The Johns Hopkins football team continues to be tormented by Wesley.
After trailing by as many as 18 points in fourth quarter, the No. 8 Blue Jays mounted a comeback that fell short when they couldn't convert on fourth-and-1 late in regulation. Instead, they watched their postseason come to a sudden halt Saturday with a 42-37 loss to the No. 11 Wolverines in an NCAA Division III second-round playoff game before an announced 1,261 at Homewood Field in Baltimore.
After stopping a Wesley drive just 6 yards from the end zone on a fumble caused by freshman cornerback Michael Curry and recovered by junior free safety Jack Toner, the Blue Jays went 82 yards on seven plays to the Wolverines' 13.
But on fourth -and-1, junior running back Stuart Walters, who had rushed for 108 yards on his first 14 carries, was stuffed for no gain, and Wesley ran out the remaining 1 minute, 38 seconds to cement the victory.
"We all fully believed that we were going to get it," said junior quarterback Jonathan Germano, who completed 27 of 42 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns. "I thought we all played — as a collective group — awesome."
Johns Hopkins, which suffered its first loss of the year and finished 11-1, fell to 1-3 in second-round action including setbacks in its last three trips to this stage of the NCAA tournament.
Wesley improved to 11-1 and will meet No. 1 Mount Union in next weekend's quarterfinals. The Purple Raiders (12-0) walloped No. 20 Albright, 66-7, on Saturday.
The Wolverines have now ended the season for Centennial Conference teams seven times in the past 10 years, including three times for the Blue Jays.
"We've stubbed our foot with Wesley a few times now, but they've all been great games," Johns Hopkins coach Jim Margraff said. "Did enough to come out on top today. I'm very proud of our guys. I said this to them right afterward, and I mentioned this last year, too: I'm disappointed for them; I'm certainly not disappointed in them."
The Blue Jays had few answers for Wesley's Joe Callahan. After tossing four touchdown passes in a 29-24 win against Johns Hopkins in a 2013 first-round playoff game, the fifth-year senior quarterback threw for four more scores and 469 yards on 34-for-47 passing. He also ran for 66 yards and another touchdown Saturday.
Callahan, who had 12 stitches near his right temple after being rushed on Monday to an emergency room near his parents' home because he slipped and hit his head on a stairway banister, overcame a start in which he was intercepted three times on Wesley's first four possessions. Blue Jays sophomore cornerback Michael Munday picked off two and junior linebacker Campbell intercepted one.
"That was an ugly start," said Callahan, who has 51 touchdown passes this fall and had finished the regular season first in the country in passing yards (3,809) and touchdowns (43). "I got upset. Maybe it affected me on one drive after the third pick."
Callahan's favorite target was James Okike. The junior wide receiver caught nine balls for 249 yards and two touchdowns.
"We were playing pretty sloppy," Okike said. "We were getting pushed in and making bad plays. At halftime, we made a couple of adjustments, and I told Joe, 'If I see it, I'm going to let you know.' I was telling him on the field, and we were seeing it. We were just doing what we do in practice."
The Wolverines got on the scoreboard first on a Callahan 9-yard pass to Okike in the back right corner of the end zone with 6:11 left in the first quarter. The 7-0 deficit marked the first time that the Blue Jays had trailed in a game since Sept. 26, when Muhlenberg assumed a 28-21 lead with 11:23 left in the third quarter. Johns Hopkins, which won 49-28, had not trailed over a span of seven games and 451:17.
The Blue Jays found themselves trailing at halftime, 21-10. It was their first halftime deficit since a 16-14 hole at Hobart on Nov. 29, 2014, in a second-round playoff game. Johns Hopkins eventually lost, 24-21.
After a 22-yard touchdown pass from Germano to senior wide receiver Evan Adamo drew the Blue Jays to within 21-17 just 5:31 into the third quarter, Wesley got back-to-back scores on a 6-yard dart from Callahan to senior tight end Kyle George and a 3-yard run from junior Jamar Baynard to assume a 35-17 advantage.
The two sides traded touchdowns before Germano hit junior wide receiver Bradley Munday for a 6-yard score and senior running back Brandon Cherry (Boys' Latin) ripped off a 38-yard touchdown run that set up the frantic final minutes in regulation.
Baynard carried the ball 25 times for 123 yards and the touchdown, and senior strong safety James Williamson posted two sacks and five tackles. Wolverines coach Mike Drass said he knew Johns Hopkins would be a difficult assignment.
"I'm so proud of our kids on earning this win because they had to earn it," he said. "We're excited to be alive. We're excited to breathe."