ETSU’s inaugural football season for its reinstated team ended on a high note Saturday.
The ETSU football team closed out the season with a 42-27 win over Kentucky Wesleyan. The team finished the 2015 season with a record of 2-9.
Kentucky Wesleyan came into the game with a total of five wins and finished the 2015 season with a 5-6 record. The Panthers are an Independent team in Division II.
ETSU scored first with Austin Herink’s 9-yard touchdown run with 6:49 left in the first quarter. This gave the Buccaneers a 7-0 lead.
Herink had 20 carries, 134 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
“Coach (Mike) O’Cain had a lot of great play calls today, and I was able to have a few good runs,” said Herink. O’Cain is the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
To start off the second quarter, Falon Lee caught a 22-yard touchdown pass to give the Bucs a 14-0 lead. Lee had two receptions in the game, which were both touchdown passes, with a total of 62 yards.
“I think we will be a much better team next year, with all that we went through this season,” said Lee. “We are a very hungry team, and I expect us to get better for next season and get more wins in the win column.”
Kentucky Wesleyan answered with a 42-yard touchdown pass and went into halftime trailing the Bucs 14-7.
The Bucs came out of halftime with a trick play up their sleeves. Demetrius Anthony caught a screen pass from Herink and fired a 40-yard touchdown play to Falon Lee to put ETSU up 21-7 early in the third quarter. The play was Anthony’s first touchdown pass of the season.
After the Bucs scored one more touchdown in the third quarter, Kentucky Wesleyan scored two straight touchdowns off an 18-yard touchdown pass and a 16-yard touchdown pass. The Bucs went into the fourth quarter clinging to a 28-21 lead.
“We knew that they were a great offensive team and were going to throw the eight to 10 deep balls, and I think that we responded to that very well,” said coach Carl Torbush. “Offensively, we did a good job of running the ball and having the ball in our hands so they don’t have time to make that many big plays.”
Defensively, Tavion Lott caught the only Buccaneer interception of the game. ETSU forced two fumbles in the game and held Kentucky Wesleyan to 388 passing yards and -13 rushing yards on 16 carries.
With 7:01 to go in the game, Hunter Wike caught the longest reception of the game when Herink threw him a 50-yard touchdown pass to give the Buccaneers a 35-21 lead.
Wike led the Bucs in receiving yards, with four receptions and 80 yards.
The Panthers answered quickly with an 11-yard touchdown pass. They missed the extra point, making the score 35-27.
The Bucs scored one more time on a 37-touchdown run by Herink with 2:16 left in the game. This gave the Bucs a 42-27 victory to close out the season with their second victory and their first victory over an NCAA team since 2003.
ETSU had a total of 26 first downs and went 10-for-16 on third down conversions, an area that they have struggled with this season.
“It was a great win for us and a great win for our coaching staff, who have been through a lot this year,” said Torbush. “The guys that you saw today you will see for the next three years, and if they stay with the program, they will be winners and win a lot of games in the SoCon.”