WOOSTER, Ohio – Junior Christian Santos capped a tip-drill play with a 37-yard pick-six that bumped The College of Wooster football team's lead out to two scores, and the Fighting Scots recovered an onside kick in the final minute to seal a 28-21 win over Hiram College on Saturday afternoon at John P. Papp Stadium.
Just before Santos' interception, Wooster (4-3, 3-3 North Coast Athletic Conference) capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a go-ahead 3-yard touchdown pass from freshman Mateo Renteria to junior Jacob Lewis. Lewis factored in heavily to the drive's success with an 11-yard reception on a third-and-4 play from Wooster's 26-yard line, and Renteria dumped off a screen pass to freshman Troy Baughman that went for 21 stripes on a third-and-3 play later in the drive.
Hiram (2-5, 1-5 NCAC) was gaining traction and had just picked up a first down with an 11-yard completion to Jaris Foreman. On the next play, Terrier quarterback Randy Tucker tried to force a throw into a tight window. Sophomore Kea'Shaun Phillips logged Wooster's first two deflections on the play and senior Marcus Bowers tipped the ball toward Santos. The Scots' junior secured the interception in stride and crossed the goal line with 2:59 on the clock.
Wooster junior Nick Barto-Brown almost sealed the game with a near-interception with about 1:15 remaining in the contest, but that play was ruled an incomplete pass by the officials. Hiram capitalized on the next play with Tucker completing a 28-yard touchdown pass to Tahj Lorthridge, and the ensuing extra point pulled the Terriers within 28-21.
Hiram twice had an opportunity to recover an onside kick, but the Terriers were derailed by an illegal procedure penalty on their first try, and the re-kick went right to Wooster senior Cyrus Boardman.
While neither team scored in the opening quarter, Wooster by far had the better offensive success. The Scots were twice pinned inside the 5-yard line courtesy of the big leg of Terrier punter Dakota Daniel, whose punts were downed at the 2- and 1-yard line, respectively. Wooster drove into the red zone on its first offensive possession of the afternoon, thanks in large part to a pair of chain-moving receptions by Lewis on third down, and a 15-yard grab by junior Jason Cerniglia on a fourth-and-4 play.
Speaking of Cerniglia, the junior wideout caught his first touchdown pass of the season in the second quarter, and that staked Wooster to a 7-0 lead with 11:27 to go in the period after sophomore Henry Whyte chipped through the extra point. Prior to the touchdown, Renteria eluded Hiram's pass rush and took off for a 25-yard run that moved the ball to the Terriers' 5-yard line.
Renteria continued to make big plays with his feet on the next drive, and the rookie signal-caller capped a 3-play, 80-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. Prior to Renteria's scamper, the Scots' quarterback found a wide-open Lewis for a 67-yard pass play that moved the chains down to Hiram's 10-yard line.
Lorthridge had his number called numerous times on the Terriers' next offensive drive, and he closed out the 12-play, 79-yard march down the field with a 22-yard touchdown reception that pulled Hiram within 14-7 with 2:30 left in the opening half. Earlier in the drive, Lorthridge hauled in 6- and 12-yard catches, with the first one coming on a key third-down play.
Hiram strung together another lengthy drive to start the third quarter with Isaiah Jones' 1-yard rush marking the finale a 14-play drive that tied the game at 14. Prior to the touchdown, Lorthridge bailed out Tucker by winning a jump ball that was nearly picked off by Wooster senior Derrick Florence.
Wooster had a chance to take a three-point lead with 12:21 to go in the contest, but the Scots' field goal try was off the mark.
Renteria surpassed 400 yards of total offense on the afternoon behind 72 yards rushing. In the passing department, Renteria went 23-for-39 for 329 yards and the two touchdowns. Lewis logged a career day with nine catches for 161 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.
Wooster's defense snuffed out Hiram all game long on the ground, as the Terriers were held to 56 yards – 112 below their season average coming into the game – on 32 carries. Noteworthy, Wooster's now held five of its seven opponents to under 100 yards rushing.
Other defensive team stats to note include four sacks by the Scots. Sophomore Kobe Matesic led the charge individually with 1.5.
Sophomore Mark Herron turned in a career-high 13 tackles.
Tucker completed 26-of-42 throws for 265 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Lorthridge went for 106 stripes on nine receptions.
Horace Johnson was everywhere for the Terriers defensively with 13 tackles, two sacks, and a pass breakup.
Next, Wooster hosts Kenyon College (0-7, 0-6 NCAC) at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27.