On a day the Waynesburg football team celebrated its seniors, the Case Western Reserve Spartans stormed John F. Wiley Stadium and for the second time in two years, a Presidents’ Athletic Conference title was celebrated by the opponent.
Last season, it was the Washington & Jefferson Presidents, but this year the Spartans [9-0, 8-0] claimed it narrowly in a 27-24 win.
“It’s unfortunate we came up just a little bit short,” Jackets coach Chris Smithley said. “We feel that we played well against a good football team today, but I’m sure going back to the film we’re going to be scratching our heads, [we’re] one play away here, one play away there.”
Waynesburg [1-9,1-8] kept pace with the 15th ranked Spartans through most of the afternoon, trailing just 20-10 at halftime. The Waynesburg scores came in the form of a 31-yard field goal from senior Mike Ryhal as well as a 20-yard touchdown scamper from freshman Justin Flack.
“We established a good running game early on and we were successful throwing the ball,” Smithley said. “Defensively, we played like we always do, hard, relentless defense. I’m proud of our guys for that.”
Case Western began the second half scoring on a 1-yard run from Travis Johnston, who had two touchdowns on the day, the other being a 96-yard kickoff return to begin the game. With 9:41 to go in the third quarter, the Sparts built a 27-10 lead, and looked to be cruising. Waynesburg would fight back, however.
The Jackets wouldn’t strike again until the 14:35 mark in the fourth quarter, but junior quarterback Mason Schrenker took it in from 1-yard out and with the Ryhal kick, it was 27-17.
The teams swapped in the fourth quarter going scoreless and chewing up 12 minutes and 32 seconds before the Jackets got the ball back with 2:03 remaining.
A late fourth quarter drive was capped with an 11-yard touchdown connection between Schrenker and senior (by credit) wide-receiver Cole Booth. The Spartans lead was cut to 27-24, but the Jackets had just seven seconds left to work.
An onside kick, which the Jackets had recovered two of earlier in the day went unsuccessful, and the Spartans sealed the game and the PAC title. Case Western Reserve sophomore quarterback Drew Saxton went 22 for 38 with 239 yards passing, but was held off the scoresheet.
“It’s the first goal we have, aside from going 1-0 every week,” Saxton said. “It’s nice that we got to do it a week before [Carnegie] Mellon, all the hard work paid off now.”
This was also the third straight year an opponent clinched the PAC title against Waynesburg (W&J 2017-18, Case Western 2019). Smithley said it can serve as motivation for his team moving forward.
“This trophy gets handed out on this field way too much to the wrong people,” Smithley said. “It’s definitely something we’re aware of, but we’re not going to prepare any different for any team. We’re going to keep plugging away.”
With just one game remaining, and it being on the road at 1 p.m. next Saturday against I-79 rival W&J, Smithley commended his seniors who he believes have come a long way.
“I hurt for the seniors, they’ve seen more in four years than anybody can imagine in adversity,” Smithley said. “From practicing at Purman their first year and all the adversity they’ve faced, I’m so proud of them.”