Waynesburg, W&J meet in PAC Backyard Brawl

Waynesburg won the 1966 NAIA national football championship by defeating Wisconsin-Whitewater, 42-21, at Tulsa’s Skelly Stadium.

That was probably the last BIG game that the Yellow Jackets have played in … until Saturday.

That’s when Waynesburg hosts Washington & Jefferson in the ‘PAC Backyard Brawl’ at John F. Wiley Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. with the PAC’s title and automatic bid to the D-III playoffs on the line.

The Yellow Jackets, under eighth-year head coach Rick Shepas enter the highly anticipated contest with a spotless 9-0 mark (7-0 PAC). They are ranked 13th in the latest American Football Coaches Association Top 25, while also earning the No. 18 position in the D3football.com poll.

The Presidents are 7-2 (6-1 PAC) and could earn a share of the PAC championship with a victory in the series which they have dominated by a 36-3 count. However, three of the last five games have been decided by a touchdown or less.

“Yes, this is a big game, but our guys have done a great job to put us in this position,” Shepas said during a telephone interview Friday afternoon. “We’ll be ready.”

Waynesburg’s roster is filled with a dozen players with OVAC ties, including five from The Times Leader’s immediate area. They include Bellaire’s Josh Tolliver (DL), Martins Ferry’s Jonathan Carlier (LB) and the Union Local duo of Amos Leach (DL) and Bernie Thompson (WR). All are sophomores except Carlier who is a freshman. Bellaire’s Anthony Rocchio is listed as a student assistant coach.

Shepas took some time to talk about each of the Yellow Jackets.

“Josh is an outstanding pass rusher,” Shepas said.

“He gets to the quarterback and has really improved his run defense. He’s got a great future ahead of him.”

Tolliver (6-0, 218) has charted 15 solo tackles and eight assists. He has a trio of quarterback sacks and three tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

“Jonathan and Amos are in backup roles for us right now, but they both work very hard and have big futures.”

Carlier (5-11, 215) and Leach (5-9, 235) are biding their time until a position opens up.

“Bernie has done an outstanding job for us,” the coach continued. “He has great quickness and outstanding field awareness.”

During his days as a Jet, the diminutive Thompson (5-8, 150) caught an Ohio Valley single-season record 106 passes. He has nine receptions this fall for 90 yards and two touchdowns. The Loomis native has also returned six kickoffs for a 16-yard norm, while running back three punts for 49 yards. In addition, he has recorded two tackles, one for minus yardage.

Rocchio’s situation is a unique one. He went to Waynesburg on a baseball scholarship following an outstanding two-sport (football and baseball) career for the Big Reds. However, shoulder problems, and eventually surgery, forced him away from the diamond, but landed him a spot on the football coaching staff.

“It’s crazy how things work out,” Shepas said of Rocchio’s path. “He has been a real pleasant surprise. At this level you’re kind of short-handed as far as coaches go, but there are a lot of younger guys out there that want to be coaches. Anthony is one of them.”

Other OVAC products on the Yellow Jackets roster are Clay-Battelle’s Derek Hinkle (Fr., WR); Weirton Madonna’s Ryan Mozingo (Fr., LB), University’s Justin Layton (Fr., LS); and five former East Liverpool performers in Andrew English (So., WR); Willie Leavell (So., RB); Kyle Weyand (So., WR); Kody Edwards (So., OL); and JT Thompson (So., DL).

There are four members of the Presidents with OVAC ties. They are Morgantown’s Brock Bolyard (Jr., OL); and the Steubenville Central trio of Mickey Bednar (Jr., LB), Matt yanda (Jr., OL); and assistant coach Mike DiAngelo.

Watch for the results of Saturday’s contest in Sunday’s edition of The Times Leader.

North can be reached at knorth@timesleader-online.com