Coach Joe Fincham and his Tiger football squadron left the drenched turf of Edwards-Maurer Field with a 34-21 victory over the Westminster (Pa.) Titans on Saturday.
Despite the weather, key plays from seniors Jake Kennedy, Jeff Tiffner, Bryce Bailey and Thaddeus Snodgrass led the boys in red and white to a win at home to open the 2018 campaign.
“We played against a great opponent,” Tiffner said. “They were physical, well coached and capitalized on our mistakes.”
In the end, it was the Tigers who pounced down the Titans with a better performance during their second meeting in school history. Last season, the red and white took down Westminster on the road, 20-14.
Seven touchdowns were scored between the two teams, but the score doesn’t reflect the tough defenses produced by each team. The first drive producing a first down came over nine minutes into the game by Wittenberg.
Offensively, Wittenberg netted 282 yards; a mere 52 yards were split between six players rushing from the backfield. Starter Nick Kendall was unable to move the ball as well as he has in the past, marking only eight yards in seven attempts. The offense adjusted by utilizing his receiving routes and Kendall found himself with a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
Kennedy, responsible for all four touchdowns scored on the day, took charge under center with 230 yards gained through the air. The senior connected to Bailey for the longest gain of the afternoon, who was finally brought down after 52 yards.
Snodgrass squeezed his way into the endzone from 42 yards out, moving the ball efficiently for the team’s first score of the season. Tiffner also tallied his first touchdown of the year through the air, meanwhile Kennedy chalked six points with a short one-yard power rush over the goal line.
Weather was a key factor on game day as rain made for a wet field and lightning causing an hour and a half delay with five minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter.
“Both teams have to go through it,” Tiffner explained. “For us it was just about staying focused and loose in the locker room during the delay.”
They did remain focused as play resumed and up 10 points on the Titans, as the red and white were able to complete the drive and tack another three points on the board with a 45-yard field goal from senior Adam Acquista.
The defensive squad shut down the Titans early in the game, holding them out of the endzone until there was a minute left in the first half. Westminster quarterback Augustus Necastro felt the Tiger pressure too, hurried four times and was intercepted three times.
There were periods of confusion by the Tigers during the match-up, leading to forced timeouts and a frustrated Fincham.
“The good thing about opening games is you get to find out the things that need improvement,” Tiffner said.
According to the wideout, several times a timeout had to be called to get back on the same page. Fincham was forced to call time before the first play of the second half and later before the two-point conversion attempt, leaving the team with one timeout on the table for a majority of the fourth quarter.
Tiffner also commented on the need to improve the discipline of players to reduce penalties. The Tigers ended the game banged up with seven penalties on their plate. Westminster had it worse, on the other hand, committing 10 infractions. One Westminster player was disqualified from play due to a targeting call.
The Tigers take a week off before traveling to Oberlin to begin the conference regular season. Oberlin lost their first game to Kalamazoo, 7-24.
“Moving forward I expect us to get better,” Tiffner said. “Now it’s just back to work and try to improve every day.”
Wittenberg was only one of three NCAC teams to remain unblemished through the first week, the others being Wooster over Bluffton and Wabash taking down Hiram.