W&J Defeats Waynesburg 31-14 To Capture 23rd PAC Football Championship
WAYNESBURG, Pa. -- Junior wide receiver Alex Baroffio (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) caught 11 passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns to help Washington & Jefferson claim its 23rd Presidents' Athletic Conference football championship in school history after defeating 13th-ranked Waynesburg 31-14 Saturday at Wiley Stadium.
The victory caps one of the most emotional seasons in W&J football history. On Oct. 4, the Presidents lost star running back and team captain Tim McNerney following his tragic death. Just 37 days and four victories later, Washington & Jefferson dedicated its first PAC title since 2007 to its fallen teammate, who made it known prior to the season that his primary goal was to bring a PAC championship back to the W&J campus. After the game, Head Coach Mike Sirianni handed the PAC championship trophy to the McNerney family.
The Presidents (8-2, 7-1 PAC) earn the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs, the program's first appearance since 2009. The NCAA Division III football brackets will be revealed at 6:00 pm Sunday night on NCAA.com.
W&J never trailed and led for nearly 44 minutes. The Presidents opened the scoring at the 8:04 mark of the first quarter when junior quarterback Matt Bliss (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) fired a pass to junior wide receiver Dan Lucas (Pittsburgh, Pa./Brentwood). Lucas received two key blocks and raced 26 yards untouched for a touchdown.
The Yellow Jackets (9-1, 7-1 PAC), who will now await word on a possible at-large bid to the NCAA playoffs, answered with a 67-yard drive to tie the game after Bertrand Ngampa ran five yards for a touchdown. Ngampa was the Yellow Jackets' main source of offense all afternoon, rushing nearly half (144) of WU's 293 total yards.
After the teams traded punts, the Presidents strung together a 10-play, 73-yard drive and Baroffio made an acrobatic catch on a 19-yard pass from Bliss for a 14-7 lead at the 11:57 mark of the second quarter. The lead grew to 21-7 at the 5:38 mark when Baroffio sprawled out to haul in a 3-yard pass from Bliss. Senior linebacker John Hunter (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine-Richland) helped the Presidents take over possession at their own 42-yard line as he stopped running back Dominic Moore on a 4th-and-1 play.
W&J took the 14-point lead into the locker rooms when junior safety B.J. Monacelli (Cassadaga, N.Y./Cassdaga Valley) intercepted a Carter Hill pass in the end zone to thwart a Waynesburg scoring opportunity.
Waynesburg appeared ready to cut the lead in half during its first possession of the second half, but sophomore cornerback Dan Sciortino (Chagrin Falls, Ohio/Kenston) intercepted a wide-receiver option pass in the end zone. However, W&J was forced to punt and the Yellow Jackets sliced the lead in half anyway when Christian Jackson returned it 45 yards for a touchdown.
Washington & Jefferson stopped the WU momentum five plays later when Baroffio found himself alone behind the defense for a 62-yard touchdown pass. The Presidents' defense forced three Waynesburg punts the rest of the game and the final WU drive resulted in a missed field goal.
Junior placekicker Eric Eberle (Miffllintown, Pa./Juniata) upped the lead to 31-14 with 5:16 remaining after nailing a 40-yard field goal.
Hunter produced the best game of his career on defense for the Presidents, amassing 15 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss. Senior linebacker Ian Hennessy (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine-Richland) added 11 tackles and one sack, while Monacelli chipped in with two tackles and two key pass breakups to go along with his interception.
Bliss completed 21-of-26 passes for 251 yards and four touchdowns, while junior running back Dion Wiegand (Pittsburgh, Pa./Keystone Oaks) rushed 23 times for 64 yards. Lucas added 43 yards receiving for an offense that accumulated 345 yards and 20 first downs.
W&J's NCAA playoff game will begin at noon (local time) Saturday, Nov. 17.