Pack wants to go out a winner at Wesley

Dover High grad Marcellus Pack has helped lead Wesley back to the NCAA Division III tournament.

DOVER — Six years later, Marcellus Pack still thinks about it.

Or, more accurately, he dreams about it.

The former Dover High standout running back and his teammates were locked in overtime with Salesianum in the 2013 DIAA Division I football state semifinals.

The Sals scored on the first OT possession. But a touchdown and PAT kick could still win it for the Senators.

The final play looked like it was supposed to go to Pack but then the ball was on the ground. The Sals recovered the fumble.

Sallies’ players stormed off the field in celebration. Dover’s players dropped to their knees in tears.

“I still have dreams about that day,” said Pack, now a senior running back for Wesley College. “That was my senior year, the semifinals — the game before the state championship.

“That one play basically turned the game around. … (but) at the end of the day, we left a lot of plays out there. It was definitely a great game. I just wish we would have come out on top. It’s not a bad dream, it’s just something that’s pushed me.”

In some ways, Pack considers this his second chance to win a title.

On Saturday, he and No. 10 Wesley (9-1) will host Framingham State (8-2) at noon in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

As a senior, the 25-year-old Pack knows his next loss will be his last. That’s all the motivation he needs to not look any farther ahead than Saturday’s contest.

“It’s very exciting to be in the playoffs,” said Pack. “It brings out a different animal in some players — hopefully in most all our players.”

Pack has come full circle in his two years at Wesley.

Last year, the Wolverines looked at the 5-foot-8, 170-pounder at receiver, defensive back and kick returner. But he settled in back at tailback this fall — which was especially important after standout E.J. Lee was lost for the season with a foot injury.

Pack has run for over 100 yards in three of the Wolverines’ last six games. That includes a 170-yard, two-TD effort against Kean two weeks ago.

In basically eight games, Pack has totaled a team-high 595 yards and seven touchdowns and is putting up a team-best 148.3 all-purpose yards per game. He’s gotten loose for an 87-yard run, a 65-yard kick return and a 41-yard reception.

“We know Marcellus is a great athlete, very explosive,” said Wesley coach Chip Knapp. “Whatever he’s doing on the football field, he’s probably the fastest guy out there.

“When we came into this season, we were like, we’ve got to get him the ball. And the easiest way to get him the ball is to hand it to him. … Tailback has been a great spot for him. Now that he’s gotten the opportunity, he’s flourished in there.

“He’s a touchdown waiting to happen, at any time,” Knapp added. “It’s hard to take him out of the game because you know, the next play, he can take it to the house.”

“I just had to step up once E.J. went down,” said Pack. “Somebody had to step up and fill up his shoes. I haven’t filled them completely but I’m making the plays that I’m supposed to make — showing up, blocking, learning every day, getting better.”

Breaking off some long runs — like he did at Dover High — makes Pack feel like he’s still got it. But he’s in a much different place that he was six years ago.

The father of a one-year-old daughter, he’s thinking about the future, not the past.

“I wouldn’t go back and change anything, the way I did it,” said Pack. “At the end of the day, I’m going to have a degree. Everybody in my family is going to be taken care of.

“I would have regretted it if I didn’t play (at Wesley). But now that I’m here and I’m playing, I don’t regret anything that happened.” 

Fry to get start

In some ways, it was never a question of if Drew Fry was going to start at quarterback for Wesley, it was more a question of when.

Apparently, that day has come.

Knapp said on Wednesday that the former Middletown High standout will get his first collegiate start in Saturday’s playoff game.

The freshman saw his most extensive playing time last week against Christopher Newport when he completed 8-of-10 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns. The performance earned him New Jersey Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week honors.

“Any time you change your starting quarterback, it’s a difficult thing to do,” said Knapp. “John Mullin and Dave Marracco have done a great job. But with what Drew Fry has shown in practice, his physical skills. … now that he’s progressed to the point where he is comfortable with the offense — and also what he displayed on the field last week — we’ve made that decision to start him.

“We think his big-play capability and his throwing accuracy is too much to let him sit on the sideline.”

Still a thrill

Hearing that Wesley was in this year’s NCAA Division III playoff bracket was as exciting as ever for Knapp — even if it is the Wolverines’ 15th bid since 2000.

The NCAA helped add to the excitement by making Wesley the second-to-last pairing announced in the 32-team field.

“It was a little nerve-wracking,” said Knapp. “But I was pretty confident. I remember the first time we went to the playoffs, in 2000, we were the very last team selected and it was kind of a flashback to that.

“It’s an exciting time. It kind of puts us on a national stage with everyone, back to where we’ve been.”

Wesley is 29-14 all-time in the playoffs and hasn’t lost in the first round since its initial appearance in 2000.

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