Gators seal win in final moments of homecoming game

Allegheny football ignited a crowd of students, alumni and community members alike at their home Blue and Gold Weekend Game against DePauw University on Saturday, Oct. 27. Gators snatched  a victory from the favored Tigers in the final quarter with a field goal kick from senior Zach Bednarowicz, ’19, with 11 seconds left on the clock.

“We’ve felt like we’ve been on a good track this year, and that was one of those statement games,” said Braden Layer, offensive coordinator. “You’ve got the chance to come in there and really show some people around the country that Allegheny football is working its way back to where we all envisioned this program.”

Layer said the team went into the game aware of the challenges they would face.

“They come out with the mindset that they’re not going to be pushed around — it’s going to be a four-quarter battle, and they expect to win,” Layer said.

The Gators prepared, according to Layer, by focusing on maintaining possession of the ball on a “rough-weather day.” In addition to preventing turnovers, the team’s goal was to establish a passing and a running game against “one of the top 10 or 15 run defenses in the country.”

The Tigers started off with strong opening plays, including a pair of first downs, but were prevented from scoring. The first quarter ended much like the fourth with a field goal kick by Bednarowicz to give the Gators the first score of the game and leave Allegheny with a 3-0 advantage with four seconds left on the clock.

A 38-yard touchdown by DePauw’s Chase Andries put the Tigers on the scoreboard at the opening of the second quarter. The combined efforts of Tyler Balla, ’19, Logan Lee, ’19, and Alex Victor, ’20, scored a touchdown for a 10-6 lead. Before the first half ended, however, DePauw completed a 65-yard drive to regain a 13-10 lead.

The opposing team continued to challenge the Gators in the third quarter, adding another field goal for a 6-point lead that increased to a 19-10 lead with another, 31-yard, field goal. Allegheny stepped up with six minutes left in the game as Tristan Rhoades, ’19, and Ben Bachik, ’20, set Balla up for his second score, leaving the score at 19-17.

“All we needed was pretty one big play,” Bednarowicz said.

Gator defense held off the Tigers until Bednarowicz’s game-winning 26-yard field goal brought the home team to a one-point victory.

Bednarowicz had missed a kick for a field goal earlier in the game, but he said his team was encouraging and he was confident going into the crucial final play.

“Missing the second one was not an option,” Bednarowicz said.

The Gator win at Frank B. Fuhrer field means they are now 5-3 overall. Players and coaches cited the game’s motivational atmosphere as a factor at this exciting point in the season as they work to improve their record.

“We knew going in, it was going to be rainy, wet (and) cold, so we didn’t know how the crowd would play in,” Punter/kicker Cody Wendt, ’19, said. “Everybody showed up, and it was great.”

Head Coach William Hammer hopes to see more school support at future games.

“I think our guys loved that. This is their home,” Hammer said. “They’ve worked really hard and they’ve improved a ton as a football program, and I think it’s important that the college recognizes that because football is very important at Allegheny and if football is doing well, everything is just more exciting.”

Hammer credited the team’s long hours and dedication as contributors to their success. He and Layer anticipate continuing this momentum for the rest of the season and into future years.

“Last year’s seniors left our program with a 3 and 7 record and they got us going in the right direction,” Layer said. “Every single week now is an opportunity for this group of seniors to raise the bar even higher.”

The next opportunity to raise the bar will be this Saturday, Nov. 3, as the Gators face top-20 ranked Wabash College in the final away game of the season. The Gators are setting their goals high.

“We want to be seven and three,” Wendt said. “Nothing less.”

For now, Allegheny football is focusing on the game ahead because the team “can only enjoy a win for so long,” Hammer said.

“You can’t look past anybody,” Layer said. “You can’t worry about the final result. You can only focus on this week.”