FOOTBALL: Delaware Valley University 34, Wilkes University 14
EDWARDSVILLE (PA) – Delaware Valley University scored two touchdowns in an 81-second span late in the fourth quarter as the 12th-ranked Aggies pulled away to a 34-14 road victory over Wilkes University in a Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) game.
DelVal improved to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the conference as it now prepares for the big showdown at home against defending MAC champion Stevenson University next Saturday, September 23 (12 p.m.). It was also the 30th win in 36 games for fourth-year head coach Duke Greco, making him the fastest coach in program history to accomplish the mark.
The trip to Wilkes (0-3, 0-2 MAC) has always been an adventurous one for the Aggies and this was no different against a pesky Colonel squad that saw freshman Wade Rippeon make his first start at quarterback. A Rippeon touchdown pass to Jeff Steeber late in the third quarter had them trailing by just five, 19-14. Wilkes then had two opportunities to take the lead but were forced to punt each time. DelVal then drove to the Colonel 23 before a Dashawn Darden fourth-down pass was intercepted and Wilkes had another shot as it took over on its own 23 with 6:16 to go.
However, on the third play of the drive, Rippeon made his first rookie mistake and preseason All-American safety Shawn Miller took advantage of it as he picked off a pass and returned it 31 yards for the touchdown. Darden then hit Marquis Ellis for the two-point conversion and a 27-14 lead with 5:17 left.
Eight seconds later following the kickoff, Rippeon was crushed by Christian Snowden on a sack and Snowden also recovered the loose ball at the Colonel 20. Three plays later, Devauntay Ellis punched it into the end zone from three yards out to put the game away with 3:56 remaining.
DelVal struck for the first two touchdowns of the game for a 13-0, first-half lead. The first came with 5:11 left in the opening quarter on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Darden to Marquis Ellis, the third time the two have connected for a score this season. They then proceeded to go on a 14-play, 78-yard scoring drive that took more than six minutes off the clock. They faced a fourth-and-four from the Wilkes 11 at the end of drive and converted for a touchdown as Darden threw to the back corner of the end zone and tight end Dan Allen was there to stretch out and haul it in four minutes into the second quarter
The Colonels just before the intermission as a 13-play, 77-yard drive ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Rippeon to Aaron Coyne. The extra-point cut the DelVal lead to 13-7 with 44 seconds to go. The Aggies did drive to the Wilkes 22-yard line in the final seconds, but a sack and an incomplete pass ended the stanza.
Vinnie Nelson appeared to give DelVal a spark early in the second half as he returned a punt 62 yards to the Colonel 18-yard line. A penalty at the end of the return moved the ball back 10 yards, but the Aggies quickly moved the ball to the two-yard line, Devauntay Ellis got the call, but he was stripped of the ball as he was heading into end zone and Wilkes recovered it for the touchback. It was the first turnover of the year for DelVal.
However, the Colonels gave it right back to the Aggies as Jalen Mayes forced a fumble and Michael Ockimey was there for the recovery at the Wilkes 13. The offense then faced a third-and-four from the seven-yard line when Darden called his own number and found paydirt. Moran's extra-point attempt failed, leaving the score at 19-7 with 5:27 remaining in the third quarter.
Wilkes pulled to within five late in the third and had chances in the fourth, but DelVal defense responded to keep DelVal undefeated.
Senior linebacker Nicholas DiGati finished the evening with 21 tackles (eight solo), just one shy of the school record held by Aggie Hall of Famer Chuck Alpuche against Wilkes in 1980. TJ Waters had nine stops while Snowden finished with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Miller had seven tackles to go along with the pick-six.
Offensively, Darden completed 16 of 30 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for a team-high 92 yards and one score on 13 carries. Devauntay Ellis ran 16 times for 70 yards and a touchdown while Marquis Ellis caught six passes for 59 yards and a score.
Rippeon was 23-for-37 for 160 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for Wilkes. Steeber hauled in six passes for 61 yards and one trip to the end zone. Defensively, Lukas Wood led the way with 17 tackles.