Big plays and strong defense paid off for Chicago on the road against Ohio Wesleyan. After trailing by three going into halftime, the Maroons rallied behind third-year quarterback Kevin Shelton to beat the Battling Bishops by a final score of 21-10, improving to 3-2 on the season.
Chicago started out shaky, as their first four drives all ended in turnovers—two interceptions, followed by two lost fumbles—but Ohio Wesleyan was only able to capitalize for one touchdown.
Down by seven in the second quarter, Shelton replaced the starter, second-year Vincent Cortina, and found third-year tight end Brandon Meckelberg for a 2-yard score. Shelton also connected with third-year wideout Dee Brizzolara for a 32-yard touchdown in the third quarter, making it the tenth consecutive game Brizzolara has hit paydirt.
The play of the game came early in the fourth quarter, when fourth-year cornerback Emmett Carrier silenced a 71-yard Ohio Wesleyan drive with a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown, giving the Maroons an 11 point lead with 10 minutes to play. Chicago’s stout defense was able to hang on for the victory.
Confident in their strong defensive play in the first half, the Maroons did not need to make many halftime adjustments, despite being down by 3. Instead, Chicago reminded itself to prevent the mental errors that gave Ohio Wesleyan the lead early in the game.
“Coming into the locker room after halftime we knew that we were playing a good game, but we also knew that we would have to limit our mental mistakes in order to come out with a win,” said first-year linebacker Schuyler Montefalco, who led the defensive effort with 10 tackles and a sack. “We made our adjustments and played a great second half of Maroon football.”
Shelton had thrown for 183 yards and two touchdowns on the season before his big day. All the more impressive is the fact that Shelton delivered his impressive performance off the bench.
“Every game, no matter what your role, you have to be ready to play. My mentality when I've been in a backup role is that I'm one play away from going in,” said Shelton, who finished the day having completed 5 of 6 passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns. “Anything can happen, and if your number gets called you need to be ready. On the sidelines you just try to stay loose and support your teammates the best way you can.”
First-year running back Zak Ross-Nash led the ground attack with 87 yards on 18 carries. The team combined to rush for 198 yards on the day.
At 3-2, Chicago will undoubtedly need to continue playing the type of strong defensive football they played on Saturday in order to have a shot at a playoff bid. However, the team is taking the season one game at a time.
“This game was definitely a big win for us,” said Carrier. “We’re not looking ahead at playoffs right now, we were just focused on playing a good game after last weekend.”
“We didn't get in with an 8-2 record last year, but hopefully things will shake out differently this year,” said Brizzolara, who also had a 51-yard punt return in the game. “All we can control is how we perform.”
Chicago will take on Denison at Denison next Saturday, October 8 at 12pm EST.