Kennedy leads Witt past Westminster in season opener

Sept 01, 2018
  • By Jeff Gilbert
  • Contributing Writer
Wittenberg running back Nick Kendall scores on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Jake Kennedy to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter Saturday at Wittenberg. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

When Wittenberg quarterback Jake Kennedy sets up in the shotgun, he’s looking around at the defense. He’s also looking to see who his receivers are because there are so many of them.

And he’s looking to see where the double-teams are. Early in Saturday’s opener at home against Westminster, Kennedy saw speedy wide receiver Thad Snodgrass on the left side with single coverage.

“One-on-one coverage with a guy like that, I’m taking my chances there all day long,” Kennedy said.

Snodgrass, a Springfield High graduate, beat his defender down the sideline and caught a 42-yard touchdown pass at the goal line for the game’s first score. Kennedy kept it going through the air, spreading the ball among seven receivers, to lead the Tigers to a 34-21 victory.

Kennedy led three early touchdown drives to build a 20-0 lead. Then he led two fourth-quarter field-goal drives to fight off Westminster’s comeback.

“He played lights out for the first 28 minutes of the first half,” Tigers head coach Joe Fincham said. “We have a lot of confidence in Jake. He’s the guy that makes us go and he pulled it back together for us like a three-year starter should and played well at the end of the game.”

Kennedy, from Bellefontaine, completed 22 of 34 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns, including a 2-yard shovel pass to running back Nick Kendall for a 13-0 lead and a 22-yarder to Jeff Tiffner for a 28-14 lead to start the fourth.

The Tigers’ biggest play might have come after Westminster’s 13-play drive made the score 28-21 with 8:55 left. The Tigers faced third-and-10 when Kennedy hit Bryce Bailey on an out pattern.The defender gambled for an interception and Bailey turned it into a 53-yard play to the Titans’ 23.

“I’ve got a lot of faith in Bryce,” Kennedy said. “He’s a dude who runs real crisp routes. He made a good play on it and took off and ran.”

Bailey and Snodgrass caught three passes for over 60 yards apiece, Tiffner caught five for 50 yards and Kendall and Tristan Davis each caught four short passes.

Bailey’s big play and an interception a few minutes later by lineman Trevor Good set up Adam Acquista up for clinching field goals of 40 and 45 yards.

“Last year he was a little bit streaky, but he worked his butt off this summer and it’s starting to pay off,” Kennedy said.

The defense made big plays too. Linebacker Terrance Crowe, a Springfield grad, had a interception he nearly returned for a touchdown before being knocked out of bounds that set up the Tigers’ second touchdown.

‘I just made a read and went with my instincts and made a play,” Crowe said. “I was hoping to score.”

After winning only 20-14 at Westminster last year, Fincham said he would’ve taken a 13-point win if it had been offered before the game. The fast start, third-quarter struggles and strong finish fell short of the consistency he wants to see, but he knows it is early for a team with lots of new starters against a good opponent.

“Obviously really glad that we came out and started the way we did,” he said. “I think it showed some of our maturity issues with the fact that we did let down a little in the third quarter. When you’ve got a young football team you have to grow and learn from those things.”