Wade Steinlage, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications
OSKALOOSA – A rare Sunday football game at Statesmen Community Stadium saw the Wildcats of Culver-Stockton come to play William Penn. A wild affair featured 11 turnovers between the two sides as both teams struggled to hold onto the football in a cold, late afternoon contest. The Statesmen fought through the adversity and came away with a 20-16 victory. The team improves to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in Heart of America Athletic Conference North play.
Sunday’s contest got going in plenty of wind and temperatures around 45 degrees. While both teams came out ready to play, each seemed to struggle out of the gate. The Wildcats (1-2, 0-1 North) dropped the opening kickoff to give WPU a very advantageous first possession at the C-SC 27. However, a plethora of penalties sent the Statesmen back towards mid-field and a punt was the end result of the drive.
Despite the Wildcats charging from their own 15-yard line to the WPU 29, Nolan Booher threw a ball a little behind his receiver and Kenny Alexandre (Sr., Brooklyn, N.Y., Sports Management) made the interception. But the offense would give it right back to the visitors as Rives Grogan (So., Mansfield, Texas, Political Science) had it punched out on a carry just two plays later.
The navy and gold forced a punt, but two plays into the next drive, Alex Crehan (Sr., Troy, Ill., Business Management) threw an interception. The ensuing possession for Culver-Stockton took the game into the second quarter, but its first play in the new frame saw Loren Young (Sr., Atlanta, Ga., Undecided) make a pick to give the Statesmen a first-and-10 at the C-SC 30. Once more, a turnover doomed proceedings, as Crehan was stripped as he tried to run upfield, with the Wildcats jumping on it first. Two plays later, it was another interception, as Turner Ellis (Fr., Urbandale, Iowa, Secondary Education) made the big play to take the ball back for the navy and gold.
This time, WPU would not miss its chance as its took 10 plays to grind out the 36 yards needed for the score. Luke Masters (Jr., Branson, Mo., Undecided) took the handoff on the two-yard plunge to make it 7-0.
The defense continued to swarm Culver-Stockton as Alexandre forced another fumble on the second play of the following drive for the Wildcats. Again, the Statesmen made some hay as Brenden Phillips (So., Altus, Okla., Biology) and Archer Charles (Jr., Guntersville, Ala., Sports Management) split the work to take it down to the C-SC 3. Phillips got the rock and banged his way over the left side for the score and after the kick, it was 14-0 in favor of WPU.
Culver-Stockton answered with a great drive with just a couple minutes remaining. The Wildcats took it 78 yards in six plays, capped off by a 44-yard strike from Booher to Connor Perrine down the left sideline. WPU headed to halftime up 14-7.
The second half was also quite the battle for ball control, as each side coughed it up over the final 30 minutes. The Statesmen were forced to punt on their first possession of the second half, but won the ball back soon thereafter. After a couple first downs, the Wildcats muffed the handoff as the navy and gold threw the defensive line into the fray with D’Mauryon Hunter (Fr., Bollingbrook, Ill., Sports Management) coming away with the ball.
Jace Neugebauer (Sr., McArthur, Calif., Business Management), who took over the helm on the offensive side early on, came up with a big pass on third-and-12 to Adrian Aviles (Sr., Chicago, Ill., Biology) for 48 yards down to the C-SC 17-yard line. A couple plays later, the Statesmen committed another error as Neugebauer lost the ball on a handoff. The Wildcats scooped it up and ran it all the way to the endzone, tying the game at 14-14.
Both teams punted on their next offensive drives and WPU got the ball with a couple minutes left in the third. Starting at their own 11, the drive was a clinical one for the Statesmen as they moved up the field with some good, hard runs. As the fourth quarter dawned, WPU saw itself at the edge of the redzone. Phillips produced a couple runs that got the team inside the C-SC 10, while Neugebauer pushed it home two plays later from a yard out. A missed extra point, the Statesmen were up just 20-14.
The Wildcats and Statesmen exchanged punts, and then Culver-Stockton got the ball with 3:21 remaining in the game. Needing a touchdown, it looked like the visitors were well on their way as they hit their receivers in stride, going from their own 40-yard line to the Statesmen 23 in just a few plays. However, the turnover bug had another bite to deliver. Booher made another pass that was caught in the middle of the field, but, on the tackle, Turner Ellis (Fr., Urbandale, Iowa, Secondary Education) knocked the ball out and the Neugebauer jumped on top of it. The huge play let the navy and gold run almost a minute off the clock over the next few plays. Neugebauer took the fourth-down punt attempt into the endzone to run more time off, taking the safety to make the score 20-16.
The ensuing kickoff sailed out of bounds, giving the Wildcats the ball at midfield with 22 seconds remaining. However, there was one more turnover to be had as Rashaad Ollie (Sr., Foley, Ala., Sports Management) came up with the catch on a deep pass from Booher. The Statesmen took a knee for the victory.
Offensively, WPU was led by Charles, who had 75 yards on 12 carriers. Phillips was the workhorse with 20 attempts for 70 yards and a score, while Masters had five carries for 42 yards and a TD. Crehan had one pass attempt that was picked off, while Neugebauer was 1-for-2 for 48 yards with Aviles making the lone reception.
Defensively, Ellis had 11 tackles and one interception on the night, while Ollie had seven tackles and one pick as well. Jaden Curtis (So., Glendale, Ariz., Digital Communication) had two sacks, while Young had two tackles for a loss to lead the squad. Neugebauer averaged 30 yards per kick on five punts, while recording two tackles on the defensive end.
“I am so happy for our players tonight,” head coach Todd Hafner said. “We overcame a very challenging week and beat a very good Culver-Stockton team. Out defense was fantastic and our offense was productive at the right time! The seven turnovers gained and the long drive for a touchdown in the fourth quarter is what we want our team to be at all times.”
“Jace was amazing tonight!” Hafner added. “He is the first player in my 17-year career to play both ways and to do it at positions that mean so much to our offense and defense just shows what kind of commitment he had to make this week. We’re not sure when or if we’ll play again, but we’ll enjoy this win and wait to see what happens!”
The Statesmen will wait to schedule make-up dates as they will look to finish the season at Peru State and home to Clarke.