Wesley moves on from tough loss

DOVER — For over a quarter, Wesley College and Christopher Newport had been stuck in a back-and-forth stalemate.

Wolverines football coach Mike Drass, though, knew that couldn’t last forever.

“I believed this,” said Drass. “Whoever scored that next touchdown is going to win that game. And we’re on the five-yard-line.”

But that’s where Wesley fumbled away the opportunity. The Captains then drove 96 yards the other way for a touchdown that gave them the lead in a game on Sept. 23.

Suddenly, the whole thing snowballed and, the next thing the Wolverines knew, they were leaving Newport News, Va. with a 42-28 loss.

Two weeks after that setback, Wesley (1-1 NJAC, 1-2 overall) will finally get the chance to put that rough loss behind it when it goes to Southern Virginia (0-2, 1-2) for a New Jersey Athletic Conference matchup. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Not only did the loss knock the Wolverines out of the D3Football.com Top 25 for the first time in a number of years but it gave them two regular-season losses for only the second time since 2003.

That being said, it’s also not too difficult to imagine Wesley being 3-0 if it weren’t for its combined 11 turnovers in its two losses. And that’s 11 turnovers with no takeaways in those two contests.

“You’re not going to win those games,” said Drass. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.”

So, not surprisingly, the Wolverines spent much of the last week and a half working on ball security drills. Wesley had an open date last Saturday.

Drass said it’s mostly a matter of proper technique — carrying the ball high and close to the body.

“It’s got to get to the point where you don’t think about it,” he said. “It’s just muscle memory. I know, when the ball is in my hands, it’s high and tight. That’s where we have to get to. We’ve got to be coachable.

“The bye week, in one respect, came at a really good time for us. … It gives us an opportunity to really coach. Last week we were able to really focus on the mistakes we made and try to correct them.”

The Wolverines still believe they’re a good team. They’re just not good enough to overcome a ton of mistakes.

“We should be 3-0,” said sophomore receiver Alex Kemp. “We beat ourselves in those two games with turnovers and penalties and all that. We didn’t really execute the way we were supposed to.”

Manna sidelined

Wesley will be without its leading tackler, linebacker Samer Manna, against Southern Virginia.

He’s dealing with a hip injury that he aggravated against Christopher Newport.

Lake Forest High grad Mike Sabino is slated to start in Manna’s place. Drass said holding out Manna is mostly precautionary.

“Mike Sabino is as good a linebacker as you’re going to find,” said Drass. “We’re fortunate there.”

Kemp catching on

Switching to wide receiver last season wasn’t the easiest thing in the world for Kemp.

He’d been a quarterback at Caesar Rodney High as well as playing QB in his first year at Wesley.

“It was the first time I ever played it so it was a little confusing at times,” said Kemp. “Towards the end of the season I started catching on, getting the hang of it more and feeling more comfortable.”

Kemp was still good enough to finish with 44 catches for 653 yards with eight TD receptions as a freshman.

So far this season, Kemp has 10 catches for 219 yards with two touchdowns. Drass said the youngster is only starting to show what he can do as a receiver.

After learning really only one receiving position last fall, Kemp is learning several of them now.

“We think he can be one of the best receivers we’ve ever had,” said Drass.

The thing about Kemp, said Drass, is that he actually seems to be faster than his 40 time when he’s on the field.

“The second and third games of the season, he’s been able to show some of that,” said Drass. “I think all receivers want the ball. I think he wants the ball and would like to show that speed.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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