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’Berg goes for the win, but fails in OAC loss to BW

BEREA — Heidelberg found itself in an unfamiliar possession in the worst time possible.

After not trailing for over 237 minutes over the span of four games, the Student Princes trailed Baldwin Wallace with less than three minutes left.

Heidelberg’s offense did what Heidelberg’s offense does and wasted little time responding with a touchdown.

Now down just a point, Student Princes’ coach Scott Donaldson did what a lot of coaches would do on the road: go for the win.

“I wanted to win the game,” Donaldson said. “It was not really much of a decision.”

Unfortunately for Heidelberg, Verondtae Wilkinson was stopped just inches short of a two-point conversion. The Yellow Jackets recovered the onside kick and BW escaped with a 34-33 Ohio Athletic Conference victory.

“I considered kicking the extra point,” Donaldson said. “I wanted to win that football game. We wanted to get our guys out there and put ourselves in the position to win. (Quarterback) Jimmy (Gephart) got whacked pretty good there (on the touchdown), so we thought our best chance was the one thing we had been working on all week. It just did not happen to work out.”

Earlier, the Yellow Jackets took over at their own 12 after a 76-yard punt by Parker Smith that seemingly flipped the field position at the time. Jon Murray picked up 13 yards on first down and later, a short pickup gave BW another first down. Keagan Armitage added a 14-yard run, but Heidelberg (3-1 overall, 2-1 OAC) stiffened up, forcing a short gain before a five-yard loss on a swing pass.

But, Armitage found his favorite receiver of the day — Iyan Mitchell — for a 20-yard gain on third-and-14. Two plays later, Armitage again found Mitchell, this time for a 33-yard touchdown and the Student Princes trailed for the first time all season.

Heidelberg would not go quietly though. After a short gain by Tayy Yearby, Gephart picked up 15 yards and another eight yards on the next play. After a false start penalty, Gephart found a wide open Dimitri Penick for the score. Heidelberg called timeout and opted to try to take the lead. Wilkinson, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive lineman, slipped past one tackle, but was stopped before giving Heidelberg the lead.

The Student Princes got a good bounce on the ensuing kickoff, but Baldwin Wallace recovered. The Yellow Jackets took three knees to bleed most of the clock. With needing to snap it again to completely empty the clock, BW snapped the ball in shotgun, but with rain falling most of the second half, the ball slid past the quarterback. It appeared to be recovered by Heidelberg, but regardless, time had expired.

“We knew they were going for two there,” Baldwin Wallace coach Jim Hilvert said. “We were prepared for it. We had a different personnel group there because we knew they were going to run it.”

The Student Princes led 17-14 at halftime and forced BW into a three-and-out defensively. Heidelberg appeared to be stopped and punted the ball away. The Yellow Jackets fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Clyde graduate Braydi Clark.

Gephart hit Penick for 19 yards to jumpstart the offense again. Later, after Yearby picked up four yards for a first down, Gephart hit Matthews on a back-shoulder throw and 23-yard touchdown.

Heidelberg continued to execute on the defensive side of the ball. After Armitage lost three yards on a fumbled snap, Tyler Matuszak sacked Armitage and forced Baldwin Wallace into another punt.

After a penalty by the Yellow Jackets, Heidelberg started at the BW 41. Gephart picked up 10 yards on first down on the ground, then hit Nick Cofer for a 15-yard pass. Unfortunately, the Student Princes could not punch it in and Brandon Steckel hit a 28-yard field with 4:40 left in the third quarter.

“I told our guys all week that Heidelberg is a good football team,” Hilvert said. “I told our kids that our loss last week (45-7 to Mount Union) could not carry over because we were playing a really good football team. Heidelberg showed today why they are a good football team.”

Baldwin Wallace did not wait long to respond. Armitage found Mitchell for 48 yards on the first play of the drive. Three plays later, the two connected once more, this time a 28-yard pass to get BW within 27-21.

The Student Princes again moved the ball offensively before sputtering. A heavy dose of Yearby and Jace Grossman got Heidelberg inside the BW 30, but an incomplete pass by Gephart — his first throw of the drive — gave BW the ball back.

The Yellow Jackets continued their increased level of play on their next drive. Armitage picked up 10 yards for a first down as apart of a 10-play drive. After nine straight runs, BW used a play-action pass from Armitage to Mitchell Yehl for a 5-yard touchdown. The Yellow Jackets had the chance to take the lead, but the extra point was wide left, leaving the game tied at 27 with 9:35 left.

“We struggled at the worst time to struggle,” Donaldson said. “It was the same thing with the special teams. That is more on me as a coach. I have to make sure our guys are prepared for those situations and can make plays when we need those plays the most.”

Heidelberg took the opening kickoff and marched down the field with ease. Gephart connecting with Matthews for 51 yards, which was the biggest play of the drive. Yearby finished off the drive when he scored from three yards out for a quick 7-0 lead.

A.J. Miller opened Baldwin Wallace’s first drive with a 37-yard pass. Just a few plays later, Wilkinson and Matt Davenport combined for a sack. Miller slowly left the field, and did not return to the game.

Later, Wendell Morrison, in the game for Gephart, had a pass tipped, but Matthews still hauled it in for a 27-yard completion. The Student Princes picked up another first down, but settled for a 32-yard field goal from Steckel.

Still, Heidelberg led 10-0 after one quarter, raising the differential to 64-0 in favor of the Student Princes across the first quarter of the first four games.

“They key is coach (Jason) Lewis does such a great job gameplanning,” Donaldson said. “They execute it to perfection. They know the plays they are going to run and they run them perfectly. We have to keep doing that.”

Shaun Perry scored on a five-yard score for the BW, one play after Armitage hit Mitchell for a 29-yard completion. The Student Princes responded late in the first half as Wilkinson scored from a yard out. Gephart had scrambled around and found Matthews for 17 yards on the play before the touchdown.

The biggest part of the first half came right after Heidelberg took the 17-7 lead. Mitchell returned the kickoff 62 yards to the Student Princes’ 30. Armitage picked up 16 yards on a pass and then connected with Murray in the side of the end zone for a 14-yard score with 1.2 seconds left in the half. Just like that, BW cut the lead to 17-14 at halftime.

“It was big because we lost by a point,” said Donaldson of the late touchdown. “It was a big momentum swing. Our guys came out in the halftime really well though.”

Armitage, a freshman, completed just one of his first five passes, but then hit 14 straight to end the game. He threw for 229 yards and four touchdowns and ran seven times for 26 yards.

“That is the first time we have seen him in a game,” Donaldson said. “He was not the backup the first three weeks. We did not know he could run like that. That is what really hurt us on those last couple of drives.”

Gephart was 12 of 24 for 224 yards. Yearby, who will see an increased role now that Branden Short is out for the season with an injury he suffered last week against Capital, carried the ball 30 times for 120 yards. He was also named the player of the game.

“Tayy is going to be a superstar,” said Donaldson of the freshman. “That is what his role is going to be on the offense. He is durable and fought through injuries. He is a tough, tough, tough young kid. We have to get him healthy and get him some bigger gains.”

The 13 points allowed by Heidelberg in the fourth quarter was the first points given up by the Student Princes in the fourth quarter this season. Heidelberg will take its bye week before traveling to Marietta.

“We have to get healthy,” Donaldson said. “Getting healthy is the biggest thing. We need to get our bodies back underneath us and get our minds clear.”

Penick hauled in eight catches for 107 yards, while Matthews had five receptions for 133 yards for Heidelberg.

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