DOYLESTOWN (PA) – Delaware Valley University used the big play all afternoon and scored on offense, defense and special teams as the fifth-ranked and undefeated Aggies blanked visiting Western New England University, 35-0, in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs,
DelVal improved to 11-0 on the season and will now face Husson College (Bangor, Maine) for a right to go to the quarterfinals next Saturday, November 25. Husson advanced thanks to a 23-21 victory over 19th-ranked Springfield College. The NCAA does not officially announce the hosts for the next round until Sunday evening (check DelVal athletics social media and website on Sunday night for more information).
For Western New England, the Golden Bears had their season come to an end with an 8-3 overall record, a Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) championship and their third straight trip to the NCAAs.
The Aggies had three touchdowns of 50 or more yards while the remaining two scores were set up by big plays as well. The defense, which entered the game ranked third in Division III with nine points allowed per game, notched its second shutout of the year and forced three turnovers against a Western New England offense that lost the ball just nine times all year.
The two teams combined for five punts on the first five possessions of the game. A sixth looked likely as DelVal faced a third-and-12 from its own 33-yard line. However, Aaron Nelson got behind the secondary and quarterback Dashawn Darden hit him in stride for a 67-yard touchdown pass. Colin Fasolka added the extra-point for a 7-0 Aggie lead with just 23 seconds left in the first quarter.
DelVal drove deep into Golden Bear territory on its next drive, but Fasolka's 23-yard field goal attempt went wide left. Later in the half, Western New England was forced to punt and a line drive boot was caught by Vinnie Nelson at midfield. Vinnie Nelson appeared to be stopped, but he broke loose from the pack and raced 50 yards for his second punt return touchdown of the season (tying the school's single-season and career records in that category. Fasolka's point after made it 14-0 with 1:59 to go before the intermission.
The Golden Bears quickly moved the ball down the field and an Anthony Service 25-yard keeper put the ball at the Aggie five. However, on the next play, Service was intercepted by Sammy Mohr in the back of the end zone with 19 seconds left to preserve the DelVal two-score lead.
The Aggies upped their advantage to 21-0 with 4:44 left in the third quarter as Khalil Roane scored on a one-yard plunge. Roane set up his own score by catching a 48-yard pass out of the backfield on the first play of the drive.
DelVal's defense then set up one score and found the end zone itself in the waning moments for the 35-0 final. First, Western New England had a 15-play, 63-yard drive that put the ball at the Aggie 31. Service threw towards the end zone and DelVal safety Shawn Miller picked it off at the one and he raced 84 yards before being tackled at the Golden Bear 15. A facemask penalty on the stop of Miller placed the ball inside the 10 and LaQuille Nesbitt scored from eight yards out with 3:41 remaining.
Then with 38 seconds to go, Mohr stepped in front of a pass in the end zone and returned the interception 100 yards. It tied for the longest play in school history and it was also Mohr's third career interception return for a touchdown, tying that all-time mark as well.
Western New England outgained the Aggies, 355-296, and had 24 of the game's 33 first downs. Service was 22-for-42 for 196 yards and three interceptions. Dante Aiken ran for 98 yards on 21 carries while Jared Wolfe hauled in seven passes for 79 yards. Linebacker Tim Huffman led the defensive charge with 10 tackles and one sack.
For DelVal, Darden was 7-for-15 for 195 yards and one score. Roane and Nesbitt combined for 64 yards and two touchdowns on the ground while Roane caught four passes for 67 yards. Aaron Nelson had two receptions for 121 yards and the opening score.
Defensively, linebacker Nicholas DiGati led the way with 13 tackles and a sack while nose guard Marc Isaac notched 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Miller had eight tackles to go along with his interception and linebacker TJ Waters was credited with eight stops in the win.