Story and photo courtesy of Widener Athletics
No. 9 Widener put up 37 points in the second half, turning a halftime tie into a 44-14 victory over Bridgewater State in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament at Leslie C. Quick Jr. Stadium.
Widener (10-0) notched its 11th straight victory dating to last season and improved to 16-10 in the NCAA Tournament. It also is the squad’s 13th consecutive win at Quick Stadium, one shy of the school record from 2000-02, and it moved to 8-1 in home NCAA Tournament games.
The Pride also are in the “Sweet 16” for the first time since 2001, when they advanced to the quarterfinals.
Widener will face Salisbury, a 17-9 winner over Rowan, in the second round next Saturday at noon. The site will be determined on Sunday.
The Pride’s first home NCAA Tournament game since 2001 saw the home team grab a 14-7 lead with 10:04 left in the third quarter. Sophomore Tyler Rank (Wyomissing, PA) took a handoff and barreled his way in from three yards.
Rank scored on the next drive, again from three yards, for a 21-7 margin with 4:51 left in the quarter. The 71-yard march was highlighted by a crazy 41-yard catch from freshman Philip Ragona (Oceanside, NY) on his back after it was deflected and almost intercepted.
The momentum at this point had been re-established by the Pride, who gained a 152-10 edge in total offense in the third quarter that included 102-0 in passing yards.
The lead ballooned to 28-7 early in the fourth when Widener junior Kyle Shostek (Uniondale, PA) blocked a punt in the end zone and sophomore Martin Turner (New Castle, DE) recovered.
Sophomore Anthony Davis (Upland, PA) caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from senior Chris Haupt (Bloomsburg, PA), senior James McFadden (Warminster, PA) booted a 30-yard field goal and freshman Jamal Goodman (Baltimore, MD) returned an interception 95 yards for a score as time expired.
Haupt, just named Middle Atlantic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, completed 22-of-32 passes for 317 yards. Ragona amassed six catches for 88 yards and Davis closed with 121 return yards for the Pride, who ended with a 463-195 edge in total offense.
Junior Dylan Ditmer (Exton, PA) had 10 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and an interception with senior Chad Gravinese (Mullica Hill, NJ) getting nine tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. This helped the Pride, who closed with five sacks, hold the Bears to just 84 rushing yards on 36 attempts for a school that averaged over 237 rushing yards per game entering the contest.
Caleb Gelsomino completed 8-of-12 passes for 71 yards and a score with Mike McCarthy getting 16 carries for 50 yards in addition to throwing for 40 yards for Bridgewater State (9-2). Adam Toman had 10 tackles with Dillon Huber-Parker getting nine tackles, an interception and a tackle for a loss.
Freshman Chris Wickes (Bear, DE) had a 17-yard scoring run in the first quarter for the Pride and McCarthy countered on a one-yard burst with five seconds left in the half. Nick Pistacchio hauled in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Gelsomino in the fourth quarter.