EDWARDSVILLE — When Wilkes has shown the most success in the MAC, the team has produced solid running backs complimented by an effective passing attack.
If the results from Saturday’s 2013 season-opener carry over the rest of the season, the Colonels could be headed back to prominence.
A trio of Wilkes running backs and quarterback Tyler Bernsten combined to rush for 263 yards and five touchdowns and linebacker D.J. Shuttleworth picked up two key turnovers in the fourth quarter as the Colonels won 41-26 over Morrisville State at Schmidt Stadium.
“From a team standpoint this is definitely the strongest backfield I’ve been a part of in a while,” said freshman Paul Martin, who rumbled for 78 yards and three touchdowns. “I think with our offense we really focus on being the people who control the game. With so many running backs that can do so much it gives everyone a break. Having everyone fresh every time they come in for a series is big.”
While Martin led the team in carries and yards, Bernsten added 65 yards and a TD on the ground, Pat Inguilli ran for 57 and a score and Calvin Garvin picked up 39 yards.
The four players also helped the Colonels have one of the best opening games in school history. The 41 points are the most the Colonels have scored in an opener since piling up 55 in 2003. It was also just the third time in school history they’ve scored more than 40 in the first game of the season, and marks consecutive games the team has racked up 40 or more dating back to a win over King’s to end the 2012 season.
“I was very pleased with how we established the line of scrimmage on offense,” Wilkes coach Frank Sheptock said. “Going into the season that’s what we wanted our MO to be. Get on the backs of the seniors and experience and we have a stable of backs that can get the job done.”
It wasn’t all easy for the Colonels (1-0) as Morrisville gave them fits in the first half as quarterback Lemar Johnson ran the no-huddle, read-option offense to perfection. Johnson, who wasn’t on the team’s roster in 2012 but ran a lot in 2011 for the team, held the ball just long enough to catch the Wilkes’ defense off-guard whether he was passing or holding on to the ball and rushing. He ran for just 27 yards, but threw for 321 and both of his TDs came in the first half helping the Mustangs stay within one point of the Colonels at halftime, 21-10.
“We didn’t think we were going to see as much of the zone read and then that controlled passing game that I think hurt us a lot in the first half,” Sheptock added. “They would get the linebackers to jump up then drop a six-yard ball and the six-yard ball turns into a 12-yard gain. We didn’t expect that at all.”
The Colonels, who committed six penalties for 56 yards in the first half, including big personal fouls leading to a couple Morrisville scores in the first 30 minutes, played a cleaner second half.
And when it counted most on defense the senior Shuttleworth came through. With Wilkes holding onto a 35-26 lead and the Mustangs driving with less than 5 minutes left in the game, Shuttleworth picked off a pass. The Colonels scored on their next possession pushing the score to 41-26 with 1:54 left.
The Mustangs were still going to try to get some points though. And when they did, Shuttleworth and company answered yet again. On a second-and-2 play, senior Rob Houseknecht sacked Johnson, who fumbled and Shuttleworth recovered to seal the victory.
“After giving up a lot of penalties and foolish things in the first half, I thought the kids responded very well,” Sheptock noted.
Shuttleworth added four tackles to his stats, while fellow linebacker Tate Moore-Jacobs tallied a game-high 14 tackles.
Wilkes 41, Morrisville State 26
MS — Zach Drake 24 field goal 9:00
WILKES — Paul Martin 4 run (Jordan Fredo kick) 3:05
MS — Josh Powell 67 pass from Lemar Jackson (Drake kick) 1:48
WILKES — Pat Inguilli 5 run (Fredo kick) 12:41
MS —Johnson 21 run (Drake kick) 10:31
WILKES —Martin 1 run (Fredo kick) 7:25
MS —Drake 29 field goal :44
WILKES — Drew Devitt 47 pass from Tyler Bernsten (Fredo kick) 9:24
MS —Christian Pena 1 run (pass failed) :26
WILKES — Bernsten 1 run (Fredo kick) 10:14
WILKES —Martin 2 run (kick failed) 1:54
RUSHING — MS, Cristian Pena 12-49, Lemar Johnson 10-28, David Thomas 7-11. WILKES, Paul Martin 20-78, Tyler Bernsten 12-65, Pat Inguilli 12-57, Calvin Garvin 9-39, David Claybrook 2-19, Jonathon Conklin 1-6, Nick Dawson 1-1, TEAM 2-(minus-2).
PASSING — MS, Lemar Johnson 30-46-2-321. WILKES, Tyler Bernsten 6-13-2-103.
RECEIVING — MS, Anthony Gray 12-102, Josh Powell 6-125, Cristian Pena 5-38, Sanley Pierre-Louis 2-25, Anthony Mella 2-16, David Thomas 2-7, Shane CArroll 1-8. WILKES, Drew Devitt 2-62, David Claybrook 2-19, Ryan Casey 1-17, Jonathon Conklin 1-5.
INTERCEPTIONS — MS, Caleb Wright, Jeremy Stewart. WILKES, D.J. Shuttleworth, Omar Richardson.
MISSED FGs — MS, none. WILKES, Bobo (52, short)