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Wooster holds off Bluffton for 44-34 win in season opener

Wooster holds off Bluffton for 44-34 win in season opener

By: Joey Watkins, sports information assistant

BLUFFTON, Ohio – The Bluffton University football team opened up the 2018 season at home against the College of Wooster under new Head Coach Aaron Krepps. It was the third meeting all-time between the schools with Wooster now a perfect 3-0. The Beavers rallied from 30 points down but fell just short in a 44-34 setback to the Fighting Scots.

Wooster jumped on the scoreboard first as Nick Strausbaug caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Caden Croft to put the Fighting Scots up 7-0 midway through the first quarter. The visitors then recovered a fumble and took it 15 yards for a touchdown thanks to Robert Alvarez, making it 14-0 late in the first. Bluffton responded with a 69-yard touchdown pass from Plummie Gardner (Lima/Perry) to Adam Duncan (Northwood/Lake) that made the score 14-7 after one quarter.

The Fighting Scots pushed their lead 21-7 at the 10:49 mark in the second quarter as Jacob Lewis reeled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Croft that forced the Beavers into an early double-digit deficit. With 5:07 left in the second, Lucas Espitia (Lincoln Park, MI/Lincoln Park) caught a 27-yard touchdown strike from Gardner that would make the score 21-14.

The Beavers trailed 44-14 heading to the final stanza following 16 unanswered points by the visitors in the third stanza. A pair of Gardner to Espitia touchdowns separated by just nine seconds, thanks to a Wooster muffed kickoff, gave the home team life again as the Beavers trimmed the deficit to 16 points with 12:43 to play. DeAngelo Woods (Elida) pulled Bluffton within 10 with his 13-yard scoring reception at the 2:46 mark, but the 2-point attempt was picked off, effectively sealing the Wooster victory.

Gardner lit up the stat sheet, throwing for 298 yards and a school-record tying five touchdown passes! Espitia was his leading target, hauling in three touchdowns for 136 yards to begin his senior campaign.

Senior Tyler Showalter (Haviland/Wayne Trace) led the Beavers with 12 tackles. Isaac Zickafoose (Middlebury, IN/Northridge) also had a major impact for the defense, tallying six stops with two sacks. Doniven Clark (Toledo/Bowsher) added four tackles and a huge interception.

The Beavers will quickly put this game in the past as they prepare to take on Trine University in their first road game of the season. Bluffton dropped a 55-14 decision to the Thunder last year and the Beavers will be looking to avenge that loss. The game will kick off at 1 PM next Saturday, Sept. 8, in Angola, Ind.