Weber State holds off Western Illinois in FCS playoffs, 21-19

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OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Weber State is celebrating its first home playoff victory in school history, holding off Western Illinois in the first round of the FCS playoffs, 21-19.

Stefan Cantwell threw three touchdown passes, while the defense held the Leathernecks to 318 total yards and forced two turnovers.

After winning just its third playoff game ever, the Wildcats will now face Big Sky Conference rival Southern Utah in the second round next Saturday in Cedar City. 

“This is arguably already the best season in Weber State football history,” said head coach Jay HIll. “We’re 10-2 right now with a conference championship. No one else has been able to do that. We’re going down to play the game we’ve wanted since six weeks ago. For coaches, you never get too high or too low, but this is pretty sweet.”

After getting shut out in the first quarter, Cantwell threw his first touchdown pass, a 33-yard strike off of a flee-flicker, to Drew Batchelor to give the Wildcats a 7-3 lead.

After a 50-yard completion on a one-handed catch by Andrew Vollert, Cantwell found Batchelor on a 3-yard touchdown pass to give Weber State a 14-6 lead at the half.

Western Illinois cut the lead to two points on a 7-yard touchdown run by Clint Ratkovich, but a failed 2-point conversion kept the Wildcats on top.

Cantwell then threw his third TD of the game, hooking up with Vollert from 21 yards out to make it 21-12.

The Leathernecks scored a late touchdown, but Weber State was able to salt the game away on the ground.

Cantwell finished the day completing 18 of 27 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 43 yards on 17 carries. Vollert had eight receptions for 112 yards and a score.

“It’s awesome for the program, awesome for Weber State,” Cantwell said. “It’s great to get a home game, had a really good opponent in Western Illinois and it was a dogfight until the 4th quarter just like we expected. We’re happy to come out with the win.”

“The offense, I felt like we were on and off,” said Cantwell. “I felt like we did good for a couple drives and then we’d take it off. But it was a good thing our defense came to play the whole game. We’ve just got to figure out a way for our offense to have that mentality and that execution like our defense did.”

The Wildcats defense had four sacks, two by Cardon Malan, while Xequille Harry had an interception.

Weber State now travels down south for a rematch with Southern Utah, who beat the Wildcats in Ogden back in October, 32-16.

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