Wesley QB Callahan overcomes injury scare

BALTIMORE, Md. ­­— Joe Callahan is pretty good at scrambling away from opposing defensive players.

But it turns out that the Wesley College star quarterback isn’t so good at scrambling away from his mom.

It seems that, last Monday, Callahan was sleeping in his room at his parents’ house when his mom came in to turn off a light.

“It was pitch black and I saw someone standing over top of me,” said Callahan, picking up the story. “I woke up and sprinted out of the room. As I was rounding the corner to go down the stairs, I slipped.”

As he fell, Callahan slammed his head into the banister.Wesley football-Callahan-Mt. Union-2014 by .

“When I turned around, my mom was like, ‘Oh my gosh, your head,’” he said.

Callahan had suffered a nasty gash on the right side of his forehead. The cut went down to the skull.

Doctors at the emergency room used both stitches and glue to close up the wound.

The Wolverines’ senior QB came through the incident just fine, but not before putting a scare into his coach, Mike Drass.

“Believe me,” said Drass, “my heart skipped a beat Monday night.”

So maybe Callahan’s head injury accounted for the uncharacteristic three first-quarter interceptions he threw in Wesley’s NCAA Division III playoff game at Johns Hopkins on Saturday. He had tossed just seven interceptions total in the Wolverines’ first 11 games.

Nobody on the Wolverines’ sidelines was complaining, though, after Callahan led Wesley to a 42-37 victory over the Blue Jays in the second-round playoff game.

Callahan’s performance was just more evidence of why he’s considered one of the best football players ever at No. 11 Wesley (11-1), which travels to No. 1 Mount Union (12-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m. EDT for a national quarterfinal matchup.

In the win over Hopkins, Callahan completed 34-of-47 for 469 yards with four touchdowns. He also ran for 66 yards and a TD on 15 carries (77 yards if you don’t count the 11 yards he lost on two sacks).

In the process, Callahan broke the NCAA Division III single-season record for passing yards with 4,684 this year.

“That was an ugly start,” he admitted. “It got me upset. Maybe it affected me on one drive after the third pick. … Luckily, as an offense, we were able to bounce back and I guess I calmed down a little bit.”

Callahan may have been at his best on a third-quarter play with the Wolverines leading the Blue Jays only 21-17. Facing a fourth-and-short at its own 32, Wesley made the calculated risk of going for it.

Callahan drew a couple Hopkins’ defenders offside with his cadence and then — knowing he had nothing to lose — fired a deep pass to receiver James Okike, who caught it for a 55-yard gain to the Jays’ 13. Three plays later, Callahan hit tight end Kyle George with a seven-yard TD pass.

“It’s a no-brainer for us,” said Drass. “We’re always going to go for it. Our mentality is we want to put pressure on the opposing defense at all times.

“I feel Joe is the best football player in the country and I’m going to put the ball in his hands every time.”

One of 10 finalists for Division III’s Gagliardi Trophy, Callahan is going to have to be at his best for Wesley to have a chance against mighty Mount Union.

Of course, Callahan had a monster performance against the Purple Raiders two years ago. A sophomore at the time, he completed 35-of-52 for 633 yards with eight touchdowns in the Wolverines’ remarkable 62-59 loss.

Including last year’s 70-21 semifinal setback at Mount Union, Callahan is an amazing 74-of-121 for 1,073 yards and nine TDs in just two games.

Of course, he’s also thrown a total of eight interceptions in those two contests. That includes having one interception returned for a touchdown in each game.

Clearly, both Callahan and the Wolverines have something to prove to the Purple Raiders at they return to Alliance, Ohio for the third straight year.

“I’m just excited for it,” Callahan said after the win over Hopkins. “I’m glad the season didn’t end today, obviously.

“You always want to get another shot at the team that you lost to the past two seasons. They’re the No. 1 team in the country – you always want to see how you do against the top teams. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to almost all year. It’s the last chance for me to go up against Mount Union.

“It’s the not the way we expected to have that game go,” he said about last year’s 70-21 rout. “Things can break down so quickly. I guess, in preparing, it’s something we’ll have in the back of our minds.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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