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Wheeling Holds Off Iowa Central in Compelling Bowl Game

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Wheeling Holds Off Iowa Central in Compelling Bowl Game

Haddar makes them miss for Wheeling. photo Ollie Mide.

Wheeling University held off a comeback from Iowa Central CC to win the NCR bowl game between the two teams at Aveva Stadium in Houston Saturday.

Wheeling's pace and explosiveness saw them through, while Iowa Central will be ruiing a couple of errors and a couple of missed tackles, as the Cardinals emerged 29-24 winners over the Tritons.

Iowa Central was  on the front foot from the start, and had to bee as they were playing against a stiff Texas breeze. 

Lock LeDonn Mathis pounded through multiple times and they worked their way down to the corner. Prop James Kwahiwinui got them close and then prop Collin Buteyn was over.

Iowa Central seemed in control and were in the Wheeling 22 once more but a penalty got Wheeling out of trouble, and they consolidated that position with a successful lineout and worked the phases.

Following that, flyhalf Chief Chipfumbo fed flanker Colten Boyle who then popped off the deck back to his flyhalf and the freshman raced in. With Ayoub Jalli's conversion, Wheeling took a 7-5 lead.

Wheeling got another penalty in their own half and then Jalli hoofed the ball 70 meters down into the Iowa Central in-goal. The Tritons touched it down and got a goalline dropout. But their high kick was held up in that wind we talked about; Chipfumbo raced in, took the kick on the fly, and almost scored. The forwards piled in and lock Bailey Brunner picked up and went over. Jalli’s conversion made it 14-5.

Iowa Central continued to have trouble with the wind, which was blowing hard and in the opposite direction from the day before. But that wind wasn't the reason they missed key tackles. A huge run from fullback Simo Haddar exposing some iffy tackling from Iowa Central got him down to the line and quick ball went to prop Joe Howley who crashed over.

The run was set up in part by a quick catch-and-pass from Chipfumbo, who had no time to make it work but did so anyway.

Chipfumbo then dummied his way out of his 22, accelerated, and then fed scrumhalf Stanley Giani who just cruised in. Wheeling was looking very good and up 24-5, they were poised to add to that as the half ended. But Chipfumbo was tackled into touch just short of paydirt by wing Chris Santos to end the half. 

So the second half began with Iowa Central thinking about using the wind to claw their way back. They started early, with a big run from Mathis and then one from Tavius Sykora Matthess set up by a diving rescue pass from scrumhalf Oratile Molatlhegi. That score made it 24-12. The Tritons followed up on that try looking to keep possession, but Wheeling's defense was brisk and they kept Iowa Central pinned in their own half.

Eventually, after a kick from Iowa Central missed touch, Wheeling countered, got a penalty, and then Giani tapped quickly, fed Chipfumbo, and wrapped around to get the return pass to go in for the try. Wheeling led now 29-12.

But Iowa Central wasn't done and continued to work hard. A nice line from center Zavier Ellis set them up to spin it back and right to the other center, Herbert Evans, and he was in at the corner. Now it was 29-17. And it seemed over after that. Iowa Central fullback Tony Robinson went into a ruck and got into some sort of altercation with a Wheeling player. Video evidence is sketchy but it looked like Robinson may have retaliated after some strikes trying to get him to release a player after the ruck was over. Robinson was penalized for striking the Wheeling player and received a red card.

Down a player now, Iowa Central was in real trouble, and yet they kept coming. The Tritons forced a penalty after a kick-and-chase. It was a holding-on penalty exacerbated when Joe Iye kicked the ball away to prevent a quick tap. He received a yellow card, and now it was 14-on-14. Soon after that some good passing from Iowa Central found wing Chris Santos on the wing and his try, with Molathegi's conversion made it a one-score game 29-24.

There was still plenty of time for Iowa Central to get that last try but Wheeling did well to work the phases. They tapped for penalties, even from their own 22, and did so well they almost scored. A box kick went into in-goal which was fine for Wheeling as it forced a goalline dropout and more time off the clock. Haddar almost broke one off but was hailed down just a few meters before the tryline. But it was all to Wheeling's advantage, as they worked time and field position to finish off the game.

"Too many mistakes, too many dropped balls," said Iowa Central flanker Dakota Southworth. "It was a great game and they are good, tough to tackle, and we had a chance to win it, but we made too many errors."

"This was big for us," said Wheeling hooker Larry said. "In the second half we just had to make a big shift defensively and try to keep the possession more. It was a bit harder than expected because they are a good team. But the big thing was we have a few guys leaving and we didn't want them to end their Wheeling career with a loss."

It was a massive win for Wheeling as they work the program back to prominence. For the Cardinals, Chipfumbo was spectacular, Giani an excellent partner for him, and the forwards as a group put in a ton of work. For Iowa Central, Sykora-Matthess is a player to watch and his second row partner Mathis is all kinds of trouble. 

Wheeling University 29
Tries: Giani 2, Chipfumbo, Howley, Brunner
Convs: Jalli 2

Iowa Centra CC 24
Tries: Buteyn, Sykora-Mathes, Evans, Santos
Convs: Molatlhegi 2