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Wheeling Jesuit scores a huge win over Navy

Wheeling Jesuit opened its spring account with a huge deposit in the win column, knocking off Navy, 25-19, in Annapolis, Md. Saturday. The Cardinals built a 20-0 halftime lead and did enough to secure the win in the latter 40 minutes.

The Cardinals took the lead just after the opening restart. They opted for touch off a very early Midshipman penalty, win the lineout, and put the ball through a handful of phases before inside center Inosi Kau crashed over for the game-opening try.

Kau, a converted flanker, paired with fellow Fijian Chris Vakasisikakala to form a very dynamic center pairing. Kau is in his second semester at WJU and Vakasisikakala his first, so this was their first outing as a duo. As can be seen in the game’s highlight video below, they were a handful for Navy.

“Those two in the centers totally brought it,” said WJU assistant coach Tal Bayer of the Fijian midfielders. “It was one of the best games we’ve had bringing it through the centers both on defense and on offense. It was a hard hitting game. I’m still surprised considering how little contact we’ve been able to do.”

Another standout for the Cardinals was freshman prop Cecil Rich, who soaked up multiple Navy tacklers seemingly every time he carried the ball.

“A guy like Cecil, he knows [Navy’s] good,” said Bayer, who coached Rich in high school, “but he doesn’t really care they’ve got Navy on their jersey – it’s just somebody in the way of either him running or winning.”

The second half was won by the hosts. The Midshipmen ameliorated throughout the contest, surrendering just one try in the second 40 minutes and managing to score 19 points of their own. They cut the difference to six with about five minutes to play, but Wheeling maintained possession the final minutes and took the win.

Wheeling Jesuit is in its third season as a program, and though the Cardinals have some nice wins in their short history, Saturday’s was perhaps the biggest – a potential program or signature victory.

That almost came in the fall, when the Cardinals lost a five-point heartbreaker to Army in conference play. Even though the result was a loss, that game provided Wheeling with the confidence necessary to win Saturday.

“Last year with Navy they put what I assume was their seconds against us, and they beat us pretty handedly. We just weren’t really on point yet. This year it was their first side, and it was a great test for us,” said Bayer.

“I absolutely agree, this was probably the hugest win for us. People were calling me because they had heard within like five minutes of the end of the game. It was a big deal for us, and the guys recognized it, because it was Navy. On the East Coast, Army and Navy are just huge programs.”