TIFFIN -- A huge third quarter for the Heidelberg University football team lifted the Student Princes to a Bendo Bowl victory on a frigid, windy afternoon in Tiffin, Ohio.
After holding just a three point lead at the half, Heidelberg put up 22 points in the third quarter to run away with the game. The Student Princes scored an additional 14 points in the fourth to secure the win, 49-17.
The Senior Day victory pushed Heidelberg back to 5-5 overall, 4-5 in the OAC. Ohio Northern, once 4-0, slipped to an identical record as Heidelberg.
Junior Jimmy Gephart controlled the offense in the absence of the injured Trace Reynolds. Gephart completed 22-28 passes, while throwing for 276 yards and four touchdowns. On the ground, Gephart rushed 15 times for 65 yards and an additional touchdown.
Sophomore Maceo Matthews had a day for the books with nine catches for 195 yards and three touchdowns -- all three stats setting new career highs for the wide out.
Heidelberg scored in a few unconventional ways -- a 0-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter and a safety in the third.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Ohio Northern marched down the field after receiving the opening kickoff, taking their time by rushing the ball 12 times over a 7:26 span. The drive concluded with a Mason Williams 8-yard pass to Chad Rex for a touchdown. Chase Watson connected on the PAT to put the Polar Bears up 7-0.
After punting on their opening drive, Heidelberg took advantage of the blistering wind in Tiffin. The Berg defense forced ONU to punt from their own eight yard line. A roughing the kicker penalty was offset by an illegal kicking penalty, force a re-punt. On the play, Sean Devany's punt caught the wind and ended up bouncing back into his own end zone, where Russell Ramsey was on hand to collect the football for the Heidelberg touchdown. Austin Baker's PAT was good evening the score at 7.
The Polar Bears once again took some time off the clock on their next drive, which stalled out at the Berg 14-yard line. Watson was called into action, connecting on a 31-yard field goal, bringing the score to 10-7 at the end of the first quarter.
On their first drive of the second quarter the Berg was led down the field by Jimmy Gephart. Gephart completed five passes on the drive, before exploding through the ONU defense for a 33-yard touchdown score -- his first career touchdown. A botched snap forced led to a missed PAT, bringing the Berg lead to 13-10.
Heidelberg's final drive of the first half ended with 16 seconds left on the clock as a Gephart pass intended for Dimitri Penick fell just short. The Polar Bears ran one play before taking the game to the half.
Ohio Northern attempted to catch the Student Princes off guard on the opening kickoff for the second half. Dom DiFalco's surprise onside kick attempt was recovered by the Berg at their own 46-yard line. Gephart wasted no time getting the offense back into the end zone. He found Maceo Matthews on an over-the-shoulder pass for the one-play 54-yard touchdown.
On ONU's next drive, Mason Williams was sacked by Patrick McCarthy for a nine yard loss. The 3rd-and-19 pass by Williams fell incomplete, forcing Devany back on for the punt. Malakye Nall broke through the block and got a hand on the punt attempt limiting the play to a 15-yard boot.
Gephart once again wasted no time as he connected with Matthews on a 36-yard strike. Matthews made a high catch along the sideline with a defender draped all over him, and bullied his way over the line for the score. Baker this time connected on the PAT attempt adding to the lead. The Berg wasted no time, scoring twice inside the first minute and 19 seconds of the second half.
Heidelberg and ONU exchanged punts before Ohio Northern got the ball back on their own 11-yard line. Zach Blackiston broke into the backfield on the first play, sacking Williams for a six-yard loss. Just two plays later, Williams was forced to drop and scramble before being wrapped up by Erik Hagedorn and Collin Pecoraro in the end zone for a safety. With the two points, Heidelberg extended their lead to 28-10.
After taking the free-kick, the Berg offense marched down the field on a 11-play drive that took 5:07 off the clock for another score. A big 8-yard completion to Matthews picked up a crucial first down on 3rd-and-long. Frank Sewell found himself in at tailback and pounded the ball forward on three plays to eventually punch in from the one-yard line for the score. Baker connected with the PAT, increasing the lead to 35-10.
Heidelberg's first drive in the fourth quarter ended in familiar fashion. A six-play drive was capped off by yet another Gephart to Matthews completion. This one was different than the others as Gephart found Matthews on a drop off, where Matthews faced up the ONU defense. He eluded three tackles and out ran the Polar Bears before diving into the end zone for the touchdown.
Ohio Northern responded quickly on a four-play drive which was capped by a Tyler Smith pass to Chad Rex for a 34-yard touchdown score. The completion was Rex's second scoring reception of the game.
The Berg was forced to punt on their next drive. However, Bret Finck intercepted a Smith pass and returned it 20 yards while carrying three Polar Bears before finally being forced out of bounds. With their first play, Gephart sought to connect with Matthews yet again in the end zone, but a defensive pass interference gave the Berg the ball at the three-yard line. Two plays later, Gephart completed a jump pass to Nick Cofer for the Berg touchdown.
Head coach Scott Donaldson on the big third quarter: "They had a good play, they tried to push kick us, but we got it back luckily...it really ignited our guys to get out there and score right away...the defense played unbelievable in that second half. Guys came out fired up, got a little momentum, and just kept it the entire time."
Donaldson talking about the onside kick to start the second-half: "If they recover that, it's a different third quarter and I'm glad I don't have to know how different it is."
Donaldson on the play of Gephart in at quarterback: "It was Jimmy's confidence, coming into his first start, week 10, against a really good defense...once we had some wind at our back and a little momentum...it's not a 50/50 ball when it's Maceo Matthews on the end of it."
Donaldson on how big this win is: "It was a great win to send our seniors out on...and extremely important to me, to win the Bendo Bowl, to honor those guys is extremely important."
BEYOND THE BOX:
Maceo Matthews concluded the season as the team's leading receiver with 670 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
Zach Blackiston finished his freshman campaign as the team's leading tackler. His 13 tackles today put him at 103 total tackles for the year. Additionally, Blackiston led the team with 11.5 sacks.
The Pecoraro/Hagedorn safety in the third quarter was the team's first safety since November 12, 2016 at Capital.
Bret Finck's interception in the fourth quarter was his first career interception. It was the team's ninth pick of the season.