Wesley football notebook: Miller emerges as two-way star

As an offensive player, Wesley’s Capp Miller has gained a total of 474 yards — 183 yards receiving, 89 yards rushing and 202 on 11 kickoff returns. He’s scored one TD, on a reception. On defense, he has 22 tackles with two passes defended along with a pair of interceptions and a forced fumble. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

As an offensive player, Wesley’s Capp Miller has gained a total of 474 yards — 183 yards receiving, 89 yards rushing and 202 on 11 kickoff returns. He’s scored one TD, on a reception. On defense, he has 22 tackles with two passes defended along with a pair of interceptions and a forced fumble. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — It was one of those plays, said Mike Drass, that few safeties could make.

Capp Miller sprinted back 40 yards and dove in the corner of the end zone to pull in an interception.

Miller’s next interception on Saturday was pretty good, too.

This time the Wesley College sophomore picked off the ball at the Stevenson five and returned it past midfield.

“He’s a playmaker,” said Drass, the Wolverines’ veteran football coach. “It’s great to have a free safety that we think is a playmaker.”

No. 18 Wesley (9-2) will probably need all the playmakers it can get on Saturday when it travels to Cleveland to face sixth-ranked John Carroll (10-1) at noon in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Certainly, though, Drass is happy with the way things have worked with having Miller become a two-way player a few weeks ago.

It started out with the 5-foot-9, 155-pound wide receiver playing safety against Salisbury. All he did was collect 11 tackles and force a fumble against the Sea Gulls’ triple option attack.

In the Wolverines’ 38-17 opening-round playoff win over Stevenson, Miller’s two interceptions showed he’s not too bad against the pass, either.
Miller played both ways in high school, too. He said defense has always come naturally to him.

“I don’t know, I just have a knack for being on the defensive side,” said Miller. “My parents, they want me to play full-time defense because they know I’m better at defense. But I like scoring touchdowns.

Against Stevenson, the Wolverines kept track of how many plays Capp Miller was on the field for. It added up to 48 plays on defense, 13 plays on special teams and 11 plays on offense. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Against Stevenson, the Wolverines kept track of how many plays Capp Miller was on the field for. It added up to 48 plays on defense, 13 plays on special teams and 11 plays on offense. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“I actually used to tell them (Wesley’s coaches), ‘Just let me play defense, I can do it.’”

As an offensive player, Miller has gained a total of 474 yards — 183 yards receiving, 89 yards rushing and 202 on 11 kickoff returns. He’s scored one TD, on a reception.

On defense, Miller has 22 tackles with two passes defended along with his pair of interceptions and the forced fumble.

Against Stevenson, the Wolverines kept track of how many plays Miller was on the field for. It added up to 48 plays on defense, 13 plays on special teams and 11 plays on offense.

“So he was on the field 80 percent of the time,” said Drass. “That’s pretty cool.”

Miller knows he’s going to have to be in good shape if he’s going to be on the field that much. He also has to keep up mentally with what both the offense and defense are doing.

But as long as the coaches keep putting him out there, that’s fine with Miller.

“I was a little sore after the first game,” he admitted. “Now I’m fine. I still want to play both next year. Hopefully, he (Drass) still lets me.”

Last-minute heroics

At first, Bryce Shade thought Nick Falkenberg was going to fall.

Bryce Shade’s touchdown catch for a 37-yard TD with only six seconds left before halftime gave the Wolverines a 17-10 advantage at intermission against Stevenson. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Bryce Shade’s touchdown catch for a 37-yard TD with only six seconds left before halftime gave the Wolverines a 17-10 advantage at intermission against Stevenson. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Falkenberg, the Wesley quarterback, stumbled as he rolled out to his right on the play at the end of the first half against Stevenson.

Then, after Falkenberg flung the ball toward the crowd of players in the end zone, the 5-foot-8 Shade didn’t think it would get through all those hands.

“I was surprised it got there,” said Shade. “But, once I saw it in the air, I knew it had it.”

Shade did indeed make the catch for a 37-yard TD with only six seconds left before halftime. It gave the Wolverines a 17-10 advantage at intermission.

But late second-quarter heroics are nothing new for Wesley.

The Wolverines have scored in the final 24 seconds of the second quarter in seven straight games. They’ve scored TDs in the last four games of that streak with three field goals before that.

Most of the last-minute scoring drives have been fairly long ones, too, averaging 64 yards and 7.3 plays.

“It has us going into halftime feeling good,” said Shade. “It also puts the other team down.”

“With Coach (Chip) Knapp, our philosophy has always been, it doesn’t matter if it’s 12 seconds (left),” Drass said about Wesley’s offensive coordinator. “We want to score. … If we can score and then score again (to start the third quarter), that’s a 14-point swing. That’s kind of a death blow if you can do it.”

Historic moment

Wesley’s opponent this week, John Carroll, was just in the national spotlight two weeks ago when it toppled mighty Mount Union.

The Blue Flash’s 31-28 win over the Purple Raiders ended an NCAA-record 112-game regular-season winning streak for Mount Union.

The win made the national news that evening, a rarity for a Division III program.

“This is something that you dream about,” John Carroll coach Tom Arth said after the victory.

The Wolverines, of course, know all about facing Mount Union, having played several memorable playoff games with the Purple Raiders in recent years.

“I told our kids that this an elite team right now,” Drass said about John Carroll. “They beat the No. 1 team in the country. And you can see on film, they beat them. They are as good a team as you would think they would be.

“(But) I told our guys, this isn’t new territory for this team. Whether it was Mount Union or Mary Hardin-Baylor or Linfield, we’ve played teams who are considered elite teams.”

Extra points

Saturday’s game will be played at Don Shula Stadium. Shula, the NFL Hall of Fame coach, played halfback for John Carroll in the late 1940s. … Jamar Baynard’s 36 rushing attempts against Stevenson was a lot but it was still short of the school-record 48 carries that Brandon Steinheim had against Jersey City State in 1996. … Luke Assanesi, the nine-year-old son of assistant coach Steve Assanesi, was in charge of charting how many plays that Miller was on the field for against Stevenson. It came in handy one play when the youngster told his dad that Miller was in once when he wasn’t supposed to be. Wesley was able to get Miller off the field before receiving a penalty.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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