Blue Jays Use Balanced Attack and Takeaways to Take Down The Panthers in the Season Opener

Blue Jays Use Balanced Attack and Takeaways to Take Down The Panthers in the Season Opener

Fulton, Mo, March 27, 2021 – The Westminster College football team waited 505 days between football games. That streak was put to bed by the Blue Jays as they took to their home field on Saturday afternoon to take on the Greenville University Panthers.  The Blue Jays used a balanced attack to defeat the Panthers 30-22.

The first scoring drive of the day would belong to the Blue Jays. The Blue Jay defense made sure of that. On the first play from scrimmage of the game the Panther running back Jaden Apple-Gibbs was brought down behind the line of scrimmage and fumbled.  Defensive lineman Kobe Kaminski stripped the ball and made the recovery. The Blue Jays were in business deep in Greenville territory.

The Blue Jay offense went to work. They converted two third downs on their way to the first score of the year. Running back Peyton James ran the ball for eight yards on third and six from the 16-yard line and then on third and goal from the five-yard line quarterback Wyatt Ellis connected with wide receiver Alec Fleetwood for a five-yard touchdown pass and with the Tim Branneky extra point the Blue Jays led 7-0 barely four minutes into the game.

Greenville would strike back in the later part of the first quarter.  The Pathers would score on a three-yard rushing touchdown and then converted the two-point conversion pass to take an 8-7 lead with 1:26 left in the first.

The Blue Jays would regain the lead in the second quarter.  Ellis would dive into the endzone from a yard out to give the Blue Jays the lead 13-8, with 5:19 left in the half after the extra point attempt failed.

The Blue Jay defense would stand tall as the first half clicked toward halftime. On fourth and goal at the five-yard line the Panthers QB tried to take it on his own but was stopped for a loss on the play by Dawson Brandt as time expired in the first half. The Blue Jay defense had held their own on the big goal line stance and they carried the 13-8 lead into halftime.

The Blue Jays would take the first possession of the third quarter and drive to the Greenville 16-yard line where Branneky would kick a 35-yard field goal, with 10:38 left in the third quarter, to increase the Westminster lead to 16-8. The Jays weren't done yet with the third quarter.

On second and goal from the seven-yard line Peyton James barreled into the endzone to take a 22-8 lead as time expired in the third quarter.  Tim Branneky's extra point started the fourth quarter and staked the home team to a 23-8 lead.

Greenville would counter with a drive that would end with a 30-yard touchdown pass and a two-point conversion to cut the Blue Jay lead down to one score at 23-16. It was a drive that covered 9:10 of the fourth quarter.

Disaster struck on the next series for the Blue Jays.  A Wyatt Ellis pass was intercepted by Greenville's Jalen Dowell and returned 40 yards for a Greenville touchdown cutting the Blue Jay lead to just one point at 23-22.  Greenville would decide to go for two points and the lead and appeared to get it on a pass completion but the Greenville offense was flagged for an offensive holding penalty.  The penalty resulted in a 10-yard loss and the two-point conversion would be no good and the Blue Jays would take over clinging to a one-point lead with 3:35 left in the game. The Jays would march down the field aided by a 61-yard pass completion from Ellis to Matt Huffman down to the Greenville 15-yard line.  Running back Kalyn Davis would score from three yards out with just 1:06 left in the game and a Branneky kick would push the Blue Jays lead to 30-22.  The defense would take it from there as linebacker Dominic Licameli would pick off the Greenville QB and the Blue Jays would go into victory formation with Ellis taking a knee twice as the clock ran out on the Panthers and the Blue Jays had their first win of the new season.

Blue Jay QB Ellis was 13-21 for 184 yards with a TD and an Interception. Alec Fleetwood led all Blue Jay receivers with five catches for 73 yards and a TD.  Ellis also led the Blue Jay ground assault with 61 yards on 17 rushing attempts. 

The Blue Jay defense was led by an inspired effort from Dawson Brandt with seven solo trackles and one tackle for a loss on the fourth down play to end the half.  Linebacker Ben Heimann recorded four solo tackles and one sack as well as Rothman Harris who also recorded a sack.  Along with Licameli's interception in the fourth quarter, Easton Hanks also intercepted the Greenville QB in the endzone in the second quarter.

The Blue Jays won the game despite being barely outgained 331 yards from scrimmage (230 yards in the air and 101 yards on the ground) to 316 yards from scrimmage (184 yards in the air and 132 yards on the ground).  Greenville also won time of possession 31:48 to 28:15 for the Blue Jays.  The Blue Jays managed to win the takeaway game 3-1 and that was the key to the win. 

The Blue Jays will enjoy a bye week this next week and return to action on Saturday April 10th as they travel to the Iowa Wesleyan University Tigers.  The kickoff is still to be announced.