Wesley nips Montclair 20-17 in overtime thriller

Wesley’s Ruhann Peele battles his way through the Montclair State defense to score a TD from three yards out in the first quarter. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

DOVER — The Wesley College sideline held its breath as the chains were brought onto the field.

The Wolverines’ season was going to come down to a measurement.

Ruhann Peele wasn’t worried, though. He had made a spectacular catch to stay in bounds on fourth-and-15 near the first down line and was sure he did enough for a new set of downs.

Peele was right, by about an inch.

“I was thinking we’re going to get it,” Peele said. “A little nervous for sure, but I was thinking we were going to get it. I thought I had a first down on forward progress. I didn’t think it should have been that close. Luckily it went our way.”

The play gave Wesley new life with 45 seconds left. The Wolverines followed that up with another fourth-down conversion for a touchdown to Ricky Hess to send the game into overtime.

Peele finally sealed a wild homecoming victory for the Wolverines with a one-yard run in overtime to defeat Montclair State 20-17 in a NJAC matchup on Saturday afternoon. Wesley kept its playoff hopes alive and improved to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in NJAC play.

Jaier Garrett of Montclair breaks up a long pass intended for Wesley’s Ruhann Peele.

After struggling all game, the Wesley offense finally put it together when it took over at its own 42-yard line with 3:23 remaining and trailing 14-7.

Hess capped off the drive with a seven-yard reception in the front corner of the end zone on fourth-and-goal. Quarterback Jon Mullin avoided a pass rush and lofted a soft-toss toward the pylon.

Hess continued running his out-route and was able to speed under the ball. Nick Bruhn’s extra point tied things at 14-14 with 35 seconds to go.

“Coming out of the huddle I said to Jon, ‘If all else fails, just throw it up, we can’t take a sack,’” Hess said. “That’s what he did and I had to make the play.”

Mullin was only able to make that game-tying toss because of Peele’s fancy footwork for a first down a few plays earlier.

It was fourth-and-15 from the Montclair State 48 and Mullin was pushed out of the pocket toward the Wesley sideline. He threw on the run toward Peele, who was able to catch the pass in between a pair of Montclair State defenders.

When the chain crew gave the measurement, both teams began pointing in their direction. The referees took a split second to bend down and make sure, but eventually ruled a Wesley first down by the nose of the football.

“That’s the true example that football is a game of inches,” said Wesley coach Chip Knapp. “I couldn’t tell. It looked close, when they bring the chains out you get a little nervous. That was the game right there.”

Wesley also received a clutch play from fullback Leroy Pendleton in addition to the two fourth-down conversions on the game-tying drive.

Pendleton was motioned out wide on third-and-five. He hauled in a pass on a curl before he shook off a defender for a 21-yard gain to the Montclair State seven. After three incompletions, Hess came up with his touchdown catch to tie it.

Wesley won the toss to begin overtime and gave Montclair State the ball first. The Wolverines held Montclair State to a field goal thanks to a Nick Glover tackle at the line of scrimmage on third-and-short. Anthony Marinel nailed a 35-yard field goal to put Montclair State back in front 17-14.

Mullin again connected with Hess on the second play of Wesley’s overtime possession for a 16-yard gain to the nine-yard line. Back-to-back runs by Marcellus Pack and Pendleton pushed the ball to the one.

Wesley’s Mike Brewer (left) and teammate Jay Holmes take down Craig Merkle of Montclair.

That’s when the Wolverines shifted into a Wildcat formation with Peele behind center. He took the snap and plowed forward to his right, into the end zone as the Wolverines stormed the field in celebration.

“I heard the play call and felt good about it,” Peele said. “The o-line has been playing well all year so I felt like they were going to dominate at the end to win it. They did and it was just an explosion of happiness.”

Peele also scored out of the Wildcat on Wesley’s first possession of the game. But the Wolverines did not score again until the final possession of regulation.

“We struggled a little bit but if there’s one thing I know about this team it’s that we don’t quit,” Hess said. “Our defense kept us in it. This is a great win and another step for us moving forward.”

Peele recorded 13 receptions for 153 receiving yards on the day. Hess caught four passes for 24 yards.

Mullin finished with 264 passing yards on 25-of-55 attempts. Wesley out-gained Montclair State 402-212 but were hampered by a blocked field goal, a failed fake field goal and three interceptions before Mullin engineered the final drive.

“Our players have a lot of confidence,” Knapp said. “They really feel like they can make the plays to win the game, it’s just a matter of time. We were out of sync here and there but we made the plays at the end.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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