Callahan seeks more glory as Wesley faces Hopkins in tourney

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Wesley QB Joe Callahan spots a receiver during last week’s playoff win over Framingham State. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — The moment would definitely be on Joe Callahan’s career highlight reel.

Wesley College’s football team was trailing Johns Hopkins by a point, the end zone was 82 yards away and there were just 44 seconds on the clock.

Three Callahan-to-Steve Koudossou passes later, the Wolverines had stunned the Blue Jays, 29-24, in the 2013 NCAA Division III playoffs.

Callahan’s 33-yard touchdown strike to Koudossou with just 13 seconds left was the difference.

“That was one of the most memorable games I think I’ve ever played in,” Callahan said last week.

Today, Callahan and the 11th-ranked Wolverines will return to Hopkins’ Homewood Field to face the No. 8 Blue Jays (11-0) at noon in the second round of the playoffs.

With Callahan a senior now, it could be the final game of the quarterback’s storied Wesley career.

Earlier this week, he was named a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, which goes to the top player in Division III. It’s the second straight year that Callahan has been a finalist for the prestigious national award.

There’s no question in offensive coordinator Chip Knapp’s mind that Callahan is one of the best football players Wesley has ever produced.

“He’s a legend here at Wesley football with what it’s turned into — all the great things he’s doing,” said Knapp. “I’m just hoping people appreciate what they’re seeing out there.

“He knows the offense and the defense — that mental side, he’s very strong at that. He’s one of the most accurate quarterbacks. He has a great ability to know when to improvise and when to stick with the play. Some quarterbacks will get out of the play early and some quarterbacks will stick with the play too long. He has that great balance between those two.”

Callahan leads Division III in every major passing category this season. His career numbers are pretty remarkable: 12,030 passing yards, 12,541 total yards, 850 completions and 122 touchdown passes.

The Wolverines’ record of 32-6 with Callahan as a starter isn’t too shabby, either. On Wednesday, Callahan was named the Division III Player of the Year by the Brooks-Irvine Memorial Football Club in his native New Jersey.

Callahan is only the third Wolverine to be a finalist for the Gagliardi, joining former running back Brandon Steinheim and safety Rocky Myers, the 2004 winner.

“When you talk about a player of the year for the entire country, that’s exciting stuff,” said Wesley coach Mike Drass. “I know I’m biased, but if there’s a better football player, I’d like to see him.”

“He’s a great guy, on and off the field,” said freshman receiver Alex Kemp. “He’s fun to be around.”

At the same time, Drass knows that Hopkins’ junior QB Jonathan Germano is capable of making a lot of big plays today, too. He’s the main cog in a Blue Jay offense that is eighth nationally in scoring (46.5 points) and 11th in total offense (508,8 yards).

Of course, the Blue Jays also have plenty of motivation after what happened in 2013.

“I’d be lying if I told you I don’t think about the Wesley game often,” Hopkins linebacker Keith Corliss was quoted on D3football.com. “To lose the way we did two years ago against Wesley on our home field, that’s tough. It’s definitely something you remember. It does add a little bit of inspiration. It’s in the past. We don’t harp on it. We’re not upset about it anymore but it would be nice to get our revenge in a sense.”

Callahan, on the other hand, would love it if history repeated itself.

But it wasn’t easy to get a win in 2013 and he doesn’t expect it will be easy today.

“Obviously they’re a great team,” Callahan said about Hopkins. “We know what we’re going down there to face and what we have to do to win.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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