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In the first round of the D1A playoffs, Davenport bested Wheeling Jesuit 38-8 to advance to the quarterfinals. Despite a slow start, the Michigan side used a strong second half to send the West Virginia school home empty handed.
The first 20 minutes saw two unfamiliar teams feeling each other out. Davenport made a few tactical changes prior to the game, and the Panthers struggled to get going early. DU broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute, however, when JP Eloff found Reese Czarnecki for a try. It was the first of his two on the afternoon.
“He played pretty well. It was probably one of his better days,” Davenport coach James Wood said of Czarnecki.
Wheeling added a penalty with 10 minutes left in the half, but Czarnecki got his second of the day with two minutes to go. Wheeling bounced right back with a score before halftime, however, to make it 14-8 going into the break.
“The first half I was not really happy,” said Wood. “Our guys seemed to have the hero complex. They tried to do a bit too much and be the guy that breaks the game open rather than be a little smarter.”
The Panthers righted the ship in the second half, scoring 24 unanswered points. Davenport capitalized on some Jesuit errors and made strides in loose play. After assisting on the first try, Eloff kicked a penalty and scored the third to increase the DU lead to 24-8.
“We kind of got back to a traditional look for us,” added Wood. “Eloff was good as usual. You can put him pretty much anywhere in that back line and he will find a way to make himself known out there.”
Anthony Welmers came off the bench to score two late tries. The normal outside center came in as a reserve this week as Eloff moved from his normal flyhalf position to outside center. Wood indicated that he was quite the spark plug in the second half.
Davenport will play Army in the quarterfinals next weekend. Wood is excited at the opportunity to play at a service academy and head to the East Coast.
“Any chance you get to go to one of the military academies and kind of experience that type of setting and what those guys do for us is a pretty cool thing to get to do,” Wood said.