By: Ryan Gasser, sports information director
COLUMBUS, Ohio – All three units were working in unison in the Capital University football team's victory over Wilmington College on Saturday afternoon. A sunny, crisp, fall day welcomed a roaring crowd in attendance to honor and thank its seniors and the Crusaders delivered in a 38-17 win over the Fightin' Quakers at Bernlohr Stadium, marking their second straight victory.
The offense produced more than 350 total yards and had three rushing touchdowns. The defense caused three turnovers and stopped the Quakers on fourth down three different times. Capital's special teams sniffed out a fake punt, had an unlikely name step up in the punting game, and converted its lone field goal attempt. To say Saturday's win featured a complete victory is an accurate statement, to say the least.
The game did not start on the best of notes when on the first play from scrimmage, Wilmington quarterback Luke Richardson hit receiver Kyle Barrett in stride behind the Capital defense. Barrett took it the rest of the way for a 67-yard touchdown pass to put the Fightin' Quakers up, 7-0. However, Capital not-so-quickly answered on its next possession.
Capital's response was slow and steady with play calling that chipped away at the Wilmington defense. The drive nearly stalled after a fumble on an Evin Butler rush, but quarterback Thomas Wibbeler (Zanesville, Ohio/Zanesville) hopped on the loose ball to keep the Crusaders on the field. Five plays later, Wibbeler finished the drive himself by running the ball into the end zone from 11 yards out. Blake Middleton's point-after-touchdown attempt tied the game, 7-7. The drive went 13 plays and 63 yards over 6:30 of time.
Cap was quick to make sure they regained the lead with a second long drive spanning 12 plays and 66 yards. The drive was allowed to happen after sophomore Trey Zimmer (Malinta, Ohio/Patrick Henry) led a Capital defensive charge to stop Wilmington behind the line of scrimmage on a third-and-one chance. Once the offense took the field, they worked it down the field and into the end zone. The Crusaders faced a fourth and three but Wibbeler found one of his new favorite weapons, freshman Kameron Lee (Piqua, Ohio/Lehman Catholic) for a nine-yard gain. Once inside the red zone, Cap turned to junior Evin Butler (Dayton, Ohio/Dayton Christian) for two direct snap rushes to crank out the last four yards as he plunged into the end zone and help Cap build a 14-7 lead. Between the two scoring drives, Cap held the ball for 11:58 of the first quarter.
Sophomore Blake Middleton (Miamisburg, Ohio/Miamisburg) capped off another five-plus minute scoring drive and gave the Crusaders a three-point edge with a 28-yard field goal make before heading into the locker room.
Both teams had a possession in the third quarter before either marked up the scoreboard again, but when it happened the Crusaders were the ones increasing its count. The special teams unit rose up and thwarted a fake punt attempt by the Quakers. Not only did Trey Zimmer stop the ball carrier short, but he stripped the ball loose and it bounced backward to the Wilmington 34-yard line where junior Kole Carter (Gallipolis, Ohio/Gallia Academy) retained possession for CU. Cap nearly had a pass picked off but it was ruled that the nose of the ball hit the turf and on the following play Wibbeler and Company took advantage of the outcome. Kameron Lee, a newfound red zone threat, caught his third touchdown pass of the season when he slipped behind the defense and put six on the board with a seven-yard completion in the back of the end zone.
Wilmington replied with a 23-yard field goal with 3:01 to go in the third after the Capital defense made a key stop in the red zone.
Capital and Wilmington took a 24-17 score into the fourth quarter, but Capital threatened to extend its lead even further. Wibbeler nearly ran in his second rushing touchdown but was upended short of the goal line. The clock hit zero to take the game into the fourth quarter when on the first play after the break Wibbeler's pass was tipped and picked in the end zone to give the Quakers the ball.
The pick did not hurt Capital outside of stopping a sure scoring drive and the Crusaders earned good field position after Wilmington punted and Tanner Wollenberg returned the punt to midfield. A holding call on the defense put Cap in Wilmington territory and Cap began its charge into the end zone again.
The Crusaders were forced to convert another fourth down en route to the score. Just inches away from the first down marker, Wibbeler audibled out of an obvious sneak play and spread it wide where he passed to the Evin Butler. Down at the seven-yard line, the Crusaders set up senior Cory Heeter (Circleville, Ohio/Logan Elm) for success when they called his number and sealed off the outside on a sweep play. Heeter then raced for the near-side pylon and beat the defender there for a seven-yard rushing touchdown, his second of the season and 14th of his career.
Freshman Cade McCaskey (Findlay, Ohio/Findlay) made his second impact play when he broke up a pass on fourth and nine. McCaskey jumped the route and played the ball, knocking the pass away to create a turnover on downs. McCaskey also cashed in on an interception just before the end of the first half, his second of the season and second straight game with a pick.
The next Capital score came on the defensive side of the ball and from another freshman that has earned recent playing time. Freshman Michael Keels (Columbus, Ohio/Eastmoor) made his first career interception and took it 28 yards the other way into the end zone to elevate Cap's lead to 38-17. It was the team's first interception returned for a touchdown since the 2016 season.
The Capital defense again shut down the Quakers, forcing a third turnover on downs before taking a knee and ending the game.
Senior Dartavious Stanford (Zanesville, Ohio/Zanesville) made a game-high 10 catches for 135 yards to lead the Cap receivers. Stanford now has 137 receptions, which moves him into seventh all-time in CU history. He also surpassed 2,000 career receiving yards and now has 2,083, creeping ever closer to the number five spot in the Cap all-time list.
Wibbeler finished the day 26-for-39 for 267 yards, one touchdown and one interception through the air. He also led the Crusaders on the ground with 11 rushes for 50 yards and one touchdown.
Defensive leaders for the Crusaders included Kole Carter, who finished with nine tackles, one fumble recovery, and two tackles for loss. Jake Elsayed, Blayde McCully and Jack Blaisdell all finished with seven tackles apiece. Cap's two senior cornerbacks had solid days, as well. Jordan Duncan (Sunnyvale, Calif./King's Academy) broke up two passes and made a tackle while LaShaun Sanders Jr. (Columbus, Ohio/St. Francis) made five tackles, had one sack, and broke up one pass.
The defense, as a whole, limited Wilmington to 285 total yards, a season low for the Crusaders.
Middleton nailed all five of his PATs and his lone field goal attempt, and Kameron Lee turned into the Crusaders' emergency punter and was called upon three times where he averaged 38.7 yards, hit a long of 43 yards, and pinned the Quakers inside their own 20-yard line twice.
Prior to the game, Capital thanked and recognized six members of the Capital cheer team and its 17-man senior class. Below are the names of those seniors.
Andrew Cline, TE (Port Clinton, Ohio)
Jordan Duncan, CB (Sunnyvale, Calif.)
Jon Eaton, LB (Wapakoneta, Ohio)
Chris Gordon, CB (Defiance, Ohio)
Logan Hernon, C (Hilliard, Ohio)
Jake Lindsey, CB (New Albany, Ohio)
Cory Mays, DL (Cleveland, Ohio)
Courtney Mays, OL (Cleveland, Ohio)
Conner McCloud, WR (Reynoldsburg, Ohio)
Kane Murray, LB (Warren, Ohio)
LaShaun Sanders Jr., CB (Columbus, Ohio)
Justin Scott, DL (National City, Calif.)
Drew Selegue, DL (Westerville, Ohio)
Dartavious Stanford, WR (Zanesville, Ohio)
Thomas Wibbeler, QB (Zanesville, Ohio)
Jenna Carlisle (cheer)
Tori Cox (cheer)
Stephanie Fisher (cheer)
Allison Greenwood (cheer)
Allison Kerman (cheer)
Madeline Schnaidt (cheer)
Capital will now take its two-game winning streak into the regular season finale next Saturday, Nov. 10, when the Crusaders hit the road for New Concord, Ohio. Muskingum University, fresh off a loss to No. 1 University of Mount Union, will host Capital and feature a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.