Wesley Notebook: Brinkley’s pick a key play for tourney-bound Wolverines

DOVER — William Paterson had just run the play.

So when the Pioneers tried to run it again, Anthony Brinkley was ready.

The Wesley College cornerback jammed the receiver at the line of scrimmage, then looked back for the football.

“I saw the quarterback throw the ball,” said Brinkley. “I was like, there’s no possible way for the receiver to catch the ball. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to catch the ball.”

Brinkley was right.

Wesley’s Anthony Brinkley makes an interception in the end zone in the Wolverines’ win over William Paterson on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Wesley’s Anthony Brinkley makes an interception in the end zone in the Wolverines’ win over William Paterson on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Having beaten the receiver to the spot on the quick slant, the senior pulled in the end-zone interception for a critical turnover in the Wolverines’ 59-14 victory over William Paterson on Saturday.

Wesley’s secondary expects to be tested again on Saturday when the Wolverines (8-2) host Stevenson (9-1) at noon in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Brinkley’s interception was a big turning point in helping Wesley clinch the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s automatic bid. The Wolverines were leading only 28-14 late in the second quarter and the Pioneers had just recovered a fumble at the Wesley eight-yard line.

After the interception, Wesley quickly drove the other way for a last-second touchdown that gave it a 35-14 advantage at intermission.

“It saved us,” coach Mike Drass said about Brinkley’s interception. “That was a point where we could have gone either way. If they score, all of a sudden it’s a different ballgame.”

Brinkley finished with two interceptions and a pass breakup in the victory. But his day didn’t get off to a great start.

On the Pioneers’ second possession of the afternoon, receiver Malcolm Robinson beat Brinkley for a 29-yard pass down the sideline. William Paterson went on to score on the drive and take a 14-0 lead.

On the long completion, Robinson knocked down Brinkley before making the reception.

“I turned my head around and I saw the ball,” said Brinkley. “I was going to go for the interception, but the next thing you know I was looking at the ground. It was kind of an embarrassing moment. … But you have to have short-term memory. You can’t let it keep you down.

“They’re going to catch the ball (sometimes),” added the A.I. du Pont High grad. “It’s just a matter of, how many stops can you make?”

Stevenson comes into Saturday’s game averaging 225.1 passing yards per game. The Mustangs have also thrown only seven interceptions this season.

Wesley, on the other hand, has intercepted 11 passes, including a team-high three by Brinkley. Brinkley says defensive backs are built not to back down from challenges.

“It’s going to be a good game,” said Brinkley, who has five career interceptions. “It’s going to be a nice matchup — our corners vs. their receivers. We’re just going to have to see. We have to play great.

“They’re going to run the ball and then they’re going to surprise us with the pass. We just have to be ready for anything that they throw at us.”

That’s why Drass likes having a pair of veteran cornerbacks in Brinkley and junior DaJahn Lowery. Along with knowing the defense, they also know about shaking off a bad play.

“I think our guys are good at that,” said Drass. “The most important play is the next play. You can’t take any other attitude toward it.

“And we’re going to be in situations where we put those guys out on an island. Our guys have risen to the occasion more times than not.”

Baynard ready to go

Wesley RB Jamar Baynard is averaging 19 carries per game — one less than last season. He’s also third on the team with 22 catches for 186 yards. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Wesley RB Jamar Baynard, right, is averaging 19 carries per game — one less than last season. He’s also third on the team with 22 catches for 186 yards. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Jamar Baynard keeps plenty busy as Wesley’s versatile starting running back.

But that doesn’t mean the Middletown High grad wouldn’t mind even seeing some action on defense.

The Wolverines actually do have an alignment where the 6-foot, 210-pounder lines up as a pass rusher.

“I haven’t played it (defense) since high school,” Baynard said with a smile. “I kind of miss it.”

In some ways, though, Drass wouldn’t mind seeing Baynard with the ball in his hands a little less. Drass wants to see the senior as healthy as possible for when they really need him.

Baynard is averaging 19 carries per game — one less than last season. He’s also third on the team with 22 catches for 186 yards.

“I actually feel good, stronger than usual,” said Baynard. “I just know I have to do my job.

“Even if I so-called get ‘shut down,’ that opens up the pass. Whatever I can do to help the team win — block, catch — it does not matter. I’m just trying to win.”

In Saturday’s victory, Baynard tied Brandon Steinheim for the school record with his 45th career rushing TD. With 3,417 yards, he’s also fourth on the school’s all-time rushing list.

Extra points

While this is the first time Wesley and Stevenson have played in football, the two programs have recruited against each other a great deal. “They can look at our roster and we can look at their roster and see multiple guys that visited both schools,” said Drass. “You want to do well against them because you’re going to be sitting in front of the same guys they’re sitting in front of.” … Drass said that former starting quarterback Dan Kesack is still Wesley’s No. 2 QB, even though the junior is now seeing some time as a backup receiver. … Senior Bryce Shade is second on Wesley’s all-time receiving-yards list with 3,211.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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