DOVER — For as long as Jamar Baynard can remember, he and Nicholas DiGati have been best friends.
When they were six or seven years old, they played football together in the M.O.T. Pop Warner program.
Then they grew up to help Middletown High win a lot of football games.
“We talk every day,” said Baynard, the Wesley College senior running back.
But on Friday night, Baynard will have to try to run over his old friend when the Wolverines host DiGati and Delaware Valley in their season opener at 6 p.m.
The Wolverines are ranked seventh nationally by D3football.com while the Aggies are No. 25 after going 9-2 a year ago.
This will be the first time that Baynard and DiGati have faced each other on opposite teams. DiGati just transferred to DelVal as a junior and is slated to start at middle linebacker.
“We worked out together over the summer,” said Baynard. “There hasn’t been any trash talk but I’m quite sure whoever gets the ‘W’ will have bragging rights.”
After being the mainstay of Wesley’s running game for the past two seasons, Baynard goes into his senior year having reached elite status in the Wolverines’ record books.
Last fall Baynard broke the school record with 2,037 all-purpose yards. He’s fifth on Wesley’s all-time rushing list (2,657 yards) as well as fifth in scoring with 40 career touchdowns.
Better yet, Baynard has attracted the attention of the NFL. Wesley coach Mike Drass said seven NFL teams have sent scouts to look at the 6-foot, 210-pounder as well as senior receiver Bryce Shade and junior offensive lineman Matt Gono.
It’s Baynard’s ability to catch the ball and block, as well as run, that make him an intriguing possibility.
“Jamar’s different because he’s not a ‘rah-rah’ type guy,” said Drass. “His leadership is by his actions. He’s a senior and we’re still waiting for him to make his first mistake. He’s devoted himself to being a good student and being the best football player he can be.
“Chip and I were talking and it’s like, why would we ever want to take Jamar off the field?” said Drass, referring to offensive coordinator Chip Knapp. “You have Jamar Baynard and you have Bryce Shade. Those guys should never leave your football field and you’ve got to find ways to give them the football, if we’re going to win.”
Baynard is aware that the NFL scouts are there, of course. But he doesn’t want to focus on them.
Instead, Baynard said he’s motivated by all the players and coaches who have helped make him the player he is now.
“Whatever I need to do for the team to win on Friday,” said Baynard, “that’s what I need to do.
“Whatever class you’re in, senior, junior, sophomore or freshman, there’s always room for improvement,” he added. “Every day there’s always something that you need to do better. On film you see it all the time. Nobody reaches that peak.”
Falkenberg to start at QB
Nick Falkenberg will start at quarterback on Friday night based on his performance in a scrimmage against Albright last Friday.
But Drass said there’s a good chance you’ll also see fellow junior Dan Kesack behind center during the contest as well.
“He stepped up in the pocket, he extended plays, he put the ball on the money,” Drass said about Falkenberg. “I thought both quarterbacks had periods were they really were playing strong.
“We may be in a world where we have more than one guy getting reps at quarterback. We’ve prepared them for that and talked to them both about that.”
With last year’s Gagliardi Trophy winner Joe Callahan starting the last three seasons, it will be the first start of Falkenberg’s career.
Robinson a veteran now
Drass remembers the first time he had to put Ben Robinson in a game.
The Wolverines were playing Thomas More in 2014 and the linebacker ahead of Robinson, All-American Sosthene Kapapula, had just gotten ejected from the contest.
“I remember saying, ‘Ben get in,’ and he went in and played like he was a starter,” said Drass. “I remember, after the game, he came up and thanked me for the opportunity. I remember just saying to him, ‘Hey, there was never a doubt that you could play. You’re just playing behind the best linebacker in the country right now.’”
Robinson has only gotten better since then. Now that he’s a senior, Drass said Robinson is playing like the battle-tested veteran that he is.
But Robinson said the biggest thing for him has always been seeing the team succeed.
“It’s about the team and it has to be me second,” he said. “I’ve been out here since May 9 (working out) and I did that for the team. … Not only are they teammates, but they’re my brothers and I care about them. I’d do anything to help my team win and make my coaches proud.
“Time goes by fast. I can remember when I was a freshman and I was just learning and learning. I was behind an All-American and now I’m out there play after play.”
Wesley will honor former coach Bob Andrus at halftime of Friday’s game. Andrus passed away last year. Several family members and former players will be on hand to remember Andrus, who also coached at Dover High. … Delaware Valley has 14 players from Delaware high schools on its roster, including some who started their college careers at Wesley. … After hosting Frostburg State on Sept. 10, Wesley doesn’t play at home again until Oct. 8 when it hosts the College of New Jersey for homecoming.
Reach sports editor Andy Walter at email@example.com