Wheeling Jesuit Wins Inaugural Game
WHEELING — A new era kicked off Saturday at Wheeling Jesuit University.
For the first time in school history, the Cardinals football team suited up and raced on to Bishop Schmitt Field.
Not only did the Cardinals compete on the gridiron for the first time, but they did so in triumphant fashion as they overpowered Hocking College by a 38-14 final on a rainy afternoon.
“We were prepared and ready,” Jesuit coach Zac Bruney said. “We practiced well and we had a good scrimmage last week at Cornell.
“We knew (Hocking) would have athletes and they did, but I’m proud of our guys and pleased with their efforts.”
Bruney has 67 freshmen on the roster, but quarterback Tucker Strachan stood out from the rest in practice to earn the starting nod heading into the season opener. Strachan made his coach proud with an 18-for-35 showing, good for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
“He has a good demeanor about himself,” Bruney said. “He is cool and collected. Any bad plays don’t affect him. He just shakes it off.
“He had a nice day under adverse conditions and we should see a big improvement from Week 1 to Week 2.”
Taking the field as the first quarterback in team history must have been nerve-wracking but the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder out of Kensington, Md., was up for the challenge.
“We’ve been working hard for a while now, so it’s fun to show everyone what we’ve been doing,” Strachan said. “The history of it all being the first game just added to it.”
Early on, it was the Jesuit defense that made a name for itself as it forced a fumble on the opening drive of the game, which was recovered by Chris Canaday.
The Cards defense held Hocking without a first down throughout the opening quarter but the WJU offense stalled on its first two drives inside the red zone.
After another Hawks punt late in the first, the Cardinals put together the team’s first scoring drive.
Tailback Cam’Ron McClain capped off the 45-yard, 3:58 drive with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone for the program’s first touchdown.
Jesuit took the momentum and ran with it as kicker Matthew Greenwood of St. Clairsville delivered an onside kick and recovered it to put his squad back in business.
Moments later, Strachan fired a 15-yard touchdown strike to Monroe Central alum Ryan LaFollette, who made a spectacular catch over a defender in the back of the end zone early in the second quarter.
“That was just trust right there,” Strachan said. “I knew the corner was press, so I knew (LaFollette) was going to beat him and he did.”
Hocking got on the board on its next drive with a 63-yard march to cut the score to 14-6, but the Cardinals tallied the final 10 points of the half on a McClain 3-yard run and a Greenwood 24-yard field goal to extend their lead to 24-6 at the break.
The Cards delivered a message in the third as Strachan led a 66-yard scoring drive and found Kiaran Turner for an 8-yard touchdown strike.
Running back Sy Alli IV was next to find the end zone on a 9-yard scamper that extended the Jesuit lead to 38-6 heading into the fourth.
“That big third quarter kind of separated us,” Bruney said.
The Cardinals rushing attack combined for 191 yards, including 67 from Alli and 64 yards from Connor Wolfe.
“We have four backs who we feel are capable in McClain, Wolfe, Alli and JaMaal Petteway from Steubenville,” Bruney said. “That’s what we will hang our hats on.
“We have a young offensive line that knows how to run block more than anything. They are getting better at pass-blocking but we felt in camp that we will be a run-first team.”
LaFollette hauled in six passes for a team-high 92 yards.
“Our wideouts are improving,” Bruney said. “Jake Keenan, LaFollette, Turner and Logan Tucker are steady. We’ll just keep on them in practice so our throwing game can catch up with our running game.”
Jesuit ate up 26 first downs on offense, while the defense received interceptions from Ryan Gorman and Dylan Baker, along with a pair of sacks from Brody Lundeen.