Wesley to face Stevenson in Division III football tourney opener

DOVER — Mike Drass heard from his old friend, Ed Hottle, on Sunday morning.

A former Wesley College football assistant coach, Hottle called because there were predictions that the Wolverines would be matched up with his Stevenson squad in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

“I was like, the moment we start thinking about the ‘D3.com’ stuff, you get shipped off to Texas or Maine or wherever.” Drass told him.

This time, however, the prognosticators at D3football.com were right.

Mike Drass

Mike Drass

Wesley found out on Sunday evening that it will host Stevenson on Saturday in the opening round of the Division III playoffs. Kickoff is slated for noon at Miller Stadium.

Stevenson, which is located in the Baltimore suburbs, has only had a football program for six years. The Mustangs (9-1) earned their first NCAA playoff bid by winning the Mid-Atlantic Conference title on Saturday.

It will be Stevenson’s first meeting with the Wolverines (8-2), who earned their 12th straight playoff appearance by winning the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s automatic bid.

Hottle, the only head coach Stevenson has had, was a defensive assistant coach at Wesley from 2002-04. Stevenson has three Delaware players on its roster, including Cape Henlopen High grad Tyre Maull, a sophomore offensive lineman.

“It’s exciting to play somebody that we know and respect,” said Drass.

Drass was also excited to get a home game. That possibility didn’t seem very likely after Wesley started the season by losing two of its first three games.

“I’m excited for our kids,” said Drass, “Our kids stayed the course and never lost faith in themselves. They played it one game at time. We talked about the playoffs starting in week four and that’s kind of the attitude that they kept throughout the course of the year.”

If the Wolverines win, they’ll take on the winner of the John Carroll-Olivet game. John Carroll is the Cleveland-area school that ended Mount Union’s 112-game winning streak on Saturday.

Wesley has won 11 straight first-round playoff games and is 26-12 all-time in the NCAAs, including a 21-2 mark in Dover. But the Wolverines have also put up those kind of numbers by not looking past the game in front of them.

“The one thing with these guys, with the exception of very few of them, they’ve been on the field at Hopkins, at Mount Union,” said Drass. “They’ve all been on the field in NCAA (playoff) competition. We have to draw on that experience as we prepare.”

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