Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
MT. PLEASANT — Alumni who made the trip to Mt. Pleasant on Saturday for Iowa Wesleyan’s Homecoming game got their money’s worth and then some this weekend.
A late touchdown pass from Zach Chevalier to JC Gill led the Tigers to a 42-38 win over Mayville State, not only earning a Homecoming win, but a 1-0 start in North Star Athletic Conference play.
“I tell you what, this team is different,” said head coach MD Daniels. “These guys didn't give up on each other. They fought the whole time.”
The game-winning drive started with a 1st and 10 from the 33-yard line. The Tigers found themselves at 4th and 3 from the 40 three plays later, and Askia Moses busted through the line and dashed 55 yards all the way to the 5.
With less than two minutes on the clock, Iowa Wesleyan was burned on a holding penalty. After a rush for no gain, the Tigers were in a bind, having 3rd and goal from the 14.
Chevalier dropped back to pass, and while a lot of attention was given to a potential run up the middle or a shot to the end zone, Gill, the tight end, leaked out behind the line and Chevalier hit the open man. Gill scampered into the end zone and the Tigers were on top.
“We had been feeding the ball to our great running backs all night long,” Gill said. “Coach called my name. I had to answer.”
Coach Daniels gave credit to Offensive Coordinator Brett Guminsky for the call.
“Coach Guminsky, he dialed up one,” Daniels said. “He told me two plays ahead of time, this is what we're going to do.”
Daniels also gave credit to his defense for standing strong on the series before. With the game tied 35-35, Mayville State had the ball 2nd and goal from the 1-yard line, and a chance to go up by seven points. Instead, the Tiger defense pushed them back and the Cougars had to settle for a field goal.
“Our defense really dialed it up,” Daniels said. “Our defense came up big, because now it's a totally different ballgame.”
Mayville State had another shot to win it, but the Tiger defense wouldn’t let them get to the 50-yard line before time expired.
Iowa Wesleyan had to come back from an early 14-0 deficit, as Mayville State scored twice in the first quarter. The Tigers, though, would score the next 28 points.
Iowa Wesleyan’s first three scores came on the ground. Kameron Cole scored from 3-yards out in the second quarter to cut it to 14-7. Cole then got loose on a 29-yard run early in the third, and Parker Heidt scored on a 2-yard run the very next drive.
“I felt great, just being back with my teammates, trusting them and just trusting the process,” said Cole. “I know I couldn't do it without them.”
The special teams play of the day happened just minutes later, as Mayville State attempted to punt inside their own 10-yard line. Jaydon Varnado busted through the line, blocked the punt and then fell on it in the end zone, putting the Tigers up 28-14.
In total, six touchdowns were scored in the third quarter alone. Mayville State would score twice in the final 3:45 of the period, but those two touchdowns sandwiched a 51-yard touchdown run by Moses.
The Cougars tied the game on a 33-yard run by quarterback Tim Salmon early in the fourth. The 21-yard go-ahead field goal had Mayville State in the lead for 3 minutes and 25 seconds before Gill scored the game-winner.
The normally pass-heavy Iowa Wesleyan offense gained 256 yards on the ground. Moses went for 178 yards and one touchdown, and Cole ran for 81 yards and two.
Chevalier went 8-for-24 with 152 yards and a touchdown through the air. Tyler Ball caught two passes for 77 yards to lead the receivers.
Joseh Pace had nine tackles to lead the defense. Major Niccum had another big game, finishing with eight tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Izaiah Payne had a forced fumble and recovery of his own.
Iowa Wesleyan is now 3-3 overall and 1-0 in league play, with a big home game against perennial North Star power Dickinson State (3-2, 1-0) coming up this Saturday at 1 p.m.
This is the latest the Iowa Wesleyan football program has had a .500 record or better in eight years. The Tigers’ current three wins is tied for the most since 2014, with plenty of football left to be played.
“It feels great to have people come out to the games and see the improvements,” said Cole as the fans and players celebrated after the game. “We're getting better every week, and people can see that.”