DOYLESTOWN (PA) – Delaware Valley College won its seventh game in a row and set up a showdown next week with Widener University for the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) championship as the Aggies downed visiting Wilkes University, 23-7.
Delaware Valley, which had its week of preparation interrupted by Hurricane Sandy (classes were cancelled all week and the team did not get together until Wednesday), improved to 7-2 overall and 7-1 in the MAC. The Aggies began the year 0-2, including a conference loss to Lycoming, but bounced back to put itself in position for a fifth consecutive MAC championship (shared title in 2008, outright titles in 2009, 2010, 2011).
Widener is undefeated while both Delaware Valley and Lycoming have one loss in conference play. The Pride can claim the outright championship and the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs with a win next Saturday. An Aggie victory would create a three-way tie for the MAC crown (all three would be recognized as champions) and the tiebreaker for the NCAA berth would come down to point differential among the tied teams (with a cap of 17 points per game). If Delaware Valley wins by 15 or fewer points, Lycoming would get the automatic berth thanks to a plus-five in the tiebreaker (won by 10 over Delaware Valley, lost by five to Widener). However, an Aggie victory by 16 or more points would put them at least a plus-six and they would claim the NCAA berth for the fourth consecutive year.
Saturday was Senior Day at Delaware Valley as the team honored its 15 seniors before the contest. A senior then came up with the first big play of the game as safety John Robinson stepped in front of a Tyler Berntsen screen pass and raced 41 yards for a touchdown. Brandon Snyder added the extra-point for a 7-0 advantage exactly two minutes in.
Wilkes (4-5, 3-5 MAC) went three-and-out on its next drive and the Aggies took over on their own 45-yard line. A 19-yard run by quarterback Aaron Wilmer was followed by a 14-yard pass from Wilmer to Chris Ruiz and a 13-yard scamper by tailback Kyle Schuberth to put the ball at the Colonel 13. A short pass to the 10-yard line brought up second down and Wilmer then scrambled away from a pass rush and raced into the end zone. Snyder's boot made it 14-0 with 9:11 remaining in the opening quarter.
Delaware Valley stopped Wilkes again and took over near midfield. The Aggies drove to the Colonel 29,bud Snyder's 46-yard field goal fell short. However, the offense got the ball back four plays later as senior cornerback Terrance Osborne intercepted an Alex George pass and returned it 31 yard to the Wilkes 27-yard line. Later in the drive, Wilmer scrambled away from trouble again and went untouched into the end zone from 15 yards out. Snyder hit the extra-point and Delaware Valley had a 21-0 lead with just 14 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Aggies struggled to move the ball into the wind for the second and third quarters, but picked up the lone points during that span as a snap on a Wilkes punt went into the end zone and a Colonel player fell on top of it for a safety. It came with 9:20 remaining in the third and gave Delaware Valley a 23-0 advantage.
Wilkes got on the scoreboard thanks to its defense as Marcus Leaf intercepted a Wilmer fourth-down pass and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown. Jordan Fredo hit the point-after to cut the Aggie lead down to 23-7 with 12:51 remaining in the contest.
Later in the fourth, the Colonels went on a 16-play drive and looked to make it a one-score game. They reached the Delaware Valley seven-yard line and faced fourth-and-goal. Berntsen scrambled to get away from the Aggie pass rush, but was brought down three yards shy of the end zone to turn the ball on downs with 46 seconds left. Delaware Valley then ran out the clock to finish off the win.
The Aggies finished the afternoon with 319 yards of total offense, including 241 on the ground. Schuberth went over the 100-yard mark as he netted 114 yards on 18 carries. Wilmer ran for 90 yards and two scores on 15 carries and completed 12 of 28 passes for 78 yards in the air. Chris Ruiz hauled in five passes and the senior became just the ninth player in school history to surpass the 100-reception mark for his career.
Meanwhile, the Delaware Valley defense held Wilkes to just 185 total yards (107 rushing, 78 passing). Robinson had four tackles and two interceptions while fellow senior Jared Pattinson added seven tackles and 2.5 sacks from his nose guard position. Linebacker John Marcelline added seven stops and 1.5 sacks in the win.
Berntsen and George combined to go 9-for-28 for 78 yards and three interceptions. Patrick Ingulli and Calvin Garvin rushed for 30 yards apiece. Tate Moore-Jacobs notched a game-high 12 tackles.