Wesley drops 2-OT heartbreaker to John Carroll 20-17 in D-3 playoffs

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio — If there’s two things that Wesley College football fans have grown accustomed to, it’s the Wolverines’ offense putting up points and Wesley advancing deep into the playoffs.

But John Carroll’s defense silenced the Wolverines’ offense and Wesley’s run of NCAA Division III quarterfinal appearances fell with it.

The sixth-ranked Blue Flash scored a touchdown to end the second overtime and hand the No. 18 Wolverines a heartbreaking 20-17 loss in the second round of the NCAAs at cold and windy Don Shula Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Carroll freshman quarterback Anthony Moeglin rolled to his right and found running back Anthony Leonetti running an underneath crossing route. Leonetti made the catch, turned upfield and ran through a Wesley tackler to land just over the goal line.

Carroll’s players stormed onto the field to celebrate with him as several Wolverine defenders could only drop to their knees.

It marks the first since 2008 that Wesley (9-3) has failed to reach the NCAA quarterfinals.

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John Carroll sports information photo Wesley’s D.C. Caine (11) and Capp Miller (2) stop JCU’s Ro Golphin for a short gain on Saturday.

John Carroll (11-1), on the other hand, advances to the national quarterfinals for just the third time. The Blue Flash, which ended Mount Union’s 112-game regular-season winning streak two weeks ago, will play at Wisconsin-Whitewater next Saturday.

“They’re as good as anyone we’ve played,” said Wesley coach Mike Drass. “Heck, they’re ranked sixth in the country and just beat the No. 1 team in the country two weeks ago.

“We played hard for four quarters and two overtimes. Our kids didn’t take a play off and worked their backsides off. A game like that, you walk away as a coach extremely proud of our kids. I mean I’m disappointed for them that they didn’t win but I’m proud to be their coach. They went toe-to-toe with an excellent team.”

Wesley was kept without an offensive TD in regulation and finished with only 170 yards of offense — less than half of its per-game average of 469.8 yards.

But the Wolverines took a 7-0 lead just 3:29 into contest when cornerback Andre Connally intercepted a deflected pass and returned it 32 yards for the touchdown.

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John Carroll sports information photo DaJahn Lowery (24) with one of Wesley’s four interceptions.

The Blue Flash tied the game at 7-7 before halftime with the contest settling into a defensive struggle in the second half.

John Carroll scored first in the opening overtime. But Wesley matched the Blue Flash when, on a fourth-and-goal from the seven, QB Nick Falkenberg found running back Jamar Baynard on a scoring pass to tie the score 14-14,

The Wolverines got the ball first in the second OT and picked up a first down at the John Carroll 14. Falkenberg, however, was sacked on three straight plays as Wesley ended up with a fourth-and-25 at the Blue Flash 29.

That’s when senior kicker Eric Speidel, with the wind at his back, delivered a career-long 47-yard field goal to give the Wolverines their 17-14 advantage.

In the end, though, it took John Carroll just two pass plays to cover the 25 yards for the winning touchdown. Leonetti had only three catches for 42 yards all season before pulling in two passes for 30 yards on Saturday.

“We really hard on trying to take away their receivers,” said Drass. “They went to a fullback, a kid who had three catches all year. It was a nice play on their part.

“We fought for a long time,” he added. “We didn’t do a great job on offense but you can’t walk from this feeling anything but proud of our kids.”

After Moeglin threw only nine interceptions all season, Wesley picked him off four times on Saturday. The freshman did end up completing 25-of-44 passes for 255 yards and all three Blue Flash touchdowns.

Falkenberg went 13-of-30 for 88 yards with one interception and the TD. The junior was sacked nine times for a loss of 48 yards.

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John Carroll sports information Wesley’s Anthony Brinkley (4) tackles William Woods.

Wesley also converted just 4-of-21 third-down attempts. Baynard, who ran for 265 yards a week ago, was limited to 62 yards on 19 carries in his final college game.

Baynard was part of a senior class that finished with a record of 42-10, including eight playoff wins.

“I’m proud of them but I’m also excited about where we’re at as a team and the opportunity we have coming back next year,” said Drass. “After a 1-2 start, I feel like this team peaked at the right time. We kind of gelled and came together at the end of the year. “

Extra points

This is also the first time since 2008 that Wesley failed to reach double digits in victories. … Of the Wolverines’ current streak of 12 straight playoff appearances, they’ve failed to reach the quarterfinals only twice. … Wesley freshman Cooper Bentz had a big day punting, averaging 47.5 yards on 11 kicks, including a 67-yarder. … The Wolverines averaged 24.1 first downs during the season but had only 13 on Saturday. … Safety Capp Miller, who had a team-high nine tackles, Connally, D.C. Caine and DaJahn Lowery all had interceptions for Wesley. … Both teams missed field goals in regulation. John Carroll missed a 33-yarder on its second drive of the day while the Wolverines had a 36-yarder blocked in the third quarter.

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