‘We did it for Coach Drass’: Wolverines nip unbeaten rival Gulls 19-13 in overtime

Khaaliq Burroughs

SALISBURY, Md. — One good afternoon isn’t going to wash away a season’s worth of frustration.

But, then again, some afternoons are more satisfying than others.

Behind a second-half defensive performance that would have made late coach Mike Drass proud, Wesley College fought back to topple unbeaten rival Salisbury, 19-13, in overtime in their annual Route 13 Rivalry football showdown on Saturday afternoon.

Trailing 13-0 at halftime, the Wolverines (5-3 NJAC, 6-3 overall) smothered the No. 18 Sea Gulls (7-1 NJAC, 8-1 overall) after that, allowing just 28 yards and two first downs in the second half and OT.

Given the opportunity, Wesley’s sputtering offense came alive just enough to rally for the victory.

“We did it for Coach Drass,” said senior defensive tackle Cam Miles. “We believed they (the offense) were going to score. We were just going to keep giving them the ball back.

“We believed in ourselves that we were going to stop them (the Gulls). They weren’t going to score any more. We wanted this one. This one should definitely tell people that Wesley is still here.”

Salisbury’s defense made it a difficult day for Wolverines’ quarterback Khaaliq Burroughs. The senior was intercepted five times and sacked four more.

But Burroughs also completed 25-of-36 passes for 303 and a pair of touchdowns and made some clutch plays when Wesley needed them.

It was a Burroughs’ bullet to Corterris Simpson (four catches-114 yards) on a quick slant which turned into an 83-yard touchdown reception that got the Wolverines back in the game early in the third quarter.

Then, with Wesley running out of chances, Burroughs found receiver Ruhann Peele in the back of the end zone for a five-yard TD pass. The touchdown tied the contest at 13-13 with just 1:01 remaining.

A Salisbury defender had good position in front of Peele. But Peele went up high to get the ball and then wrestled it away as the two players tumbled to the ground.

“I just gave him a chance and he came down with it,” said Burroughs. “It was a great play by him. I was just hoping and praying that I would see that ref’s hands go up. And they did.”

With the Wolverines getting the ball first in overtime, Burroughs hit receiver Alex Kemp with a 10-yard reception at the Gulls’ five on a third-and-10.

Finally, with the ball at the one, Wesley ran back-to-back QB sneaks with Burroughs finally scoring on fourth down. The one-yard TD gave the Wolverines their first lead of the day at 19-13.

“I thought I was in on third down,” said Burroughs. “Apparently I wasn’t. They over-loaded the right side on third down so I knew they were going to do it again. So I just want to the left side. It was open.

“Definitely, I needed that — we needed that.”

On its OT possession, the Gulls did pick up one first down but also lost starting QB Jack Navitsky to a leg injury. Frank Pipich Jr. came in and got Salisbury’s first completion of the game — a six-yarder to the six.

But, on fourth-and-four, Pipich’s pass across the middle fell incomplete as the Wolverines sprinted off the field in celebration.

“I was looking at the score and I was going through all the scenarios,” said Wesley coach Chip Knapp, whose team has lost three one-point games this season. “One of the scenarios was another one-point loss. I’m like, that can’t possibly happen.

“At halftime, we said we were letting our opportunities slip away from us. This is a lifetime opportunity to play football against a great football team. We have to bring everything we’ve got. And the guys did it. We saw how energy and enthusiasm can pay off. We’re going to point to this game for a long time.”

Salisbury, which owned Division III’s top rushing attack (386.8 yards), did put up 167 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
Knapp said veteran coach Joe Bottiglieri, who’s in his first season as Wesley’s defensive coordinator, made some adjustments at halftime. They seemed to make all the difference.

In the second half and OT, the Wolverines stopped the Gulls for negative yardage on eight running plays and for no gain on six others. And of Salisbury’s two second-half first downs, one came by penalty.

Linebacker Nazir Williams had a game-high 12 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, with Camal Brown adding nine stops.

“Coach Bottiglieri has been there and done that with just about everything on defense,” said Knapp. “He had a great game plan. He took some of what Coach Drass has done in the past and added his own twist to it. They made a couple great adjustments.

“We made them work for everything they had. The defense played phenomenal.”

Place kicking was a problem for both teams on the windy day.

Salisbury missed an extra point and a short field goal with Wesley missing two PATs — one of which was blocked — and a field goal. This time, though, the Wolverines fought its way through those miscues.

“The rivalry has always been emotional,” said Knapp. “It’s always been very satisfying to beat a good team like Salisbury. To fight for everything and have the guys learn some life lessons along the way, that’s what it’s all about.”

Extra points

Running back E.J. Lee had a team-high 60 yards on 16 carries while adding 69 yards on eight receptions. Lee went 37 yards on a screen pass to help set up the tying TD … Kemp added 52 yards on four receptions despite playing with a hamstring injury. He had a 28-yard catch on the game-tying drive … Salisbury can still win the NJAC’s automatic playoff berth with a win over Frostburg next Saturday. … Dover High grad Tyler Rosello, a junior center for the Gulls, is sidelined with a leg injury. … Wesley closes the regular season with a 1 p.m. game at Christopher Newport next Saturday.

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