did not panic on its next march as an eight-play, 66-yard drive resulted in senior James McFadden (Warminster, PA) booting a 26-yard field goal with 52 seconds to go for a 17-7 contest.
Albright’s Dan Sobolewski answered McFadden’s kick with a 30-yard field early in the second quarter for 17-10 margin. The Lions then made it 17-16 with 3:53 left when Luddy found Pillar on a 57-yard bomb, but sophomore Ameer Sorrell (Port Norris, NJ) blocked the extra point to retain the Pride’s lead.
Widener got the momentum back on the next drive when Haupt found sophomore Anthony Davis (Upland, PA) on a huge 18-yard touchdown pass on third down for a 24-16 game with 2:22 remaining.
The Lions then went on a 76-yard scoring drive as Ty Hughes barreled in from one yard with 32 seconds to go in the half, but Luddy’s run on the two-point conversion failed and it remained 24-22 at the half.
Widener’s defense started the second half with a bang thanks to three consecutive sacks from seniors Joe Wojceichowski (Riverside, NJ), Jamal Dorsey (Mount Holly, NJ) and Chad Gravinese (Mullica Hill, NJ). The offense did its part on the other end as Haupt again found Marrero, this time from 20 yards with 7:50 left in the third quarter for a 31-22 game.
The Pride’s defense again continue to be a brick wall in the fourth quarter as it came up with a huge stand after the Lions had first and goal at the two. Three of the plays were rushes in the middle of the line by Marty Reinhardt that were stopped, the last two by freshman tackle Shakore Philip (Bay Shore, NY).
McFadden drilled a 44-yard field goal with 2:57 to play for a 34-22 contest and that looked to be enough. But backup quarterback Adam Galczynski led Albright on a 77-yard drive in which he completed 8-of-10 passes for 72 yards, ending on a seven-yard strike to Pillar with 39 seconds to go for a 34-29 game.
Albright further complicated things as Sobolewski’s on-side kick was recovered by the visitor’s Levi Myers at Widener’s 41 yard line. The Lions worked the ball to the 30 yard line before Galczynski’s desperation pass intended for Pillar fell incomplete as time expired.
Haupt completed 30-of-44 passes for 328 yards and three scores with junior Jermaine Quattlebaum (Upper Marlboro, MD) getting nine receptions for 69 yards. Davis continued his thing on special teams with 116 return yards on a combined four punt returns and five kick-off returns.
The defense again got it done as Dorsey and junior Dylan Ditmer (Exton, PA) closed with nine tackles apiece for the Pride, who amassed five sacks and six tackles for a loss.
Luddy completed 15-of-27 passes for 259 yards and two scores with Galczynski completing 11-of-22 attempts for 108 yards. Pillar had 13 catches for 223 yards and three touchdowns, Chris Stephens was spectacular with 10 solos tackles and Joe Magosin had two great interceptions.
Widener (8-0, 7-0 MAC) has won nine straight games dating to last season and continues its best start since opening 12-0 in 2001. It has a one-game lead over Lycoming (6-1) and Delaware Valley (6-1) for first place.
Widener can claim a share of a league-record 19th MAC title with a victory next Saturday at FDU-Florham. Game time in Madison, NJ is 1:00 pm and it will be the 1,100th football contest in the school’s illustrious history.