Wesleyan Football Off to Best Start in 14 Years
This past Saturday in Waterville, ME, the Colby-Wesleyan score was tied 28-28 late in the fourth quarter when Cardinal Coach Mike Whalen sent Sebastian Aguirre ’14 into the game to attempt a 20-yard field goal. While the Cards had not led the Mules at any point during the afternoon, they never trailed by more than a touchdown and now, more than ever, had a chance to turn the tables. Aguirre’s kick appeared to be a chip shot off of his foot, but the football sailed through the uprights with 34 seconds left to play. The rookie kicker delivered in the clutch to set up Wesleyan for its third win of the season and its first 3-0 record since 1998.
After ripping off a pair of victories against Tufts and Hamilton by impressive margins, Wesleyan experienced their tightest matchup to date against the Mules. Colby came out firing right away against the Cardinals as the Mules’ quarterback Justin Ciero led the home squad down the field for a score on the game’s opening drive, forcing Wesleyan to play from behind early on.
Both teams traded possession of the ball for the majority of the first quarter, making the game a battle for field position. This was most evident late in the quarter when quarterback and punter Jesse Warren ’15 drilled a 41-yard punt that pinned the Mules back on their own five-yard line. After a pair of futile downs for Colby, defensive linemen Nick Powers ’15 and Andy McKeon ’13 sacked Ciero on the third down, leading to a Mules punt which gave Wesleyan possession at Colby’s 32-yard line. From there Warren connected with tight end Kevin Hughes ’14 for a 21-yard gain, setting up running back Kyle Gibson ’15 for a series of rushes, ending with a two-yard touchdown run. With the return of running back LaDarius Drew ’15 from a knee injury, the two backs would split carries on the day, giving the Cardinals two prominent rushing threats.
The early portion of the second quarter proved to be much like the first, as both defenses refused to cede anything to the opposing offense. Defensive tackle Morgan Hanson ’13 forced a Colby fumble during their first possession of the quarter, giving the Cardinals the ball at the Colby 32. The Cardinals were not able to capitalize on the situation, however, and they turned the ball over on multiple occasions. It was not until the 5:46 mark of the second frame that Colby broke through again, when Ciero hooked up with Derrick Beasley for an eight-yard touchdown pass. On the following possession, Warren marched the Cards down the field on an impressive five-minute drive, culminating in a touchdown pass to receiver Dan D’Arcy ’13 that tied the game up heading into halftime.
Despite the offensive flurry in the final minutes of the first half, the defensive stalemate resumed in the third quarter. Once again, it was not until late in the period that both offenses broke out of their ruts and took advantage of costly defensive errors. Colby scored to make it 21-14 on a demoralizing 94-touchdown pass by Ciero. Not to be outdone, the Cardinals countered shortly after with a long strike of their own as Warren completed a 74-yard pass to Hughes that took the Cards all the way down to the Colby one-yard line. Drew then punched the ball in for a score on the next play, knotting the score back up at 21 apiece. On its next possession, Colby took the ball all the way down to the Wesleyan five-yard line before time expired in the third quarter. When play resumed in the fourth, Colby scored on its first play as Ciero called his own number for a rushing score, returning the lead to the Mules.
Colby maintained the lead until late in the game, when Drew would add his second touchdown of the day on a five-yard run with under three minutes left to play. With the game tied at 28, it appeared that the game would be headed to overtime. However, the Cardinals defense was able to force the Mules to punt after three consecutive stops, allowing the offense to begin their final drive from their own 43-yard line, with 1:47 left on the clock. Six productive plays later, including a 31-yard run by Drew, the Cardinals were standing at the Colby three-yard line with under a minute left to play. That’s when Aguirre split the uprights with his 20-yard chip-shot field goal to guarantee the victory for the Cardinals.
While the entire Wesleyan campus will be enjoying their fall break, Wesleyan football will be heading back up to Maine to take on Bates (2-1) next weekend.