W&J hands Thomas More first loss
Washington & Jefferson running back Dion Wiegand scores in the second quarter of the Presidents’ game against Thomas More Saturday night at Cameron Stadium.
Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
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It was a matchup that featured the best running back in NCAA Division III and best wide receiver in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.
And for one of those rare times, the game lived up to the hype.
Domonique Hayden showed why he leads Division III by rushing for 205 yards on 30 tries and scoring all three of Thomas More’s touchdowns.
But Alex Baroffio matched him in sensational plays, catching eight passes for 119 yards and the key score – a 59-yard TD in the third quarter – that helped lead Washington & Jefferson College to a 45-21 victory over the Saints Saturday night at Cameron Stadium.
The victory moved W&J to 3-1 in the conference and 4-2 overall, taking the sting away from last week’s 24-19 loss at Bethany, which was idle.
Thomas More suffered its first loss of the five-game season and fell to 3-1 in the conference.
“It’s a big win,” said W&J head coach Mike Sirianni. “We haven’t beaten them since 2007. But it means nothing unless we take care of business the rest of the way. They beat us last year, but we won the conference. So, it doesn’t matter unless we take care of business.”
Baroffio scored three touchdowns, one from the wildcat formation and the game-clincher when he ran a slant pattern that covered 59 yards and gave the Presidents a 38-21 lead with 1:53 left in the third quarter.
“We put the play in this week,” said Baroffio. “We just called it at the line. Once I caught it, I just ran as fast as I could.”
The Presidents also got a great performance from tailback Dion Wiegand, who rushed for 111 yards on 26 carries and scored three times. His most important play probably came when he returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown that pushed W&J back out to a 10-point lead, 31-21. The kickoff return for a score was the first for the Presidents since September, 2005 when Aaron Krepps returned one 83 yards against Hanover.
“Our special teams coach Chris Smithley did a great job,” said Sirianni. “For the last six years, (Thomas More) has gotten all the breaks, fumbles, kickoff returns. Finally, this year, we did. We killed them on special teams.”
Presidents quarterback Matt Bliss enjoyed a strong game while coming back from a sprained knee suffered against St. John Fisher in Week 2. Bliss completed 17 of 26 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
Thomas More quarterback Jensen Gebhardt completed 11 of 22 passes for 159 yards and a score before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a left ankle injury.
“We needed a game like this,” said Baroffio. “We said it all week that we have to prove we are a good team.”
W&J used Thomas More turnovers and penalties to grab a 24-14 lead at halftime.
Dan Lis, a graduate of Chartiers-Houston, blocked a Thomas More punt to set up a one-yard scoring run by tailback Dion Wiegand and two pass interference penalties and a holding call on Thomas More set up a 19-yard field goal by Craig Popp to give the Presidents 10 points in 90 seconds of the second quarter.
Thomas More seemed content running Hayden in the first quarter, giving him the ball seven times for 50 yards and throwing it to him once. That produced two touchdowns and a 14-7 lead after 15 minutes. The first score was a 28-yard run off right tackle with 11:51 left in the first. The second was a flare pass that covered 49 yards with 6:38 left in the quarter.
In between, W&J recovered a muffed punt that set up a one-yard run by wide receiver Alex Baroffio in the wildcat formation. That came with 8:25 left in the first.
W&J tied the game two minutes into the second quarter when Baroffio caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Bliss to cap a 10-play 60-yard drive. The drive was sparked by Bliss, who completed five of six passes for 55 yards on the drive.
Thomas More drove to the W&J 17 right before halftime but defensive back B.J. Monacelli intercepted a Gebhardt pass in the end zone.