Courtesy of Wesley Athletics
SALISBRURY, Md. - A 27-yard fade to Ellis Krout (Dallas, Texas/Roosevelt) midway through the first quarter lifted No. 3 Wesley to a 17-14 win at Salisbury in the Route 13 Rivalry.
The win gave Wesley (8-0, 3-0 ACFC) its sixth straight Atlantic Central Football Conference Championship in what will be the conference's final year. It was also the Wolverines' 19th straight win in conference play.
"The Atlantic Central Football Conference has always been special to Wesley College," said head coach Mike Drass. "As someone who has coached in the conference since its inception, it is very special to have the last championship with us."
The Wolverines entered the game with the No. 1 defense in Division III squaring off with Salisbury's (6-2, 1-1 ACFC) offense, ranked fifth. It was the Wesley defense that ruled the day, however, holding a Sea Gull offense averaging over 500 yards per game to just 188. The Wolverines also limited Salisbury's second ranked rush offense that averaged 442 yards per game to just 164.
"It was a great win," Drass noted. "Both teams played hard, but we were able to come back and get the win. We had to adjust to their counter option and load option, but made the necessary adjustments. They average about 450 yards rushing, but we kept them in check for most of the day."
The game did not start out as the defensive struggle it turned into. Jeremiah Howe (Cambridge, Md./Cambridge South) returned the opening kick 41 yards into Salisbury territory. Justin Sottilare (Columbia, Md./Oakland Mills) then hit Krout for 33 yards on the game's first play from scrimmage. After an 18-yard run by Brandon Wright (Clayton, N.J./Clayton), Chris Cummings (Newark, Del./Newark) plunged in for a one-yard score less than two minutes into the contest.
The Sea Gulls answered immediately with a 10-play, 84-yard drive to tie the score. Brandon Norwood had a 49-yard run on the series and later scored on a three-yard run. After Paul Moore intercepted Wesley on the next possession, Bryan Woolson scored on a run of 29 yards for a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
That was about all the offense Wesley would allow, however. After Salisbury piled up 124 rushing yards in the opening quarter, the Wolverines surrendered just 40 more yards on 36 carries in the final 45 minutes - an average of just over one yard per carry.
"We really just had to make a couple detail adjustments," senior Aaron Benson (Swarthmore, Pa./Strath Haven) said after the game. "That's how it is against the option, if you miss the details, they'll make a big play. We didn't play bad in the first quarter, we just needed to pay attention to the details."
In the second quarter, Chris Mayes (Waldorf, Md./Westlake) stopped an 11-play drive for Salisbury when he forced quarterback Dan Griffin to fumble and returned it to the Sea Gull 46. Two penalties helped keep the drive alive for Wesley before the Wolverines pulled to within 14-10 on a 20-yard field goal by Dan Tryon (Wilmington, Del./Salesianum).
Later in the period, Marcus Wilson (Pennsauken, N.J./Camden Catholic) intercepted Griffin, but the Wesley threat was ended by a pick by Ricky Cassidy on the next play.
Wesley fumbled a punt in the fourth quarter, but Benson was there to fall on the football and keep possession for the Wolverines. Then, a Wesley offense that was quiet most of the afternoon came to life. The Wolverines reeled off five plays of at least 10 yards on the series, including each of the last four snaps culminating in Krout's 27-yard score with 8:44 left.
Mayes sacked Griffin on third down to force a Sea Gull punt and Wesley managed to run the clock down to just 1:35 before punting themselves. Benson sealed the victory with an interception on first down.
Wesley stymied the duo of Griffin and Randal Smedley all day. The two combined for 1,947 yards entering the game and over eight yards per carry, but the Wolverines held them to a combined 17 yards on 35 carries.
Mayes finished the day with seven tackles, four for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Mike Asiedu (Yonkers, N.Y./Gorton) had a game-high 10 stops.
Wright, who missed most of the first half after getting injured on the opening drive, returned to lead all players with 79 rushing yards on 13 carries. 61 of his rush yards came in the second half.
Sottilare went just 11-for-30 passing on the day and was picked off twice, but bounced back to complete five of his last seven including the game-winning score. Krout caught four passes for 97 yards. Six other players had at least one reception.
The Wolverines are idle before hosting Kean on November 13 at Scott D. Miller Stadium.