Wesley notebook: Hess takes the long road to end zone

Wesley tight end Ricky Hess has 16 catches for 221 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Wesley sports information

DOVER — It was do or die.

Coming on a fourth-and-goal play with less than a minute remaining, Ricky Hess didn’t have any choice but to pull in the pass.

“I knew once I saw the ball in the air, I had to get to it,” said the Wesley College tight end. “I got in the end zone, and I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to overtime.’”

Hess’ dramatic seven-yard touchdown reception on a pass from Jon Mullin tied the game with just 38 seconds left on Saturday. The Wolverines then edged Montclair State, 20-17, in overtime.

A 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior, Hess took the long route to get to that ball on Saturday — not necessarily on the field but in college.

Ricky Hess

Before suiting up for No. 14 Wesley (3-1 NJAC, 6-1 overall), which plays at the College of New Jersey (2-2 NJAC, 2-5 overall) at noon on Saturday, Hess went to both Delaware Valley and Albright as well as a community college.

He left Wesley, too, last season three games into the schedule.

Before he took Hess back, however, Wesley coach Chip Knapp needed the youngster to prove he really wanted to be part of the program. So rather than practice with his teammates last spring, Hess had to work as a team manager — doing whatever needed to be done.

“I had to finish what I started,” said Hess. “I had a lot of guys coming up to me like, ‘Hey, we need you to come back.’

“I remember going down to Coach Knapp’s office, knocking on the door and talking to him. We came up with an agreement. … I love playing football.

“I told him, ‘I made a mistake. I’ve got to man up to it and stop being a kid about things. It’s time to grow up.’”

“He did whatever we asked him to do,” said Knapp. “I felt like it was a sincere desire of his to play.”

Being a football player but not being able to actually play the game was difficult for Hess.

Before his game-tying TD reception on Saturday, Ricky Hess had a 79-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown against Salisbury. That’s Wesley’s longest play of the season and pumped his average to 13.8 yards per reception.

“It was hard watching spring practice and not being able to run the routes with them and do things,” he said. “But it was enjoyable. Whenever you’re on a football field, you’ve got to enjoy it.

“When it came to (preseason) camp time, I was ready to go. I couldn’t wait to get on the field.”

So far this season, Hess has 16 catches for 221 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Having a big-play tight end as a receiver has often made a big different in Wesley’s offense.

“He’s a big target, he can catch the ball and he’s athletic,” said Knapp. “He’s got everything you like to see in a tight end for us.
“Players have to work their way onto the field. That’s what Rick has done and now it’s paying off in some great moments for him.”

Before his game-tying TD reception on Saturday, Hess had a 79-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown against Salisbury. That’s Wesley’s longest play of the season and pumped his average to 13.8 yards per reception.

“I made a cut and I saw the safeties just disappear,” said Hess. “I was like, ‘Oh, he’s got to throw this.’ And he did. He launched it. I just got under it and took off with it.

“I’ve been gaining trust. Coach is starting to realize that they can throw me the ball and hopefully good things will happen.”

Close is good this year

In their last 18 games, the Wolverines have had a remarkable nine contests decided by three points or less or in overtime — and sometimes both.

Last year, most of those nail-biters went against Wesley. This fall, though, the Wolverines are finding ways to win them.

Maybe no moment is more symbolic of Wesley’s good fortune than when the referees measured for a first down on a fourth-and-15 completion on the game-tying drive against Montclair.

It was agonizingly close that players on both teams thought the call was going their way.

“I’m looking at it — it looks good,” said Knapp. “Truthfully, it was a 50-50 call because it was so close to the stick.”

But Knapp would also like to think the experience of being in so many close-game situations helps the next time.

“Last week there was kind of a playoff intensity,” said Knapp. “It does help us make plays in the end because we know we’ve made them before.

“We’ve got to be prepared for anything, and that’s what we do during the week in practice,” he said. “Some of the things we prepared for helped us in the end there.”

“It’s definitely nerve-wracking,” said Hess. “It’s frustrating watching film the next day because you realize the stupid mistakes we were making.”

Extra points

Wesley actually moved back one spot in the D3football.com poll but moved up one place in the ACFC coaches’ rankings. The moves left them No. 14 in both polls. … Senior Ruhann Peele is tied for fourth nationally at 130.9 receiving yards per game.

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