In the most highly-anticipated game of the season, the bleachers at Homewood Field were packed with passionate fans as the eighth-ranked Hopkins football team welcomed the Wesley Wolverines in an NCAA first round playoff game. As the Jays took the field, the roaring crowd certainly gave them momentum heading into the critical playoff matchup. In a game that had five lead changes, unbelievable touchdowns and a lot of excitement, the Jays were eliminated from playoff contention as the Wolverines scored a crucial touchdown with 13 seconds to play.
The game was a gritty battle throughout, as neither team ever led by more than by nine points. Wesley was the first to get on the board, as they marched down the field after the opening kickoff going 14 plays and 70 yards that concluded with a five-yard touchdown pass to receiver Steve Koudossou. While the fans were slightly silenced by the touchdown, the Blue Jays immediately stormed back down the field, maintaining a 13-play, 75-yard drive of their own.
Senior running back J.D. Abbott polished off the drive with a fourth-and-goal conversion from the one yard line. The ensuing extra point knotted the game at 7-7.
Just a minute and a half into the second quarter, the Blue Jays found themselves pinned inside their own defensive 20 yard line. However, big plays from the defensive line and linebackers thwarted the Wesley offense from a first down. As a result, Wesley was forced to settle for a field goal to go up 10-7 early in the second quarter.
However, the lead was short-lived for the Wolverines as the Jays refused to give up. The offensive line led the Jays down the field on a drive that included key passes from senior quarterback Robbie Matey. On first and goal from the four-yard line, freshman running back Stuart Walters shiftily ran his way into the end zone to regain the lead for the Jays.
The pattern of constantly changing leads continued towards the end of the first half as Wesley was able to put together another impressive drive down into the red zone. On third down from the 16-yard line, Wolverine quarterback Joe Callahan found receiver Kyle George in the corner of the end zone as the duo connected for a touchdown. Storck kicked the extra point to give Wesley the 17-14 lead. The Jays were able to gain a couple of big first downs on their last possession before halftime but couldn’t manage to get deep enough into Wesley’s territory to attempt a field goal.
After a back-and-forth first half, which saw Wesley holding onto a slim 17-14 lead, the start of the second half saw both team defenses make critical adjustments for a scoreless third quarter.
However, Wesley quickly opened their lead early in the fourth quarter to 23-14, as Callahan led the Wolverines on a quick scoring drive after finding Koudossou on a 10-yard corner route.
On the following drive, needing to put points on the board, Matey drove the Blue Jays 52 yards to the Wolverines’ eight yard-line to give freshman kicker Nick Campbell a chip-shot, 25-yard field goal to bring the score to 23-20 with 10 minutes in the game. The drive was fueled by three third down conversions, including a 3rd-and-eight and a critical 3rd-and-13 where Matey found freshman receiver Bradley Munday for a 15-yard gain.
With the game within a single score, the final 10 minutes would prove to be a back-and-forth affair, with 10 possession changes and two touchdowns scored.
After forcing a Wesley punt, Hopkins would then surrender the ball back to the Wolverines on an interception by Derrick Bender. Taking over deep in Blue Jays territory, Wesley was unable to mount a successful drive as the Hopkins defense stuffed the Wolverines to turn the ball over on downs.
On the next Wesley possession, the Hopkins defense once again stopped Wesley to force a punt. As Wolverines punter Ryan Gerlitz received the snap, his punt shanked off of his foot and came sailing back behind the line of scrimmage. With the ball bouncing around, a Hopkins player touched the ball, creating a live-ball situation in which Wesley was able to recover the fumble and maintain possession.
Despite the setback, the Blue Jays were able to take the field on offense at their own 46 with 1:48 left in the game.
In five plays, Hopkins would punch in a go-ahead touchdown with a 10-yard pass from Matey to Wodicka for a 24-23 lead, leaving Wesley with just 50 seconds on the clock.
The Hopkins faithful were on their feet, feeling good as their Blue Jays took the lead and pinned the Wolverines on their own 18 on the ensuing kickoff. However, their fervor would soon be quieted by a thunderous drive from Wesley.
Opening up with a 36-yard completion to Koudossou, Wesley quickly moved up the field against the Blue Jays defense. Then, with just 13 seconds remaining Callahan found Koudossou once again for a 33-yard touchdown catch to give Wesley a stunning 29-24 win.
On the day, Matey finished 22-33 for 194-yards, one touchdown, and one interception, while Walters would lead the rushing attack with 97-yards and a touchdown. With his three catches for 59-yards, Wodicka set the all-time record for catches in Hopkins football history. In his four years Wodicka has 260 receptions.
The loss capped off yet another season in which Hopkins football has dominated the regular season but fallen short in the NCAA Tournament. The team will look to regroup in 2014 as they say goodbye to a talented senior class.