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Pioneers close spring season vs. Wilmington

Photo by Jordan Holland Marietta College’s Kyle Gallagher (95) and Caleb Boy (6) combine to bring down a Muskingum ball-carrier during a college football game last Friday at Don Drumm Stadium.

MARIETTA — Marietta College’s spring football season comes to a close today when Wilmington invades Don Drumm Stadium for an Ohio Athletic Conference Divisional Crossover game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The Pioneers and Quakers both went 2-2 and finished third in their respective sides of the conference. The winner will carry some positive momentum through a shortened offseason and into the 2021 fall campaign.

“This is the close of the spring season and a springboard into the fall season,” said Marietta head coach Andy Waddle. “A win will be (Marietta’s) fourth year in a row with at least a .500 record, which would be huge for our guys and hopefully generate the momentum we need for the fall.”

For years, Wilmington was perennially at the bottom of the OAC standings, but under fifth-year head coach Bryan Moore, the Quakers are back to respectability and present a tough challenge for Marietta.

Wilmington possesses one of the top passing offenses in the OAC. On defense, the Quakers run an odd stack which isn’t something Marietta sees a lot.

“Coach Moore has done a really good job,” Waddle said.

Kyle Barrett is Wilmington’s quarterback, and he’s a good one. He’s thrown for 1,236 yards and eight touchdowns in four games this season. He’s completed 106 of 187 pass attempts and has been intercepted five times. He’s got a stable of talented receivers led by Itika Wynn Jr. His 404 yards is third in the OAC. He’s caught 30 passes, five for touchdowns. Ace Taylor (14 catches, 198 yards) and Lathan Jones (11 catches, 168 yards, 2 TDs) are two of Barrett’s favorite targets as well.

“Their quarterback is a good player,” Waddle said. “He’s a returning three-year starter. He’s one of the most veteran quarterbacks in the OAC right now. He’s got some really talented wide receivers. They’re able to create some big plays.

“They’re going to want to be able to throw the ball. The’ve thrown it a lot. Our defense as a whole is going to have to play well, and that certainly includes the secondary.”

When Wilmington runs it, Malik Sims (34 carries, 149 yards) and Yvan Tientcheu (35 carries, 137 yards) are the two primary ball-carriers.

Marietta will counter with one of the OAC’s top defenses. The Pioneers rank third in the league in yards per game allowed (309.8) and fourth in the league in points per game allowed (20.3). For Marietta, it all starts with the pass rush as the Pioneers have sacked opposing quarterbacks 15 times through four games. Drake Neuberger leads the way with seven sacks, tied for second most in the country.

“The defensive line has played tremendous. We have six players in there that have done really good stuff for us. Drake is playing at an All-American type of level right now. I don’t know if he’ll get that honor, but he’s playing like it. Kyle Gallagher is probably Drake Neuberger’s best friend. Kyle is getting a bunch of double teams, causing problems on the inside and playing at a high level himself. If you look at those two, you obviously see a lot of production from those two guys,” Waddle said.

“Ahmed Muhammad is really good on the other side. Jesse Berzonski is a different type of rusher. He’s a big body who gets a push and creates tight pockets for quarterbacks. Chance Knight is getting a lot of snaps. He’s a fast, good pass rusher on the interior. Maleek Melton is in there, too. I think we have some guys who have been able to perform at a really high level, and hopefully they do it for one more week.”

Vic Giovengo leads Marietta with 33 tackles from his linebacker spot. Fellow LB Caleb Boy has contributed 27 tackles (3.5 for loss), two sacks, three passes defended and one forced fumble. Corner Jaelon Quiero-Gordon and safety Darius Hatch both had interceptions in last week’s 29-7 win over Muskingum.

“Our guys played hard,” Waddle said of the Muskingum game. “We did some good things on all three sides of the ball. If you look at the performance by (running back) Bryce Agnew and the offensive line, you have to be pretty pleased with that. I thought (quarterback) Ethan Brown did some good stuff getting us into the right play, and I thought he threw the ball well.

“On special teams, we were solid and made some plays. The defense showed up and made it hard for Muskingum to have a lot of success. We didn’t totally stop their quarterback but we made it hard for him.”

Agnew rushed for 191 yards and three touchdowns against the Muskies, upping his season total to 428 yards and six TDs on 79 carries, putting him among the league leaders in those categories.

“We have high expectations when it comes to being able to run the ball,” Waddle said. “(The offensive line has) been good. We’ve shuffled some guys because of injury and contact tracing, so to some degree there’s been a lack of consistency with personnel, but they’ve continued to be able to produce holes and Bryce has been able to find them.”

The success of the running game has taken some pressure off Brown at QB. In his first season as a collegiate starter, Brown is 42 for 94 with 374 yards, two touchdowns and four picks. Dre Baldwin is the team’s leading receiver with nine receptions, 138 yards and two scores.

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