OLATHE, Kan. — The 2020 football campaign kicked off for the Statesmen and despite some fumble troubles, William Penn put the foot on the gas and did not let up. Leading 21-7 at the half, the team did not allow points in the first or fourth quarters and cruised to a 30-13 victory. The first win of the year avenges a home loss to MidAmerica Nazarene from last season and gives WPU their first week one win since 2015.
A beautiful night in Olathe had the Statesmen on defense first and they held the Pioneers, forcing a four-and-out. Getting the ball at the 42-yard line of the home side, Alex Crehan, (Sr., Troy, Ill.) took it himself and got stripped in the ensuing melee. Losing the ball on the first offensive play of the year, the defense ran back out for the navy and gold.
Once again, the squad asserted themselves as they forced a fumble a couple plays later courtesy of Turner Ellis (Fr., Urbandale, Iowa), as Rogan Pforts (Sr., Wapello, Iowa) recovered it and advanced the ball ten yards. Crehan ran the offense smoothly, with Luke Masters (Jr., Branson, Mo.) exploding for a big 14-yard gain which would set up the team inside the 10 on the first play of the drive. Just a couple plays later, Crehan slammed it home for his first score of the year and Anthony Torres (So., Washington, Iowa) tacked on the and-one. The drive took just about two minutes and went 25 yards in five plays.
The Pioneers again went three-and-out, but Crehan would get stripped as he was galloping down the field on the next possession, returning the ball to MNU. The defense quickly trotted out and Loren Young (Sr., Athlanta, Ga.) picked up a sack as they forced another punt.
Another fumble by Alex Jung (Jr., Fullerton, Calif.) set up the Pioneers but the defense again was all over the field making tackles, as they allowed only 292 yards for the game. Neither team got any points on the board to end the first quarter as it became a defensive battle.
WPU got on the board again as Crehan pulled the ball back and stood in the pocket to give Jaron Roush (Fr., Newton, Iowa) a chance to get open, finding him in the endzone for a 21 yard strike to make it 14-0 as the team went 49 yards in four plays.
The Pioneers got on the board as a screen pass found Kobe Hardin, who made three jukes and took it 67 yards to the house. With the score 14-7, the teams kept on grinding until the final drive for the Statesmen in the first half.
With the ball at the Pioneer 39, Ben Sherman (Sherman, Troy, Pa.) went to work, gaining 11 yards on two carries to start the drive, ending the drive with a seven-yard run for six points. Another PAT made it 21-7 and that score would hold into the halftime break.
The offense for the Statesmen clicked perfectly on the opening drive of the third quarter. Starting on their own 31, they took almost five minutes to drive 69 yards as Crehan and Sherman began to wear down the Pioneer defense. Sherman netted 50 yards on the drive and picked up his second TD of the night. While the extra-point was blocked, the Statesmen held a comfortable 27-7 lead.
William Penn would grind the game out from there, with Torres nailing a 30-yard field goal on the next drive for the final points for the navy and gold. The Pioneers scored a TD to end the third, but the defenses ruled the fourth and William Penn picked up their first win of 2020.
It was an efficient day for Crehan, who was 3-for-6 for 44 yards and one TD through the air, while rushing 20 times for 106 yards and one touchdown. Sherman hit beast-mode again as he gained 168 yards on 24 carries with two TDs. Chauncey Andrews (Fr., Tulsa, Okla.) had 60 yards on eight carries. Archer Charles (Jr., Guntersville, Ala.) had seven rushes for 29 yards and one catch for seven yards. Roush and Masters each had one reception.
The defense had a very productive night, with Ellis leading the way with seven solo tackles and nine total tackles. D'Mauryon Hunter (Fr., Bollingbrook, Ill.) had eight total and Young had seven. Ellis, Young, and Isaac Knudsen (Jr., Siloam Springs, Ark.) each had one sack.
The Statesmen won despite losing the turnover battle, but outgained the Pioneers 380 to 53 on the ground and 424 to 292 overall.
"It was great to be playing football again," said Head Coach Todd Hafner. "Our players have been so disciplined and responsible with their actions that all the credit goes to them for this great night."
"We played tough, hard-nosed football tonight and our kids deserved this win! They hung together through a lot of adversity and overcame some mistakes. Our defense really stepped up when they needed to and played one of the best games we've had in a long time. Offensively, we showed a lot of promise but need to take better care of the football. O also have to give a shout-out to our special teams, especially our kicker, Torres, and punter Jace Neugebauer (Sr., McArther, Calif.). Anthony was exceptional all night and Jace punted the ball three times and all of them ended up inside the (opponent) 20. Such a great group of young men! Can't wait until we get to compete again."
Next Up: The Statesmen are waiting to see if they can get a game for week two, as their game against Baker has been postponed. Central Methodist will be the next game at the moment as WPU travels to Fayette, Mo. on Sept. 26 at 2 p.m.