Route 13 Rivalry: Sea Gulls pile up 417 rushing yards to beat Wolverines 45-38

Wesley’s Ruhann Peele is tackled during Saturday’s NJAC game in Salisbury. Salisbury sports information

SALISBURY, Md. — For two decades, Wesley College has dominated Salisbury in large part because of one thing.

The Wolverines don’t let the Sea Gulls’ vaunted triple-option offense beat them.

But this time was different.

Wesley couldn’t get Salisbury off the field in the second half as the No. 14 Sea Gulls finally put away a 45-38 victory over the No. 12 Wolverines in their annual Route 13 Rivalry showdown at Sea Gull Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Wesley (1-1 NJAC, 4-1 overall) had won three in a row and 16 of the last 20 meetings with Salisbury (2-0 NJAC, 4-0 overall). Now, however, it is the Gulls who control their own destiny in the battle for the NJAC’s automatic NCAA Division III playoff berth.

Salisbury put up 417 rushing yards and held a 16-minute edge in time of possession. That’s how the Gulls were able to take a 24-21 halftime lead and then never let the Wolverines catch them.

Wesley closed within 45-38 on Ruhann Peele’s 19-yard touchdown catch from John Mullin with 1:51 left. But Salisbury recovered the ensuing onsides kick, picked up one first down and ran out the clock.

“They were executing the plays they were supposed to make,” said linebacker Dante Daniel, who had a team-high 12 tackles. “We had a lot of missed tackles, a lot of missed assignments — that happens in a football game.

“It’s the triple option. It’s a difficult offense to defend. In any type of situation, you’ve got to always be on your feet, always be aware of what’s going on. Sometimes they get the best of you, sometimes they don’t.”

“They made more plays than us today,” said Peele. “They were the better team. We could have executed a little better on offense. We fought hard — our effort and energy were there — we stuck together as a team but we just fell short.”

Salisbury quarterback Jack Lanham kept Wesley on its heels, running 17 times for 139 yards and a touchdown when he wasn’t pitching the ball at the last second to set up one of the Gulls’ running backs. Salisbury had five players run for at least 45 yards, including Shamar Gray, who totaled 88 yards and three TDs on 11 carries.

But Lanham threw the ball just enough to keep the Wolverines’ honest. He was 5-of-11 for 89 yards, including a 40-yard scoring pass.
“They did a couple things on offense that took advantage of some things,” said Wesley coach Chip Knapp. “Then when we were in a position to make a play, we didn’t make the plays we needed at the point of attack. In the end, we made a lot of plays, they made a lot of plays. They made more plays.

“We’re going to have to look at what they did. It’s kind of been a cat-and-mouse game over the years. We make an adjustment one year, they make an adjustment back next year. That’s kind of how it went today.”

The Wolverines had shut out the Gulls in the second half of each of the last two meetings but Salisbury tallied 21 on Saturday.

Wesley looked like it might have a good day when, on the Gulls’ first possession, Daniel forced a fumble and Hopeton Mair recovered it at midfield. Then, on the Wolverines’ first play from scrimmage, Dover High grad Marcellus Pack (11 carries-110 yards) got to the sidelines and out-sprinted Salisbury’s defenders for a 51-yard touchdown run.

When the Wolverines got the ball right back and scored again, Wesley was up 14-0 less than eight minutes into the contest. Peele scored on an eight-yard run out of a wildcat formation.

It was the start of another big day for Peele. The senior scored three touchdowns and caught eight passes for 131 yards.

Mullin, officially making his first collegiate start, was 16-of-23 for 279 yards and three TDs. The highlight of his day came when he found tight end Rick Hess running open down the middle of the field for a 79-yard scoring pass in the second quarter.

The Wolverines’ problem on offense was that it had too many empty possessions for a high-scoring game.

They punted three times, had to settle for a field goal after reaching the Salisbury two and were twice stopped on downs. That includes the first drive of the second half after a Pack 65-yard kickoff return set up Wesley at the Gulls’ 32.

“A couple lulls in the game on offense didn’t help us,” said Knapp. “There were series were maybe we could have created some real momentum and put some pressure on them but we just didn’t do it when we needed to the most.”

While Saturday’s loss made Wesley’s road to the NCAA playoffs more difficult, it didn’t make it impossible. The Wolverines just don’t really have any margin for error in their last five games of the regular season.

“We’ve been in some tough situations,” said Knapp. “We’ve lost the first game of the season. In our experience, the world doesn’t end and we’re still able to obtain our goals. We’ve been through that.

“My message is that we’ve got to take ownership of this, learn and try to get better. We’ve been in some real scraps (this season) and we’ve built up some calluses on how to play in tough games. We can take this and learn from it, too.”

Extra points

Safety Corray Williams looked like he might have suffered a serious first-half knee injury only to return and finish with nine tackles. … Along with his rushing yardage, Pack added 229 yards on eight kickoff returns. … Peele ran four times out of the wildcat formation for a net of 11 yards. … Milford High grad Octavion Wilson had two catches for 18 yards for the Gulls.

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