Washington & Jefferson whips Waynesburg
Washington & Jefferson’s 30-3 victory over Waynesburg on Saturday pushed the Presidents one significant step closer to its 19th conference title in 23 years.
“It was huge. It was for the conference championship, well, for the conference lead,” Washington & Jefferson coach Mike Sirianni said. “If they would have won, it was over.
“It puts us in a good position, and it is another playoff game for us because we want to make the NCAA playoffs.”
Two games remain on W&J’s conference regular-season schedule. The Presidents could clinch a share of the title next week with a victory at home over Thomas More. With two wins, W&J can win the PAC outright and advance to the playoffs. Waynesburg fell to 4-4 overall and 4-1 in the conference.
The Presidents (7-1, 4-0) showcased a solid defensive effort and another 100-yard rushing performance by senior running back Ryan Mendel. Mendel rushed for 154 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries, breaking the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season.
A first-year starter, but a prominent back for the Presidents the past three seasons, Mendel has rushed for at least 100 yards in six games this season, averaging 4.9 per carry.
“It feels good,” he said, of reaching the 1,000 plateau. “It’s been something I’ve been not close to, but around, for the past two years, and it’s nice to finally get it.”
Mendel was the go-to guy on offense from the first drive, when he carried the ball on seven of nine plays. Starting from W&J’s 38-yard line, Mendel amassed 34 yards rushing before quarterback Bobby Swallow connected with wide receiver David Ravida on a 3-yard touchdown pass.
When heavy rains and strong winds complicated the passing game in the second half, the Presidents didn’t have to make many adjustments. Mendel ran the ball on all but a handful of plays, limiting Swallow to 7-of-10 passing for 73 yards and one touchdown.
“We talked about (carrying the ball a lot) a little bit in the beginning of week, when we knew the weather was going to be bad,” Mendel said. “I loved it then, but now, I’m a little tired.
“Whenever it’s like four, five, six carries in a row, I keep looking to the sidelines and hoping we are going to throw the ball once. But it’s the same play over and over, and I have to get back in there.”
Mendel’s 4-yard touchdown run came with 3:35 remaining in the first half to give W&J a 14-3 advantage. After a scoreless third quarter, W&J kicker Kyle Sidebotham converted a 42-yard field goal, and the Presidents’ two fourth-quarter touchdowns came courtesy of interception returns by defensive linemen.
With 7:05 remaining in the game, defensive lineman Dan Brodland intercepted a pass from Waynesburg quarterback Tres Cobb and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown to make the score, 24-3, to secure the win.
“I’ve never been more scared in my life once I realized I had the ball in my hands and realized a touchdown was only a couple yards away,” Brodland said. “That was the only touchdown in my life, and that was something no one was taking away. I have six points to my name, and I’m very proud of that, too.”
As time expired, defensive lineman Jeff Ernst returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown.
Overall, the W&J defense held Waynesburg to 171 yards of offense. Waynesburg’s double-threat backfield of Ryan Abels and Eric Daniels, which rushed for at least 200 yards in three of the past four games, was limited to 116 yards.
“They have two good backs, but I’m a little biased,” Sirianni said. “I think we have the best back in the conference.
“He can run outside. He can run inside because he’s gotten a lot bigger, and when you have that combination, you can run the ball outside, run it inside and break tackles on people all over.”