EDWARDSVILLE — Trailing by 17 points in the fourth quarter with a struggling and hurt freshman quarterback leading the offense, a Wilkes victory looked unlikely.
All of a sudden, Colonels signal-caller Taylor Young couldn’t miss throwing two TD passes late, including the game-winner with 27 seconds left, in leading his team to an improbable 21-17 win over Stevenson on Saturday afternoon at Schmidt Stadium.
Young, who had a nicked up throwing hand, was having problems in the second half until the last two Wilkes drives. He had a stretch of completing just 4 of 16 passes in the first 27 minutes after halftime.
With a bandaged right hand that was hindering his passes, Young ripped off the wrap. It worked to perfection as he finished the game with five straight completions for 105 of his 167 passing yards and two touchdowns.
“Wow, that kid’s showing some great toughness,” Wilkes coach Frank Sheptock said about his QB, who was sacked five times. “He’s as tough a young man as I’ve been around. He’s standing in there in the pocket and he’s taking some shots … That kid is going to have a tremendous career here.”
The comeback started with a play that was practiced just twice all week and wasn’t put into the playbook until Thursday. The Colonels (3-4 overall, 2-4 MAC) use a little trickery in the fourth quarter on an option pass from wide receiver David Claybrook to fellow receiver Jonathon Conklin for a 65-yard touchdown to get Wilkes on the board trailing 17-7 with 13:09 left in the game.
“Coach said ’19s going to be open’ so I looked, seen him wide open and just threw it,” Claybrook said. “I was very surprised (it was called) but I was ready for it.”
Even though the Colonels seized momentum after that TD, they squandered many opportunities and the comeback was in jeopardy. They recovered a pooch kick on the ensuing kickoff and had good field position, but turned the ball over on downs on the Stevenson 25. The Mustangs lost a fumble on their next possession, giving Wilkes the ball with good field position yet again. But the Colonels turned it over on downs one more time.
After Stevenson punted on its next drive, Wilkes put together a 12-play, 49-yard stanza but came away without points again.
“I’m thinking is time running out?,” Sheptock said. “But as long as the clock was at 4-5 minutes and it’s still a two-score game, I thought we had a chance.
“It’s one of the most satisfying wins I’ve ever had here. Coming from 17 down in the fourth and winning in that type of fashion with a young football team.”
The Mustangs gave Wilkes yet another chance after turning the ball over with another fumble. Trailing by 10 points with just 2:46 left, the Colonels finally came through. Young started his hot stretch, connecting with Conklin for a 14-yard TD to pull Wilkes within 17-14 with 2:13 left.
Stevenson was forced to punt on its next drive and Wilkes got the ball back with 1:04 left. That proved to be more than enough time for Young, who hooked up with Claybrook twice for a total of 71 yards, getting down to the Mustangs’ 1 before he found Dan Curry for the contest’s final touchdown.
“We came out, we all knew we were scoring so we came out, executed like that and drove down and scored,” Young said about the last drive. “As a team, this team has a lot of hope in the near future. As an offense, we’re definitely progressing.”
The Mustangs had one last chance getting the ball back with 24 seconds left, but linebacker Tate Moore-Jacobs (game-high 10 tackles) intercepted a pass to seal the victory
In addition to the 65-yard TD pass, Claybrook had a big game receiving, finishing with five receptions for 110 yards. Conklin also had a big game with a pair of TDs and 88 yards on three receptions.
Wilkes 21, Stevenson 17
STE — Holley 24 run (Cornell kick), 12:47
STE — Holley 5 run (Cornell kick), 14:52
STE — Cornell 29 field goal, 5:36
WILKES — Conklin 65 pass from Claybrook (Fredo kick), 13:09
WILKES —Conklin 14 pass from Young (Fredo kick), 2:13
WILKES — Curry 1 pass from Young, :27
RUSHING — STE, Marcus Holley 19-165, Trey Lee 11-33, Devonte Williams 3-15, Zach Jefferson 7-11, Nigel Stanford 6-3, Jeromie Miller 1-(minus-2). WILKES, Pat Inguilli 19-73, Taylor Young 13-53, Calvin Garvin 3-10, Jake Love 3-4.
PASSING — STE, Zach Jefferson 8-16-1-142 WILKES, Taylor Young 13-28-1-167, David Claybrook 1-1-0-65, TEAM 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — STE, Jeromie Miller 5-87, Neil Harps 2-25, Chris Cooper 1-30. WILKES, David Claybrook 5-110, Jonathon Conklin 3-88, Drew Devitt 3-18, Taylor Young 1-11, Pat Inguilli 1-4, Dan Curry 1-1
INTERCEPTIONS — STE, Shane Clough 1-4. WILKES, Tate Moore-Jacobs 1-27.