BSC takes home Wesley Cup in gridiron upset over rival Huntingdon

Box Score

Birmingham-Southern jumped out to a 21-0 lead and then held off a furious second-half comeback to upset Huntingdon 35-20 on the road this afternoon. The Panthers moved to 3-0 on the season, and spoiled the Hawks’ homecoming in W. James Samford Jr. Stadium on the Huntingdon campus.

The Panthers also brought the coveted Wesley Cup trophy back to the Birmingham-Southern campus. To mark the inaugural game of the new rivalry last fall, the two teams announced they would play for a trophy called the Wesley Cup, named for John Wesley, who was the principal founder of the Methodist movement in the 18th century. Both Birmingham-Southern and Huntingdon are affiliated with the United Methodist Church

Birmingham-Southern and Huntingdon are the state’s only two NCAA Division III schools.

Huntingdon entered the contest averaging 53 points a game, but it was the Birmingham-Southern offense that dominated until the middle of the third quarter. The Panthers were a perfect four-for-four on fourth-down conversions on the day, each on drives resulting in touchdowns.

The Panthers took a 14-0 lead into the locker room at the half, aided by two fourth-down conversions for scores. On Huntingdon’s first possession, BSC senior linebacker David Kelley intercepted a pass by Hawk junior quarterback Nick Plagenhoef and the Panthers took over on their own 39. Ten plays later, senior quarterback Joe Thigpen hit junior wide receiver Justin Bishop on a 29-yard touchdown strike on fourth and 19 to put the Panthers up 7-0.

Midway through the second quarter, BSC drove 66 yards in 12 plays with senior tailback Walter Arrington scoring on fourth and goal from the one. Following freshman Ryan Laughlin’s point after touchdown, the Panthers led 14-0.

Birmingham-Southern would extend its lead to 21-0 early in the third quarter, taking the opening second half kickoff and marching 70 yards in 10 plays. Sophomore tailback Shawn Morris carried it in from six yards out for the score.

Huntingdon, however, would score 12 unanswered points to get back into the game. The Hawks took the BSC kickoff and marched 84 yards in 14 plays. Plagenhoef hit senior wide receiver Bobby Dunlap on a four-yard pass play to make the score 21-6. The point after touchdown was missed.

BSC fumbled the ball right back to Huntingdon on the first play of its next drive, and the Hawks were in business again on the Panther 16. One play later, Plagenhoef and freshman halfback Tyler Hall hooked up on a 16-yard scoring toss and Huntingdon was within 21-12. The two-point conversion attempt was no good.

BSC would quickly answer going 66 yards in only four plays, with Thigpen carrying it in from the 12 yard line with 3:27 left in the third quarter to put the Panthers up 28-12.

Two possessions later, Huntingdon would close the gap to eight points as Plagenhoef and junior wide receiver Cody Pearcy combined on a 91-yard touchdown pass. Following a successful two-point conversion, BSC’s lead was down to 28-20 with 13:48 remaining in the game.

Huntingdon would threaten to tie the game on its next possession. Facing a third and goal from the BSC two, Plagenhoef’s pass into the end zone was picked off by sophomore linebacker Brian Gray and the Panthers took over on their own 20 with less than 10 minutes to go in the game.

Birmingham-Southern would then put the game out of reach, driving 80 yards in 13 plays, culminating in a Thigpen four-yard touchdown run with 1:24 to go in the game giving the Panthers the 35-20 win.

Huntingdon mounted one final drive as time with time running out, but the Panthers sealed the victory with an interception by freshman linebacker Cameron Budzius.

Huntingdon fell to 3-1 with the loss.

Birmingham-Southern finished the afternoon with 24 first downs to Huntingdon’s 19. The Hawks finished with 388 yards total offense to the Panthers 370.

BSC was led offensively by Arrington with 108 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Thigpen was 8 of 10 passing for 102 yards and a touchdown. He added another 76 yards on the ground and two scores.

The Panther defense was led by junior linebacker Dustin Massey with eight total tackles. Junior defensive backs Kyle Sebestyen and Andrew Shannon added six stops apiece.

Birmingham-Southern returns home Oct. 2 for the first time since the opening weekend of the season to face perennial Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference power Trinity University at Noon in Panther Stadium on campus.