When the wayward pass found the arms of B.J. Monacelli in Waynesburg’s end zone last week, the junior defensive back from Washington & Jefferson College knew the safe play was to kneel down for a touchback.
There was little chance of that happening, because Monacelli had a rare opportunity to run with the football again, and he was not going to let the chance slip away.
So he rambled up the field and reached the 20-yard line before being tackled. The interception came with Waynesburg threatening to score before halftime and was one of the key plays of the game in the Presidents’ 31-14 victory over the Yellow Jackets that gave W&J a share of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference championship and a spot in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Interestingly, Dan Sciortino, Monacelli’s teammate in the secondary, also had an interception in the end zone. He chose to down his there. Monacelli had to be thinking, “What fun is that?”
Monacelli will be looking for another opportunity to make a big play today when the Presidents (8-2) take on Johns Hopkins (9-1), the Centennial Conference champion, in a first-round playoff game at Homewood Field in Baltimore.
“They ran it before the half, and it was an obvious passing situation,” Monacelli said of the second-and-10 pass by Waynesburg quarterback Carter Hill. “I got a good drop on it. ... (Christian Jackson) went up the seam, but he didn’t track the ball well. It was just instinct for me.”
Monacelli is a graduate of Cassadaga High School in New York, not far from where W&J head coach Mike Sirianni grew up. At Cassadaga, Monacelli set school records of 3,698 rushing yards and 49 touchdowns that still stand. Most recruited him as a defensive back, but he still loves to run with the football.
“I loved playing offense in high school,” said Monacelli, who is 5-11 and 195 pounds. “Coach Sirianni gave me the option of running back or safety.”
Monacelli chose defense and leads the Presidents’ Athletic Conference with 17 passes defended and has six career interceptions. He has returned four punts and four kickoffs.
“Creating turnovers and making the big play will determine the game,” said Monacelli. “I think it’s going to come down to who plays the better defense.”
Dan Wodicka has a lot on his plate.
The junior wide receiver from Johns Hopkins has a team-best 76 receptions for 728 yards, but maybe his most difficult challenge is in the classroom.
“He’s a bio-med major, which is one of the toughest at the school,” said Johns Hopkins head coach Jim Margraff. “It takes up a lot of his time. He’s a great player. He gets a lot of attention (on the field) and that opens things up for other players.”
Bob D’Orazio has 44 catches for 553 yards and Scott Cremens, 27 for 326.
W&J is back in the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 2009, when eventual national runner-up Mount Union defeated the Presidents 55-0 in Alliance, Ohio. ... W&J is hoping to secure its 17th nine-win season since 1992. ... W&J senior linebacker Nathan Melhorn has a streak of 28 consecutive games with at least one tackle. ... The Presidents are 21-21, including 10-12 on the road, in the postseason.