Merkle leads Kenyon in a 21-17 comeback win over Sewanee

Merkle leads Kenyon in a 21-17 comeback win over Sewanee

SEWANEE, Tenn. (Sept. 3, 2016)  Led by quarterback Thomas Merkle, Kenyon rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to defeat the Sewanee football team, 21-17, Saturday, at McBride Field.

Merkle finished the afternoon 24-for-40 with 310 passing yards and a touchdown. Merkle's favorite target for the Lords was All-American receiver Brian Hunca, who finished with seven catches for 96 yards. Three other receivers also finished with at least three catches. 

After stopping the Lords on their first drive, Sewanee took advantage of its good field position after a bad Kenyon punt. Starting on their 49-yard line, the Tigers drove 51 yards in seven plays for the game's first touchdown. On second and goal from the Kenyon one, freshman quarterback Sam Hearn snuck across the goal line to push Sewanee in front.

On Kenyon's next possession, Sewanee's defense continued to play well. The Lords had negative three yards on three plays before punting. Sewanee took over at the Kenyon 36 and scored five plays later. After converting a fourth and one at the Kenyon 27, Hearn found tailback Ronald Hayes for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 5:13 left in the first quarter.

Just when it looked like Sewanee would pull away, Kenyon's defense settled in. The Tigers gained only seven yards the rest of the half. With that, the Lords took advantage when Merkle tossed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Szabi Somo with a minute left in the first half.

Out of halftime, Sewanee opened the third quarter with an impressive drive. In a lengthy 18-play, 60-yard march, kicker Michael Jacobs made a 31-yard field goal to push Sewanee in front at 17-7.

Unfortunately, Kenyon answered right back when Merkle's 34-yard pass play to Hunca set up a seven-yard touchdown run by Ian Bell.

Bell would go on and add a 17-yard touchdown run on Kenyon's next possession to push the Lords in front, 21-17.

With 6:10 left to play, Sewanee started its final drive at its own 20-yard line. After three straight unsuccessful plays, junior John Cleveland raced 13 yards on a fake punt that converted a fourth and eight. With new life, the Tigers marched to the Kenyon five over the next 11 plays.

With 1:05 remaining, the Tigers moved back to the Kenyon 20 after an offensive pass inference call. Three plays later, Hearn's third and goal pass attempt was intercepted by Curt Williams, which sealed the win for Kenyon.

Overall, the Lords outgained Sewanee 374-270. However, the Tigers outrushed the Lords 183 to 64 while winning the time of possession battle by 11 minutes.

Sewanee was undone by a number of penalties and Kenyon's ability to make big plays.

In his first career game, Hearn finished with 127 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. Running back Mikey Plancher played well with 121 rushing yards (4.3 average) on 28 carries while Cleveland led the Tigers in tackles with 10.

Cody Keenan led Kenyon's defense with 10 tackles while Saxon Justice and Mike Gibbons each added nine stops.

Sewanee will play its first home game next Saturday against rival Washington & Lee. The Tigers and Generals are scheduled to kickoff at 1:00 p.m. at historic Hardee-McGee Field at Harris Stadium.

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