(CANTON, Ohio) – The John Bankert-Dick Gallagher Trophy will stay in North Canton as Walsh defeated Malone 38-24 in the season finale for both teams at Tom Benson Stadium Saturday. It's the ninth consecutive victory in the rivalry for the Maroon and Gold.
The victory also gives the Cavaliers (4-7, 4-3) their first winning season in conference since joining NCAA Division II and first since 2011 as a member of the MSFA in the NAIA. The Pioneers end the season at 1-9.
The rushing game was in full effect once again for the Cavaliers as they hit the 200-yard mark and rushed for four scores. Koby Adu-Poku provided a pair of them. His first was from five yards out and the first score of the game to put Walsh up 7-0. The drive was set up by an interception from Daizon Earl that he returned 30 yards to the Malone 27-yard line.
His second was equally important as it split a tie game and gave Walsh the lead for good at 24-17 on the first drive of the third quarter, but Malone put the pressure on the Cavs throughout the game.
After Walsh's first score, the Pioneers answered with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Ashton Dulin. The Cavaliers responded with a long touchdown pass of its own as Mitchell Ault connected with Quinn Thomas on a 38-yard touchdown strike up the middle.
Malone then put together it's best portion of the game and took the lead thanks to another touchdown pass to Dulin and a 29-yard field goal by Marcus Moeller that made the score 17-14 with 4:08 left in the half.
However that left enough time for the Cavs to get in place for a field goal where Kasey Tingler was true from 46 yards to tie the game for halftime. He now has five of the longest six field goals of the season in the conference and has been perfect from 40 to 49 yards on the season.
After Adu-Poku's second score, Dontrez Johnson punched it in from 2-yards out to give Walsh a 31-17 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. It capped a 13-play, 72-yard drive that featured two fourth down conversions, once of which was by punter Cole Krumpak who ran 28 yards on a fake on 4th and 14.
Malone added another touchdown pass to Dulin, but Adu-Poku returned the kickoff to Malone's 29 yard line. Kalvin Gordon's number was called the next two plays with the final going 25 yards to the end zone to set up the final score. He finished the game with 95 yards on 18 carries.
The Cavaliers conclude the season with four wins in their last six games, their best finish since 2011 where they won four of the last five.
"These guys have been through a lot, and in the first year in the conference, to be 4-3 with a winning record, I told the seniors this is a tradition we can start," said Head Coach Dan Pifer. "There's expectations for us to do these kind of things in this complex, and we owe it all to the seniors that have stuck it out the last four or five years. Not everything has went the way they wanted it to, but they hung in there every week, kept fighting every week, they got better every week, and I think it showed the last portion of the season. It all goes to the seniors for buying in. I attribute everything we've had in success to those guys and believing."