College Watch: Focus on the future for Nedley, Westminster
It was a rough season for Westminster College football.
The traditionally strong Titans went 4-6 overall and 3-5 in the Presidents Athletic Conference (PAC).
But Jeannette High School graduate Zach Nedley knows that taking some lumps this season could help the team in the future.
Nedley is a 5-foot-8, 158-pound sophomore defensive back. He played extensively on special teams this season while serving as a reserve strong safety. He didn't view his job as merely a backup, though. In fact, embraced his roles on the team.
“Special teams is a huge part of the game. It's one-third of the game,” he said. “Our approach when we get on special teams is ‘be aggressive.'”
In addition to his role on special teams, Nedley will likely also see more playing time on defense next year as the team's top two strong safeties will graduate. Westminster coach Jeff Hand raved about Nedley's special teams abilities, but added that the local product also has what it takes to contribute on defense.
“Zach is a very savvy football player” he said. “He's just one of those guys who is a little bit undersized for his position, but, pound-for-pound, he's tough. And he always seems to be in the right spot. He has good football position, and he enjoys playing the game.”
Beyond Nedley's abilities is that intangible “Jeannette factor,” said the coach. Hand added that getting players like Nedley and fellow former Jayhawk Damon Bodnar, a sophomore running back at Westminster, is a priority for his program.
“Getting guys from a program like Jeannette is something we value highly,” he said. “With the success they've had and the hunger they have, they want to compete for more success.”
Paulone, Waynesburg fall
The season came to an end for Thomas Paulone and the Waynesburg football team in a tough 19-12 loss to The College at Brockport in the East Coast Athletic Conference North West Bowl on Saturday.
Paulone, a senior running back for Waynesburg, said big plays were the difference.
Brockport scored a touchdown on an 82-yard run on the second play of the game and returned a punt 40 yards for a score late in the game.
The game held in Brockport, N.Y., was played in “white out” conditions due to snow in the area.
“It was like we were playing on a beach, there was so much snow,” said Paulone. “Footing wasn't the best. It was a backyard football game.”
Paulone had one carry for four yards in the game. Waynesburg finishes the season 7-4.
Mount Union downs W&J
The Mount Union football team took an important step in its efforts to repeat as national champions Saturday by downing local foe Washington & Jefferson College, 34-20, in the first round of the Division III playoffs.
On their home field and amid frigid conditions, the Purple Raiders — featuring Jeannette native Pat Mahoney on the offensive line — jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, and the Presidents could never make up the difference.
Mahoney, a junior Greensburg Central Catholic grad, is a starting guard for Mount Union.
The Purple Raiders are now 11-0 this season. They host Wittenburg (10-1) this Saturday in the second round. The Tigers — who were the North Coast Athletic Conference Champions this season — trounced Lebanon Valley 59-17 in the first round.
Kickoff is set for noon and the game will be broadcast at athletics.mountunion.edu.
Ohio State wins in Hall's return
As Jeannette grad Jordan Hall returned to the lineup, Ohio State stayed undefeated — and won its school-record 23rd consecutive game — by downing Indiana, 42-14, on Saturday.
Hall, a senior running back, had two catches for 16 yards and returned one punt for 10 yards in the Buckeyes' win; he had missed the previous three games with a knee injury.
Ohio State is now 11-0 this season, including a 7-0 mark in the Big Ten Conference, and is ranked No. 3 in both the Bowl Championship Series and Associated Press polls.
Next up is a showdown with bitter foe Michigan (7-4, 3-4) in perhaps the biggest rivalry game in all of sports.
Kickoff is set for noon and the game will be broadcast on ABC.
In most seasons, the Ohio-State Michigan game would be the Buckeyes' biggest late season battle. However, with Saturday's win, they've locked up the Big Ten's Leaders Division crown and a spot in the Big Ten Championship game, which will be held in Indianapolis on Dec. 7.
Their opponent that day will be Michigan State …
Spartans defeat Northwestern
Michigan State, featuring Jeannette grad Demetrious Cox, clinched the Big Ten Legends Division and a the spot in the Big Ten Championship Game by downing Northwestern, 30-6, on Saturday.
Cox, a redshirt freshman safety and special teams player, had one tackle in the win.
Michigan State is now 10-1 overall, 7-0 in the Big Ten, and ranked No. 11 in both the Associated Press and Bowl Championship Series polls.
While the Big Ten title game is the focus, the next order of business is the regular season finale this Saturday against Minnesota (8-3, 4-3).
The game will be held at noon and be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.