Wesley defensive captains determined, inseparable

Wesley football-PettitDOVER — Craig Pettit was dying in the heat.

It was his own fault, too, said the Wesley College senior safety. He didn’t have enough to drink.

So here was Pettit on the second day of preseason practice, his legs cramping up during a conditioning session.

“In the back of your mind you’re like, ‘If I just stop, the pain will stop,’” he said.

“But you’ve got to fight through the pain,” said Pettit. “Me, as a captain, I can’t drop and just quit. Then everybody’s going to look at me and think it’s OK to quit.”

So, pain or not, Pettit stuck it out — which didn’t surprise Wolverines coach Mike Drass at all. Pettit’s tenacity is one of the reasons he named the unheralded safety one of Wesley’s team captains for this season.

That makes him a lot like undersized defensive tackle Brenton Barnes, another one of the Wolverines’ captains.

And besides, it only seemed fitting that Pettit and Barnes would be defensive captains together their senior year. The two veterans have pretty much been inseparable since they were freshmen.

“I’ve yet to see them apart in three years,” joked Drass, whose team opened camp on Saturday. “I saw the pictures Wesley football-Brenton Barnes-2from his (Pettit’s) mom’s birthday and Brenton’s in the background, hamming for the camera.”

“The players joke around with us, we’re always together,” said Pettit, who has been roommates with Barnes for the last three years. “They call us ‘brothers.’ My parents like to think of him as another son and his parents like to think of me as another son. We do everything together.”

“He comes back with me to Maryland and we hang out with the family,” said Barnes. “I go up with him to Pa. and hang out with them. Great times. We cherish the moments.”

Barnes and Pettit are going to have their work cut out for them on the field this fall, though.

Wesley, which opens the season on Sept. 12 at Frostburg, returns just three defensive starters from a squad that went 12-2 and reached the NCAA Division III semifinals a year ago. That group includes Barnes, strong safety Andre Connally and defensive end Roderick Caine.

“It brings a sense of urgency,” Barnes said about the Wolverines’ inexperience. “Guys have to step up. Some young guys are going to be put in key roles. This camp’s going to be vital. We’ve got to come in and work hard.”

Despite standing only 5-foot-9, 282 pounds, Barnes started all 14 games a year ago and nine games the year before. He has a combined 69 tackles in that span and even scored a pair of touchdowns on a fumble and an interception return in 2014.

Pettit has rotated in at free safety but hasn’t made a collegiate start yet. The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder was in on 26 tackles and forced a fumble last season.

“As a team, we don’t think we’re underdogs,” said Pettit. “There’s a lot we have to prove. But that’s why we’re here working every day, just like every other team in the country, ready to prove ourselves as one of the top teams in the nation.”

All things considered, maybe it’s fitting that Wesley has a couple hard-working, blue-collar guys as two of their captains this season. Nothing is going to come easily.

“They’re guys that have always put the team’s needs ahead of their own individual needs,” said Drass. “I can’t say enough things positive about them in that sense. Who do you want your players to emmulate, who do you want them to be like? I want my players to be like these two guys.”

That’s why a simple thing like Pettit sticking with conditioning even when he was cramping up meant a lot to Drass.

“We talked after the practice and we said, ‘It’s easy to fall out, it’s easy not to finish when all you care about is yourself,’” said Drass. “When you care about the people around you, then you can’t quit.”

Extra points

The Wolverines’ other captains are senior quarterback Joe Callahan and junior running back Jamar Baynard. …  As a member of the New Jersey Athletic Conference now, Wesley’s roster is limited to 125 players. That may sound like a lot but the Wolverines have had over 150 players in past seasons. … Wesley is going to scrimmage at Albright (Pa.) on Aug. 28. … Former Caesar Rodney High quarterback Alex Kemp, a second-year freshman at Wesley, is now playing receiver.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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