The Wittenberg football team celebrated one of the biggest victories of the Joe Fincham era by watching the movie “Step Brothers” on the bus ride home from Wabash on Saturday. Fincham said it’s always a shoot-em-up movie on the ride out and a comedy on the ride home.
The ride home from Crawfordsville for the Tigers is often a long one. It’s hard to imagine them cracking a smile watching something like “Old School” or “Dumb and Dumber” after losses at Wabash in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2011.
This time, though, Fincham spoke on the phone after a 35-17 victory over the Little Giants, their biggest rival for years now, with the Will Ferrell movie blaring in the background. The party had just begun for the Tigers. They clinched a Division III playoff berth and at least a share of the North Coast Athletic Conference championship, their fourth in the last five years.
“It was a great feeling taking the knee with 4 seconds left and knowing we had finally beat them,” senior quarterback Reed Florence said.
Wittenberg can win the NCAC outright title and probably secure a home playoff game with a win over winless Allegheny (0-9) at home Saturday.
“I guess the thing I would say is how proud or happy I am for our seniors,” Fincham said. “They’ve done a great job leading our team.”
The 16th-ranked Tigers (8-1, 8-0 NCAC) had this game in control from the start against No. 13 Wabash (8-1, 7-1). Wittenberg started its first drive at the Wabash 39-yard line and scored on its second play, a 25-yard run by Sean Gary.
Gary scored two more touchdowns and rushed for 144 yards on 21 carries against the second-ranked rush defense in the nation.
“Sean Gary was the man,” Fincham said. “He and Jimmy (Dehnke) have done such a good job of handling the load. Sean kind of got hot. I know Jimmy was cheering for him harder than anybody.”
Florence sewed up the NCAC Offensive Player of the Year award — one would think — by throwing for 260 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target, as usual, was fellow senior Brendon Cunningham, who caught nine passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. He bowled over a defender at the goal line for his first score, which made it 14-0.
Wittenberg led 28-3 at halftime and didn’t let Wabash score a touchdown until late in the third quarter. The Little Giants added one more touchdown in the final seconds when the game was in hand for Wittenberg.
Nick Gibson led the defense with 13 tackles. Kyle Sanning, Evan Killilea, Josh Montgomery and Brady Vanover all had sacks.