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Turnovers aid Pioneers’ cause on the gridiron

WILMINGTON — Defensive takeaways were the key as Marietta College defeated Wilmington College by the score of 35-26 Saturday afternoon in Williams Stadium. The Pioneers improve to 4-2 overall and 3-2 in the Ohio Athletic Conference. The Quakers fall to 1-5 overall and 1-4 in the OAC.

“It’s great to get back in the win column and even better to go out on the road and do it,” Marietta head coach Andy Waddle said. “The turnovers we were able to create led directly to two scores and the third one put a stop to their opportunity to get back into the game.”

Wilmington jumped out to an early 13-0 lead. The Quakers forced a Pioneer punt on the first possession of the game and then went on a 11-play, 65-yard scoring drive. Quarterback Kyle Barrett capped the drive with a one-yard run and Tyler Butcher added the point after.

Marietta punted on its next possession and Wilmington wasted no time getting back into the end zone. Barrett connected with Itika Wynn Jr. on a 65-yard touchdown pass on the fourth play of the drive. Butcher’s extra point was no good leaving the Quakers in front, 13-0.

The Pioneer offense answered with its longest drive of the afternoon covering 77 yards in 13 plays. Kyle McSweeney hit Andrew Barker on a 17-yard scoring strike and Jacob Griffin kicked the point after to cutting the deficit to 13-7.

Marietta’s defense forced two Quaker turnovers in less than 30 seconds as the Pioneers took the lead before halftime. Barrett fumbled the ball and Caleb Craig recovered it giving MC the ball on the two-yard line. Tanner Clark ran it in on the first play and Griffin added the PAT for a 14-13 Pioneer lead.

On the ensuing possession, Ahmed Muhammad sacked Barrett forcing a fumble. The ball was picked up by Drake Neuberger and returned 17-yards for a touchdown. Griffin added the extra point making it 21-13.

“We got a spark from Ahmed (Muhammad) off the bench playing in his first significant role and Ryan (VanMeter) coming back from injury made a couple big plays. Tanner (Clark) was obviously the workhorse again today,” Waddle said. “I thought we did some good things on special teams as well. I think when you look at the plays we were able to make on special teams you realize that was part of the difference in the game as well.”

The Quakers refused to go quietly and put together a scoring drive in the final minutes of the half. Barrett threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Luke Richardson and Butcher added the extra point to get Wilmington within a point, 21-20, at halftime.

Neither team found the end zone in the third quarter, but the Pioneers extended its lead early in the fourth. McSweeney connected with Justin Bell on a three-yard touchdown. Griffin’s extra point made it 28-20.

Once again, the Quakers responded. Gino Hinton capped the drive with a one-yard run. Wilmington went for two to tie the game but Barrett’s pass was incomplete leaving the Quakers behind, 28-26.

A circus catch by Ryan VanMeter sealed the victory for Marietta. McSweeney put the Pioneers into scoring range with a 36-yard completion to Barker.

Following three straight runs by Clark, McSweeney placed a perfect ball on the outside shoulder of VanMeter right at the pylon. VanMeter managed to drag a foot in bounds before falling to the ground with the touchdown. Griffin made it 25-26 with the extra point.

VanMeter finished with six catches for 101 yards and the touchdown, while Barker had six catches for 80 yards and one TD. McSweeney completed 19-of-26 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns. Clark handled the ground attack carrying the ball 42 times for 132 yards and one rushing touchdown.

Barrett completed 27-of-39 passes for 341 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Wynn Jr. had 11 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown, while Ace Taylor had 10 receptions for 89 yards. Hinton rushed for 40 yards and one TD on 11 carries.

Marietta returns home to host nationally-ranked John Carroll University at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday.

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