From the Sports Editor: Wolverines, Hens have no margin for error

Mike Drass

Mike Drass

DOVER — On homecoming, Wesley College football coach Mike Drass always likes to have former players talk to his team.

But he was a little surprised when one of the alumni addressed the 2-2 Wolverines last Saturday.

“He goes, ‘I know things aren’t going well. …’” Drass recalled.

Not going well?

“I think we’ve kind of spoiled people,” Drass said with a laugh. “I said to him, ‘Hey, we’re going to be OK. We’re going to win.’

“But I think people think, if we’re not in the top five and undefeated that things aren’t good. Well, things are still good.”

Indeed, Wesley went out and blanked the College of New Jersey, 41-0, to go to 3-2. And, at 3-1 in conference, the Wolverines are now in a five-way tie for first place in the crowded NJAC standings.

Of course, it’s understandable that Wesley fans might be a little spoiled.

The Wolverines have made the NCAA Division III playoffs in 11 straight seasons. Now in his 24th campaign as Wesley’s head coach, Drass has never had a losing season.

You don’t have to look too far, though, to realize that winning college football games isn’t easy.

At Delaware State, the 0-5 Hornets are trying to figure out how to win just one game. They’ve won just three of their last 29 games over the past four seasons.

And even at Delaware, where winning seasons used to be expected, fans aren’t feeling very optimistic. At 2-3, the Blue Hens aren’t terrible. But they’ve also lost three in a row. And they have had only six victories in their last 18 games.

Fourth-year coach Dave Brock has said since the end of last season that he thought Delaware has the makings of an NCAA FCS playoff team this fall.

Still having a shot at finishing 7-4 or 8-3, the Hens still could make the playoffs. But even mathematical hope will fade if they don’t start winning now.

“At the end of the day, the only statistic that matters is winning,” Brock said after a tough 28-21 loss to Maine on Saturday. “I think the players battled, I think they played their hearts out and we didn’t get the results we all wanted.”

At Wesley, the Wolverines also know they have no more margin for error in the regular season.

They’re also 128-22 over the past 11-and-a-half seasons. So, until it’s proven otherwise, people are going to expect them to win.

Drass, though, never forgets that no two teams are the same.

“Every year they’re different,” he said. “There are guys who were on the team last year but it’s a whole new dynamic.

“Every week we talk about it. Throw everything out (that happened) beforehand. There’s great news — all of our goals are sitting right in front of us. If we want (to win) our conference, it’s right there. If we want (to go to) the national playoffs, it’s right there.

“But,” said Drass, “we’ve got to win this week. Our focus can’t go any farther than that week.”

Gone but not forgotten

The Seaford-area sports community lost one of its biggest fans when former sports writer Bill Mitchell died unexpectedly on Saturday at the age of 67.

Bill Mitchell

Bill Mitchell

Mitchell wrote mainly for our sister paper, the Seaford Leader, but his byline often appeared in many of our publications, including the State News.

A Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Mitchell was also known as a pretty good Little League baseball coach at Nanticoke. He managed a state championship squad in Junior League but also took great pride in coaching his sons, Jeff and Greg, and their teammates to district crowns.

Mitchell was also an avid golfer, working at Hooper’s Landing Golf Course after retiring as a full-time reporter.

“Bill was an outstanding member of the Seaford athletic community,” said former longtime Seaford High coach and athletic director Ben Sirman. “He was a respected coach in our Nanticoke Little League.

“He did an outstanding job as a sportswriter for our local paper. He was always fair and supportive of our teams and coaches. He was an outstanding golfer and a fine family man.”

Mitchell and his wife, Gerry, were married for 42 years.

Funeral services will be on Friday at 2 p.m. at the Cranston Funeral Home, 300 N. Shipley St, Seaford. Friends may call from noon-2 p.m.

Odds & ends

•Smyrna High grad Isaiah Stephens is in his second season as a starter for the William & Mary football team, which hosts Delaware on Saturday. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder has 22 tackles, two QB hurries and a forced fumble this season..

“He certainly has worked at it,” Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said about Stephens, who’s started 19 straight games. “I give him a lot of credit for it. He’s really worked at improving and he’s playing very well for us right now.”

•After losing 11 of its first 12 games, the Wesley field hockey squad owns a much-needed three-game winning streak. Caesar Rodney High grad Lauren Niezgoda has scored five of the Wolverines’ 12 goals.

•CR grad Lexi Prillaman is up to a team-high 10 goals for the Richmond women’s soccer team, including three game-winners. She leads the Atlantic 10 in several individual categories including goals and shots per game (5.31).

•Former Smyrna High football player Cameron Nash leads Central Connecticut State in all-purpose yards at 80.2 per game. His teammate, Dover High grad Jarrod Cann, is third on the squad in tackles with 30 plus three pass breakups.

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