Wesley notebook: Lee delivers when needed

DOVER — Wesley College’s football team had three chances to tie the game in the second half on Saturday.

Each time, the Wolverines had come up empty.

So now, when they got the ball back with only 2:44 remaining, Wesley’s players knew this might be their last opportunity.

“The defense, they were getting a lot of stops,” said junior tailback E.J. Lee. “But the clock was starting to get lower and lower. We just turned around and looked at the clock … and we were just telling each other, ‘We have to dig deep right here. We have to find a way to get in that end zone. We have to do whatever it takes.’”

The Wolverines did just that, driving 61 yards on six plays to tie Salisbury at 13-13 on Ruhann Peele’s five-yard touchdown catch from Khaaliq Burroughs with only 1:01 remaining.

That clutch drive gave Wesley the chance to then topple the No. 18 Sea Gulls, 19-13 in overtime on Saturday. And that victory has the Wolverines (5-3 NJAC, 6-3 overall) feeling a lot better about themselves going into Saturday’s regular-season finale, a 1 p.m. contest at Christopher Newport (5-2 NJAC, 6-2 overall).

Wesley believes a win would give it a berth in an ECAC Bowl game, which would be the 14th straight year the program has played in the post-season.

While he didn’t score any TDs against Salisbury, Lee made one of the biggest plays on the game-winning drive, rambling 37 yards on a screen from Burroughs to the Sea Gulls’ 25.

“We have these kind of specialty plays in our back pocket,” said Wesley coach Chip Knapp. “You’ve got to pull them out at the right time. I guess that was the right time to pull that one out.

“He (Lee) made a lot more out of that play than the average guy with the ball in his hands. He turned a 15-yard gain into 37 yards.”

Lee said senior tackle Devin Miller (Cape Henlopen) made a key block to spring him on the play.

“That was a great call,” said Lee. “They sent a blitz and we were able to be wide open for the screen. It was a good feeling. Honestly, I probably should have (scored).”

Lee finished the game with 60 rushing yards on 16 carries and 69 more yards on eight receptions. Even though Lee hasn’t put some of the rushing numbers this fall that made him the NJAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2018, Knapp always expects good things from the 5-foot-8, 185-pounder.

Lee is second in the conference in rushing at 81.7 yards per game. He’s also eighth in the league in receptions at 3.4 per contest.

“He has done everything right for us from day one,” said Knapp. “Every aspect of practice he does full go and he does it exactly how we want it done.

“Some guys could get frustrated with some of the success he had last year compared to his year this year. But he’s the same all the way through. He’s 100 percent at his best at all times. He’s a dream to coach really.”

Even though the NCAA Division III playoffs are no longer a possibility, Lee said the Wolverines still have a lot to play for on Saturday. Wesley has won at least seven games every season since 2003 and has failed to win at least seven games only three times since 1991.

“We need to finish off strong no matter what,” said Lee. “No one wants to lose. And we have a chance to play for a bowl game which is getting another game for our seniors because they worked so hard since their freshman year. It would look much better.

“We’ve been through a lot this year. We just want to finish off strong.”

No stopping Kemp

When he’s healthy, Alex Kemp can sprint past just about any defensive back on Wesley’s schedule.

But last week the senior receiver was slowed by a hamstring injury that might have sidelined a lot of players.

That didn’t stop Kemp from catching four passes for 52 yards, including a couple that kept drives alive.

Still, Kemp actually made what might have been a game-saving play with his legs.

With Salisbury already leading 13-0 in the third quarter, the Gulls’ Devinne Greene intercepted a pass and sprinted 51 yards downfield. Despite starting behind him, it was Kemp that ran down Greene, tackling him at the Wesley 13.

When Salisbury then missed a short field-goal attempt, Kemp’s tackle looked even bigger.

“We don’t win that game without Alex Kemp and those kind of plays,” said Knapp. “He wasn’t 100 percent at all. It was an amazing football play, knowing where he was Thursday and Friday before the game. It required maximum speed, maximum effort to run that guy down.”

Knapp said Kemp didn’t practice even one play during the week. But the Caesar Rodney High grad said all along that he’d be out on the field on Saturday.

“I had two games left and may never play this game again,” Kemp said after the victory. “It was our biggest game, our rivalry game. The seniors talked about it, we said the season didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, but, hey, let’s beat Salisbury.”

Brown comes up big

Listed at 6-foot, 270 pounds, Camal Brown might be the biggest linebacker Wesley has ever had.

The sophomore was just the right size for stopping Salisbury’s running game up the middle.

Brown had 12 tackles in Wesley’s first eight games but collected 10 in Saturday’s victory alone.

“When it comes to stopping the run, in between the tackles, he does a great job,” said Knapp. “He’s a tough, big player that can succeed in that in-between the tackle area that we need sometimes. He looks like he weighs 230 pounds so he carries his weight well.
“It was great to see him have some success because he’s worked hard. Hard work pays off and that’s great to see.”

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