FAYETTE, Mo. — The field goal gods refused to bless the Statesmen football team for a second time this fall as it fell 28-27 to Central Methodist in a Heart of America Athletic Conference crossover game Saturday.
Ethan Olivas (Fr., Eddyville, Iowa) attempted a 38-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining, but the Eagles exploded through the line and knocked the ball out of the air.
William Penn (1-5) held a 431-401 advantage in total yards that included a fairly balanced attack of 263 yards on the ground and 168 through the air. Despite having the ball last, the navy and gold could not replicate its game-winning kick from three weeks earlier against MidAmerica Nazarene.
In a game that featured a lightning delay before the opening kickoff and another one in the first period, both programs came up empty in their initial possessions before the Eagles (4-2) tallied the first score.
The Statesmen answered right back, driving 69 yards on 12 plays, headlined by six runs for 46 yards from Ben Sherman (Grad., Troy, Pa., Master’s of Sports Management). It ended up being Conner Hasz (Fr., Paola, Kan., Sociology), though, who took the pitch and dashed to the endzone from seven yards out for the tying score with 2:26 left in the first quarter.
The sides exchanged touchdowns again on the ensuing drives to make it 14-14. Rodney Hall (Fr., Detroit, Mich., Psychology) connected with Luke Masters (Sr., Branson, Mo.) for 24 yards on the opening play, while Sherman got the nod for the next five snaps, concluding with a six-yard push to paydirt. Sherman work-horsed to the tune of 32 carries for 169 yards and one score.
After a quick three-and-out by the defense, Sherman did the early work, but it was the duo of Hall and Gavin Rountree (Fr., Stephenville, Texas, Sports Management) that gave the visitors their first lead of the afternoon. Hall eluded a pass-rusher before delivering a strike to a crossing Rountree, who then broke free from his defender and outran the rest of the Eagles for a 21-14 edge with 4:00 to go until halftime.
Central Methodist, which threatened but did not convert at the end of the second quarter, knotted the bout at 21-21 midway through the third stanza.
Following a pair of three-and-out efforts, Hall used his feet to put the navy and gold ahead. He faked to his left and then darted right and sped past the CMU defense for a 53-yard touchdown. Hall ran the ball 13 times for 53 total yards and the TD. A crucial extra point sailed offline, leaving the Statesmen with a 27-21 margin entering the fourth quarter.
The Eagles needed just two plays to not only tie the game, but recapture the lead. The remaining minutes then witnessed the defenses making noise, including Colton Horak (So., Crawfordsville, Iowa, Business Management) capturing his third interception of the season just outside his team’s redzone.
Finally, with just over two minutes remaining, William Penn’s defense stood strong one last time and stopped Central Methodist on a fourth-and-one play at the WPU 35-yard line. Turner Ellis (Fr., Urbandale, Iowa, Secondary Education) corralled CMU’s quarterback by the ankles and kept him from obtaining the necessary yard.
Hall completed four passes, three of which were to Rountree, on his team’s final drive, eventually getting to the CMU 21-yard line. The freshman signal-caller finished 9-for-15 passing for 168 yards. The 168 yards are the most for WPU since Tyler Wood had 172 against Evangel on Sept. 23, 2017.
Unfortunately, Olivas’ attempt could not clear the reach of the Eagles and William Penn left Missouri on the losing end of a memorable battle.
Rountree paced the receiving corps with five grabs for 113 yards.
Defensively, Rogan Pforts (So., Wapello, Iowa, Industrial Technology) topped WPU with 10 tackles, while D’Mauryon Hunter (So., Bolingbrook, Ill., Sports Management) was next with eight stops.
“I could not be any more proud of our players,” Head Coach Todd Hafner said. “We say all the time that if you give us 100% and you are exhausted and cannot play another down when the game is over, you have done your job. They did that and more today. We were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but our guys played their guts out. We will enjoy the week off and get ready to do everything in our power to win back the Rock and Ladder Trophy.”
Next Up: William Penn, which is idle next weekend, returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 16 as it travels to Des Moines to face No. 4 Grand View in Heart North Division play at noon.