November 28, 2012

South's beasts meet again

More news about: Mary Hardin-Baylor | Wesley
Although Wesley's coach says he's seen better linebackers than Javicz Jones, it's because they also played for Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Mary Hardin-Baylor athletics photo 

By Adam Turer
D3sports.com

Finally, they came to their senses and scheduled a regular season game.

After meeting in six of the past seven postseasons, Wesley and Mary Hardin-Baylor delayed the seemingly inevitable and met this year in Dover on Sept. 15. The Cru improved their all-time record against the Wolverines to 3-4 with a 32-25 victory. It is little surprise that, once again, one of these two teams will end the other’s season. This time, there is more familiarity than ever before.

“You feel like you know them a little bit more,” said Crusaders defensive coordinator Larry Harmon about preparing for the Wolverines for the second time this season. “We’re starting with an understanding of how they utilize their different skill kids, more than if we were going in to this game cold turkey.”

Physically, the teams have not changed much since Week 3. Any edge gained from the prior meeting is likely to be of the mental variety.

“We’re able to look at them and what they were thinking in Week 3,” said Wesley coach Mike Drass. “When I look back at that film, they were the better team that day.”

While they never fell below No. 6 in the Top 25 poll this season, it took the Wolverines some time to hit their stride. Wesley trailed in six of its first eight games, but rallied to defeat every opponent outside of the Cru. In its last three games, including two playoff wins, Wesley has outscored opponents 176-20.

“Coming into this year, we didn’t have any big-name type players,” said Drass. “We’ve progressively gotten better throughout the season and formed our own identity. I think we have a lot more confidence in ourselves now.”

While Wesley has steadily improved, Mary Hardin-Baylor has dominated. A fourth quarter rally to defeat Hardin-Simmons on October 20 is the toughest test the Cru has faced since seeing the Wolverines. UMHB averages over 51 points per game, second only to Mount Union, and wins by an average of 33 points per game.

“I think they’re playing with extreme confidence, and rightfully so,” said Drass.

Just a sophomore, Sosthene Kapepula has already had a big impact in the UMHB-Wesley rivalry.
Wesley athletics photo 

One thing from the regular season meeting that remains unchanged for both teams can be found at the top of the individual defensive stat line. UMHB linebacker Javicz Jones and Wesley linebacker Sosthene Kapepula continue to lead their team in tackles. As two of the most athletic linebackers in the country, each playmaker has the ability to change a game’s momentum.

“We’re fortunate that our best playmaker is Javicz,” said Harmon. “He makes it go for us. He’s pretty phenomenal.”

Jones, a senior, is the latest in a line of big-play linebackers at Mary Hardin-Baylor. He met with former Crusader and current Indianapolis Colt Jerrell Freeman before and after the Cru’s regular season finale on Nov. 10. The two talked more about life than football, said Jones. But there are similarities between the two players on the field. Jones is among the nation’s leaders with 111 tackles, seven interceptions, and four defensive touchdowns.

“I’ve seen a couple of better linebackers better than him over the years, but they both played for Mary Hardin-Baylor and one of them is in the NFL right now,” said Drass.

Jones remains humble in the face of the comparisons to Freeman, who currently ranks fifth in the NFL in tackles. He is the heart and soul of the Cru defense that held Franklin 24 points below its scoring average a week after holding Louisiana College 15 points below its season average.

“I enjoy being blessed to have the opportunity to be out there making plays,” said Jones. “As a child, I was taught to just run to the ball, so that’s what I do. Once I’m on the field, I’m just having fun.”

The Wolverines have their own playmaking linebacker. Just a sophomore, Kapepula has asserted himself as a leader on defense, tallying 102 tackles, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries so far this year. His 28-yard scoop and score — Wesley’s second defensive touchdown in the first 2:06 of the game — set the tone for the Wolverines’ 56-6 rout of Cortland State last week.

“Guys gravitate to him naturally and follow his lead,” said Drass. “I look at him in the same mold as [Jones]. He’s a tenacious player who plays throughout the entire play.”

Kapepula worked his way into the starting lineup late in his freshman year and had his best performance in the 2011 playoff win over Mary Hardin-Baylor, notching 14 tackles and an interception. He batted away LiDarral Bailey’s final pass attempt to seal the victory. He dedicated himself in the offseason to taking a leap between his first and second seasons.

“It starts with the relationship between me and my coaches, especially my linebacker coach, Tim Kane,” said Kapepula. “I stayed here over the summer and worked toward taking that leadership role.”

Both Jones and Kapepula will be counted on to make big plays on Saturday. Their leadership of the defensive units will be just as vital as their performance on the field.

“We need to stop them on third down and get the ball back to our offense,” said Drass.

Defense was the key to the first matchup this season, and will be the key again on Saturday.

“We felt like we could hold our own and control the line of scrimmage,” said Harmon of his unit’s mindset going into the September meeting. “That’s been the difference in who wins and loses this game over the years.”

Sep. 1: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Coast Guard at Anna Maria
7:00 PM
Defiance at Baldwin Wallace
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Johns Hopkins
7:30 PM
Trine at Manchester
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Millsaps at Belhaven
Sep. 2: All times Eastern
TBA
Muhlenberg at Wilkes
6:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Mount Ida
6:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Wesley
7:00 PM
N.C. Wesleyan at Stevenson
7:00 PM
Western New England at Springfield
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Fitchburg State at Becker
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Albright at Salisbury
7:00 PM
WPI at MIT
7:00 PM
Salve Regina at Worcester State
7:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Curry
7:00 PM
Morrisville State at St. Lawrence
10:00 PM
Adrian at Pacific
Sep. 3: All times Eastern
TBA
Endicott at Framingham State
TBA
King's at Moravian
Live Stats
TBA
Wisconsin Lutheran at Trinity Int'l
TBA
UW-Platteville at George Fox
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Washington U. at Carnegie Mellon
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Chicago at Case Western Reserve
12:00 PM
Husson at Alfred
12:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Cortland at Heidelberg
12:00 PM
Otterbein at Buffalo State
12:00 PM
Ursinus at Bethany
12:00 PM
Sewanee at Kenyon
1:00 PM
Kean at Christopher Newport
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Catholic
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
1:00 PM
Plymouth State at Castleton
Live Stats
1:00 PM
RPI at Norwich
1:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Dickinson
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Kalamazoo
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Ferrum
1:00 PM
Wooster at Washington and Jefferson
1:00 PM
Alfred State at William Paterson
1:00 PM
St. Vincent at Alma
1:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Olivet at St. John Fisher
1:00 PM
Rowan at Widener
1:00 PM
Hobart at Brockport
1:00 PM
Union at Ithaca
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Lycoming
1:00 PM
Utica at Misericordia
1:00 PM
The Apprentice School at Methodist
1:00 PM
TCNJ at UW-Whitewater
1:30 PM
Wilmington at Bluffton
1:30 PM
Monmouth at Hope
1:30 PM
Bridgewater at Gettysburg
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
Juniata at Grove City
2:00 PM
Lakeland at Carroll
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at St. Norbert
2:00 PM
Austin at Hendrix
2:00 PM
Maranatha Baptist at Martin Luther
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Millikin at Greenville
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Eureka at Knox
Live Stats
2:00 PM
MacMurray at Rockford
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at Westminster (Mo.)
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Luther
2:00 PM
Beloit at Lake Forest
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Jamestown
2:00 PM
Crown at Hamline
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Carleton at Macalester
2:00 PM
Bethel at Dubuque
2:00 PM
St. Scholastica at St. John's
Live Stats
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Grinnell
2:00 PM
Buena Vista at Mayville St.
2:00 PM
Simpson at UW-Stout
2:00 PM
Aurora at Carthage
2:00 PM
UW-River Falls at Coe
2:00 PM
Ripon at Concordia-Chicago
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Loras
2:00 PM
Huntingdon at Louisiana College
2:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Robert Morris-Chicago
2:00 PM
Benedictine at Wheaton (Ill.)
2:00 PM
John Carroll at UW-Oshkosh
2:30 PM
Southern Virginia at Earlham
Live Stats
2:30 PM
Lawrence at Presentation
4:00 PM
La Verne at Puget Sound
Live Stats
4:00 PM
Central at Whitworth
5:00 PM
Hartwick at Western Connecticut
6:00 PM
Wabash at Albion
6:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Berry
6:00 PM
Augustana at Mount St. Joseph
6:00 PM
Thomas More at Franklin
Live Stats
6:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Averett
6:00 PM
Redlands at Trinity (Texas)
7:00 PM
Marietta at Denison
7:00 PM
Hiram at Westminster (Pa.)
7:00 PM
Thiel at Allegheny
7:00 PM
Capital at Wittenberg
7:00 PM
Shenandoah at Gallaudet
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Illinois College at Rose-Hulman
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Geneva at Frostburg State
7:00 PM
Nichols at Westfield State
7:00 PM
Greensboro at Guilford
Live Stats
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
7:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Southwestern
7:00 PM
Anderson at North Park
7:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Mary Hardin-Baylor
7:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Texas Lutheran
7:10 PM
St. Thomas at UW-Eau Claire
Video Live Stats
7:30 PM
Hanover at Centre
8:00 PM
Willamette at Rhodes
8:00 PM
Cornell at Iowa Wesleyan
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Augsburg at Northwestern (Minn.)
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Southwestern Assemblies at Howard Payne
8:00 PM
Sul Ross State at UT-Permian Basin
Dec. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 49, at St. Thomas 35
@ Salem, Va.
Box Score Recap Recap Photos