Simpson no longer a secret for Wesley

DOVER — Corterris Simpson knows his teammates get excited to see him return a punt.

He can hear it.

“The offense and defense, you can hear them screaming on the sidelines — ‘House call, house call. … let’s go Chuck,’” said the Wesley College junior. “Then, if I get a big return, it helps motivate the offense like, ‘OK, we’ve got to get down here and score. We’ve got good field position.’”

It would be easy to call Simpson the Wolverines’ ‘secret weapon,’ except for the fact he’s not really a secret any more.

With sixth-ranked Wesley (3-0 NJAC, 4-0 overall) getting ready to host No. 5 Frostburg State (2-0 NJAC, 3-0 overall) on Saturday at 1 p.m., Simpson is second nationally in Division III at 35.1 yards per punt return.

Or put it this way, he’s added 421 yards to Wesley’s field position on 12 returns this season. Only four other Division III players even have more than 200 yards this fall.

“It’s a great bonus,” said Wesley coach Chip Knapp. “We saw signs of it last year. He had a punt return against CNU for a touchdown. We were kind of expecting him to take the next step and that’s what he’s done.”

In last Saturday’s 28-7 win at Southern Virgina, Simpson returned a fourth-quarter punt 80 yards for a game-clinching touchdown. He’s accumulated 298 yards on eight returns in just the last two games.

Of course, there were 10 other Wesley players on the field with him making those plays happen.

A big part of the reason for Simpson’s success has been the fact that the Wolverines, led by special-teams coach Shawn Plews, work pretty hard on their return game.

“There’s a lot of pride on the punt-return unit,” said Knapp. “When they have success, that’s motivation for them to continue to play hard and do their job.

“It’s never an afterthought for us at Wesley. But when you get the right guy back there and the right unit, good things happen.”

A 5-foot-9, 170-pound wide receiver, Simpson does what he can to study film — and even watches highlights of great NFL or major-college punt returners.

Still, Simpson said he never loses sight of the fact that his first job is making sure Wesley’s offense ends up with the ball.

“I feel like we’re looking for a big play,” said Simpson. “But the most important thing Coach Plews always tells me is protect the ball.

“I appreciate all the blocking they do and all the hard work we put into it,” he said about his teammates. “It’s really them. They work hard throughout the week. I really can’t thank them enough for that.”

Lot on the line

When it’s all said and done, Wesley’s showdown with Frostburg on Saturday might end up being it’s biggest game of the year.

Simpson said you can sense the intensity, even in practice.

“The coaches. … you can feel it in them, the energy they’re putting out,” he said. “Like Coach (Bernie) Nowakowski with warmups, stretching and everything, it’s way more intense.”

At the same time, Knapp said he’s learned you can start getting excited about a game too early in the week.

“We’ve been down that road before,” he said. “When Coach Drass and I were young coaches, we had a couple teams where we were trying to play the game on Monday and Tuesday. By the time Saturday came around, we had nothing left. We’ve learned that lesson.

“We’re just business as usual getting ready for the game. We talk about playing Frostburg and it’s a big deal but we don’t go much beyond that.”

Not only are the Wolverines and Bobcats both ranked in the Top 10, but Frostburg is moving up to Division II after this season. That means it might be the last two time the two programs meet.

Wesley leads the all-time series 13-9 and owns an 11-game winning streak. Last season, the Wolverines pulled out a 27-24 overtime win after blocking a field-goal attempt on the final play.

“You know that you’re going to face adversity,” said Simpson. “When it comes, are you going to let it bring you down the rest of the game? Or are you going to keep doing what you’ve got to do the rest of the game?”

“They’re going to know that we’re going to come out there and give our best. We know they’re going to come out and give their best. It should be a good game.”

Glover sidelined

Wesley has lost standout defensive tackle Nick Glover, apparently for the season.

The Dover High grad injured a knee in last week’s game.

A fourth-year senior, Glover would be eligible to redshirt next season if he wanted to since the injury occurred in the first four games of the schedule.

The Wolverines started the year with a lot of depth on the defensive front. Now that depth will be tested.

“He’s the rock of the defensive line,” said Knapp. “He plugs up the run and we’re playing a running team. Not good timing.

“We’ll see. The defense, we have a lot of confidence in. We’ve got good coaching over there — Coach (Joe) Bottiglieri, Coach (Arthur) Smith and the other coaches are doing a great job.”

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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