EDWARDSVILLE – Many times, one play decides the outcome of a football game.
For Wilkes on Saturday, it was one play but it came in the first quarter.
The Colonels were playing stellar on offense for the game's first five drives, moving the ball and holding a potent Albright offense in check.
Then a fake punt caught the Colonels off guard, turned momentum to the Lions and helped Albright remain unbeaten at 3-0 with a 27-13 victory at Schmidt Stadium.
Wilkes (1-1 overall, 0-1 MAC) got an interception from linebacker Tate Moore-Jacobs on Albright's first drive. On the Lions' second possession, Wilkes forced a three-and-out. It was the same scenario on the team's third offensive stanza as the Lions lined up to punt on fourth-and-12.
But Albright quarterback T.J. Luddy, who is also the team's punter, found receiver Scott Pillar for a 32-yard gain down to the Wilkes 25.
Four plays later, the Lions capped the drive with a touchdown pass from Luddy to Pillar for a 7-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.
"That gave them a tremendous amount of momentum. Our defense was playing extremely well at that point," Wilkes coach Frank Sheptock said. "We were prepared for fakes and things of that nature, but when you're out there as the gunner you don't know if they're kicking or passing the ball. When they use the starting quarterback as the punter and the two starting wide receivers as the gunners, it creates some matchup issues."
The Colonels weren't the same after that fake. They had trouble moving the ball the rest of the half and quarterback Tyler Bernsten was intercepted twice by Drew Peterson in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, Albright was driving for another score after the first interception to take a 13-0 advantage at the 12:32 mark. Albright netted a touchdown to begin the second half to open a 20-0 lead.
Luddy and fellow quarterback Adam Galczynski kept finding preseason All-American wide receiver Pillar for completions. Pillar finished with 14 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns. It's the second straight time Pillar burned the Colonels defense. Last year, he hauled in more than 200 yards receiving.
"It's a tough matchup," Sheptock said about the receiver, who led the MAC in receiving in 2011. "Obviously, we're still fairly young in the secondary. I think Scott's a great player and played extremely well today."
But Wilkes wasn't going to go away quietly. Two years ago playing at Schmidt Stadium, Bernsten led his team to a come-from-behind win against the Lions. Now a junior, he started a similar comeback in the fourth quarter to give the team hope. He capped a 12-play, 97-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring strike to Drew Devitt to cut the lead to 20-7 with 9:49 on the clock. On Wilkes' next possession, Bernsten led the Colonels 79 yards on 10 plays, resulting in a 2-yard run by the QB to trim the lead to 20-13 with 5:51 left.
But the next time Albright had the ball, it sustained a 5-minute drive, grabbing a late score to end the game.
"Throughout the course of the week I thought about (the 2010 comeback) but not so much when it was going on," Sheptock added. "I thought we put ourselves in a real difficult hole and I was proud of the way we battled back."
Sheptock remains with 99 career wins. He will get another crack at 100 next week at Widener.
Albright 27, Wilkes 13
ALB – Scott Pillar 16 pass from T.J. Luddy (Jordan Loiodice kick) 14:54
ALB – Pillar 3 pass from Adam Galczynski (kick failed) 12:32
ALB – Caleb Shiiko 36 pass from Luddy (Dan Sobolewski kick) 8:30
WILKES – Drew Devitt 3 pass from Tyler Bernsten (Jordan Fredo kick) 9:49
WILKES – Bernsten 2 run (kick failed) 5:51
ALB – Ty Hughes 1 run (Sobolewski kick) :44
RUSHING – ALBRIGHT, Ty Hughes 13-40, Marty Reinhardt 8-35, Zach Groff 8-20, Adam Galczynski 1-9, T.J. Luddy 6-(minus-13). WILKES, Tyler Bernsten 15-76, Auxence Wogou 16-70, Alex George 7-31, Andrew Regan 2-23, Calvin Garvin 1-3, Patrick Inguilli 1-(minus-2).
PASSING – ALBRIGHT, Luddy 21-31-1-288, Galczynski 4-7-0-31. WILKES, Bernsten 15-26-2-166, George 3-4-0-(minus-6).
RECEIVING – ALBRIGHT, Scott Pillas 14-156, Daniel McNair 4-70, Caleb Shilko 3-61, Eric Wade 2-20, Marty Reinhardt 1-8, G. Eldridge 1-4. WILKES, Payton Bachman 5-38, Andrew Regan 5-30, Auxence Wogou 3-31, Drew Devitt 3-28, J. Conklin 1-24, Tim Bousson 1-9.
INTERCEPTIONS – ALBRIGHT, Drew Peterson 2; WILKES, Tate Moore-Jacobs
MISSED FIELD GOALS – ALBRIGHT, Loiodice (35, WR); WILKES, Fredo (24, blk)