"First down BEARRRRCATTTTS!!!!", roars from the crowd, and newly unveiled mascot, Vinny, pointing toward the endzone were the sights and sounds from Saturday's Saint Vincent College football win over Washington and Jefferson College at Chuck Noll Field in Latrobe, PA.
Led by senior quarterback, Aaron Smetanka (formerly a D-1 Robert Morris University QB), the Bearcats stunned W&J 35-27, defeating the Presidents for the first time since the SVC program was resurrected in 2007.
After an overtime loss to previously winless Geneva College last week, I wasn't too sure what to expect out of Saint Vincent against Presidents Athletic Conference rivals W&J, who entered the contest 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the PAC. W&J came out firing on all cylinders, marching down the field in a no-huddle offense, scoring 7 points on the very first drive of the game. However, I was pleasantly surprised when Saint Vincent's defense tightened up and held the Presidents to 14 first half points. The Bearcats tacked on a touchdown of their own to cut the deficit to 7 entering the second half.
Then the fireworks began. W&J scored to increase their lead, 21-7, but SVC responded, keeping themselves within one possession of the Presidents at 21-14 with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter. The remainder of the game was a collaborative team effort by the Bearcats with the defense picking off W&J QB, Matt Bliss, three times, and the offense capitalizing on those turnovers. After a Dan Wirkowski interception and 61-yard return, Cats fullback, Joe Yezovich flattened W&J's defense on his way to the endzone, and Morgan Porter tacked on an extra point to tie the game at 21 with 2:40 remaining in the third.
W&J's attempt to tie the game was thwarted when Bliss's pass was deflected and intercepted by SVC's Drew Owusu. Again, the Bearcats offense took advantage of the turnover when Smetanka threw a strike to wide-open Jake Smith, giving Saint Vincent its first lead of the game, 28-21.
A Darius Brown interception and Smetanka rushing touchdown increased SVC's lead to 35-14, but the Presidents stayed within striking distance by marching right to the endzone. However, the Bearcats special teams sealed the deal for Saint Vincent with an Anthony May blocked extra point and a deep Mike Kale punt.
Smetanka led the game in passing going 13-20 with 200 yards and 2 touchdowns. SVC running back tandem, Kale and Mike Ehredt, each rushed 16 times, racking up 92 and 83 yards, respectively.
Following the game, the Saint Vincent College student body rushed the field to celebrate the homecoming and historic win. It was a great day to be a Bearcat! Next week, SVC has a daunting challenge against another PAC powerhouse, currently undefeated, Thomas More College. The game will be played at Chuck Noll Field in Latrobe at 1PM.