The Statesmen football team took back the Rock and Ladder Trophy, but more importantly earned a share of the Midwest League title and put itself back into the playoff picture with a 17-12 victory over No. 9 Grand View Saturday.
Fifteenth-ranked William Penn (9-2, 5-1 MWL) scored the game’s first 17 points and held on to share its second conference title in the past three years (also 2010), tying with the Vikings and St. Ambrose.
The Statesmen football team has officially qualified for its first NAIA Football Championship Series since 1975 and will open the playoffs against the defending national champions.
William Penn enters as the No. 13 team in the division and will travel to Chicago, to face No. 4 Saint Xavier next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
The Statesmen accepted the opening kickoff, but had little luck in its first try. Their next possession was much more successful as Taylor Parsons capped an 18-play, 80-yard drive with an eight-yard scoring run to make it 7-0 with 2:58 left in the first quarter.
The defense gave the ball back to the offense and it added three more points as Marcus Kerrigan connected on a 28-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 7:20 remaining until halftime. The field goal is Kerrigan’s 12th of the fall, breaking the school’s single-season mark, previously set by Nate Turnbull in 2005.
The scoring drive was bittersweet as Parsons was knocked out of the game and did not return. Parsons finished with a team-high 86 yards on nine carries. Tyler Hafner replaced him and competed at a high level as well with 71 rushing yards.
A quick three-and-out allowed William Penn one more possession in the first 30 minutes. The offense did not take it for granted, marching 53 yards on seven plays (3:29 off the clock) to extend the advantage to 17-0. Joel Medina was the eventual scorer, hitting paydirt from six yards out at the 1:50 mark. The senior picked up 53 yards on the afternoon.
The Vikings nearly cut into the deficit on the final play of the half, but Joseph made a touchdown-saving tackle of receiver Darius White at the six-yard line as time expired. The Statesmen outgained the Vikings 220-176 after two stanzas.
William Penn was slowed down after the break, running only seven plays in the third quarter, but was fortunate to retain its 17-point advantage. The Vikings threatened twice in the stanza only to come up empty-handed both times.
Grand View finally got on the board with 9:46 left, but was unable to add a point after as the extra point hold was bobbled.
Still well in control, the Statesmen had the chance to put the game out of reach with a long scoring drive. The long part came to fruition as William Penn drove 69 yards in 8:25, but the scoring was not to be. The Statesmen reached the Viking three-yard line, but failed to get any points from the drive.
William Penn left just 1:21 for the Vikings. Grand View took all but four seconds of the remaining clock to get its second and final score. Its two-point conversion again failed, forcing the Vikings to score one more touchdown for the win.
It never got to that point as Ben Hurley’s on-side kick skipped high and landed out of bounds, allowing the Statesmen offense to take victory formation for the game’s final play.
William Penn survived despite being outgained 450-331 with 324 of those yards coming on the ground. It was a clean contest with neither side committing a turnover.
Jacob Batterson paced the Statesmen defense with 12 tackles and two pass breakups.
A week after struggling to get pressure on St. Ambrose, the Statesmen defense sacked Viking quarterback Derek Fulton five times, including two by Nick DiMarco.
The Rock and Ladder trophy has belonged to the home team all four years of its existence.
“This was a great win for our program against a very good football team,” Penn coach Todd Hafner said. “I am very proud of our guys to come out so well after last week’s tough loss. This was just amazing.”
“For William Penn to have won conference titles in two of the last three years, this is very special for our players, coaches, and everyone associated with this program,” Hafner added. “We are very excited to be conference champions and look forward to seeing what our fate is tomorrow.”