Sophomore quarterback Zane Ries (Barberton) tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass to sophomore running back Marty Sesma (San Diego, Calif./Sweetwater) and senior kicker Anthony Sanfillipo (Delaware/Hayes) added a 24-yard field goal as Ohio Wesleyan rallied to within 24-13 early in the fourth quarter, but Wabash held off the Bishop comeback and held on for a North Coast Athletic Conference win on Saturday in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
The Little Giants took an early lead after Wabash’s Artie Equihua blocked a punt by senior punter Nick Heidel (Cincinnati/Indian Hill) on the opening series of the game, setting Wabash up on the Ohio Wesleyan 13-yard line, and on first-and-goal from the OWU 2, Ike James went over and Wabash took a 7-0 lead.
Later in the first period, Wabash’s Liam Thompson found Isaac Avant for 31 yards and a first down at the Bishop 25, and James ran for 14 yards on the next play. After an Avant rush for 3 yards, Thompson hit Nick Hamman for an 8-yard touchdown pass and the Little Giants increased the margin to 14-0.
Ohio Wesleyan answered with a long drive, with Sesma moving the chains with a 7-yard gain on second-and-6 from the OWU 22, then Ries connecting with sophomore wide receiver Kenny Streb (Willowick/Eastlake North) for 19 yards to close out the first quarter. Sesma picked up 18 yards to give the Bishops a first down at the Wabash 25, and a roughing the passer penalty on the Little Giants set up a first down at the Wabash 12, but the Bishop drive stalled at the Little Giant 6, and Sanfillipo came on for a 23-yard field goal that made it a 14-3 game.
Heidel intercepted a pass at the OWU 2-yard line to turn aside one Wabash threat, and it appeared that the Bishops had forced a punt when senior defensive end Kyle Hogan (Centerburg) and junior linebacker Cody Streit (Griffin, Ga.) sacked Thompson on third-and-12 from the OWU 27, but a penalty on the play gave Wabash new life, and the Little Giants took advantage of the opportunity when Thompson found Ivan Martinez on a 3-yard scoring pass that made it 21-3 with 2:18 left in the half. Jose Franco then forced and recovered a Ries fumble at the OWU 34, and Wabash added a 33-yard field goal from Schuyler Nehrig during the final seconds of the half to take a 24-3 lead into the locker room.
Ohio Wesleyan put together another long march on its first possession of the second half, getting a 48-yard run from junior running back Trey Dixon (Atlanta, Ga./Westlake) for a first down at the Wabash 26, but on fourth-and-2 from the Little Giant 18, Ries was stopped short of the first down.
After forcing another punt, the Bishops struck quickly, with Dixon breaking free for 55 yards, and Ries finding Sesma for 22 yards and a score on the next play from scrimmage. Sanfillipo’s conversion kick brought the Bishops within 24-10 with 3:39 left in the third quarter.
The Bishop defense forced another punt and Ries moved Ohio Wesleyan downfield once more, hitting senior wide receiver Mher Tcholakian (Farmington Hills, Mich./North Farmington) for 24 yards on third-and-6 from the OWU 28, then connecting with Tcholakian again for 18 yards before finding senior wide receiver Sasoun Tcholakian (Farmington Hills, Mich./North Farmington) for 18 more yards to set up first-and-goal at the Wabash 6. On fourth down, Sanfillipo connected on a 24-yard field goal for a 24-13 count less than a minute into the fourth period.
Nehrig hooked a 44-yard field goal attempt wide left on the Little Giants’ next drive, and the Bishops looked to capitalize as Ries hit Streb for 18 yards on third-and-18 from the OWU 20, then found Mher Tcholakian for 25 yards and a first down at the Wabash 40, but the drive ended there with incompletions on third and fourth downs.
Avant broke through for a 21-yard touchdown run in the closing minutes to seal the outcome.
Ries completed 20 of 41 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown. Mher Tcholakian caught 6 passes for 84 yards. Dixon led the Bishops with 121 yards on 9 carries.
Junior linebacker Lucas Cooper (Hurricane, W.Va.) led Ohio Wesleyan with 12 tackles. Junior linebacker Shane Quin (Chardon) made 9 stops; junior defensive end K.D. Melton (Warner Robins, Ga./Houston County) had 8 tackles, including a sack and 2 for loss; and Hogan finished with 8 tackles, including 1½ sacks and 2½ for loss.
Thompson completed 16 of 25 passes for 174 yards and 2 scores. Avant finished with 7 catches for 82 yards. James ran for 123 yards on 33 carries. Brock Heffron led the Little Giants with 7 tackles and 4 pass breakups.