Wesley aims for return to winning ways this weekend

Wesley football-Matt Gono by .

“I think we played a good game. It’s just hard to understand why we lost,” said Wesley tackle Matt Gono of last week’s loss to Salisbury. (Wesley sports information)

DOVER — Wesley College’s football players aren’t used to losing.

Not to Salisbury and certainly not at home in the regular season.

So you’ll excuse the Wolverines if last Saturday’s 38-35 loss to the Sea Gulls had them shaking their heads in disbelief.

“I really couldn’t believe that we lost,” said sophomore offensive tackle Matt Gono. “I couldn’t really process it. Just thinking about what happened during the game, it didn’t really make sense.

“On the game film, I didn’t really think we looked that bad. I think we played a good game. It’s just hard to understand why we lost.”

But Wesley can’t waste any time feeling sorry for itself.

The Wolverines (7-1 NJAC, 8-1 overall) certainly can’t afford another loss when they travel to William Paterson (1-7, 2-7) for a 1 p.m. game on Saturday. The New Jersey Athletic Conference matchup is Wesley’s regular-season finale.

The Wolverines can still win the NJAC title. But that would take Salisbury (6-1, 6-2) getting upset by Frostburg State (5-3, 6-3) on Saturday.

Presumably, though, Wesley would still earn the program’s 11th straight NCAA playoff appearance if it finishes 9-1.

Last week’s loss did take its toll. The Wolverines plummeted from No. 3 to No. 12 in the Division III coaches’ poll and from No. 4 to No. 11 in the D3football.com rankings.

On the other hand, Wesley is still ranked No. 1 in the NCAA’s East Region.

The NCAA playoff bracket will be announced on Sunday.

Coach Mike Drass, of course, is only interested in having the Wolverines look forward to William Paterson.

“The one thing I told our team is, we can only control what we can control,” said Drass. “We had a great practice yesterday (on Tuesday) and I anticipate us to have a good focus. We know we have to win.

“It’s a little bit similar to what we’ve been in the last 10 years. We know that one-loss teams have a great chance of getting in. Two-loss teams don’t. I feel like, if we do win, we have a good shot.”

“Initially we were all kind of down,” said linebacker Dylan Cohill. “It’s something around here — don’t lose to Salisbury. But they practice, too, they had a game plan.

“We had a great lift this morning. We had a lot of energy there. We’re moving on from it. We can’t wait until Saturday. All that really matters in this world is beating William Paterson right now.”

Change for Cohill

Dylan Cohill had always played defensive end.

So when the opposing quarterback went back to pass, the junior knew his one and only goal was to get to him.

But things are a little different after he moved to linebacker.

“I remember I had a few situations early on where I was like, ‘Oh, it’s a pass, go get the quarterback,” said Cohill. “Then you realize, ‘No, where’s my man or where am I dropping to?’”

Gradually, though, Cohill is started getting the hang of playing linebacker. He moved to linebacker to give Wesley more depth at a position where it’s had some injuries.

Drass said he likes having a 6-foot-4, 215-pounder at linebacker.

“That’s what you want at your starting outside linebacker — a tall, lanky guy who can run and occupy space,” said Drass. “He’s been a sponge since he’s been moved to linebacker and has made big plays.

“For the player who felt like, ‘Hey, when am I getting my chance?’ … when they get their chance, you’re so proud of them and you feel so good for them. Here’s a kid who’s been working hard in your program, has gotten the opportunity and is flourishing.”

“I’m one of those guys, tell me where to line up and I’ll play,” said Cohill, who has 13 tackles this season. “Initially I always loved the position of defensive end. I think I was getting more frustrated because I wasn’t used to making so many errors at a position.

“But I enjoy linebacker. It’s a great position.”

Gono going places

Matt Gono said he’s not a guy who looks too far into the future.

“I just try to do as much as I can right now,” said the 6-foot-4, 290-pound tackle.

When Drass looks at the youngster, though, he sees the makings of a great offensive lineman. Only a sophomore, Gono is already a veteran up front for the Wolverines.

Last year he was named Wesley’s Rookie of the Year.

“He was already someone people considered to be our top lineman,” said Drass. “I think now he’s making strides where other people look at him and say, as a sophomore, this is a guy who’s a true, potential all-conference or all-region or all-American guy as he looks down the road.”

“I definitely feel a lot more comfortable out there,” said Gono. “Coach Drass has definitely instilled some confidence in me. I know I have more potential, I know there’s more I can do.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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