Wesley notebook: Minter plays leading role as a backup

Elijah Minter has 468 rushing yards and two TDs on 101 career carries. Special to the State News/Gary Emeigh

DOVER — Elijah Minter has this problem getting into the end zone.

While the senior running back has scored a pair of touchdowns in his Wesley College football career, he’s also had a handful of other TDs called back by penalties.

On Wednesday, Wolverines’ coach Chip Knapp was reminding Minter of some of the touchdowns he’s had taken away.

It just happened again last Saturday, in Wesley’s 62-0 win over the College of New Jersey, when Minter looked like he was going to score from the one.

Elijah Minter

“I had deja vu,” Knapp joked with Minter. “We were on the goal line and I called a run play for you. We brought in our three-tight end package for it. And one of the receivers decided not to come out of the game. I think that was our first penalty of the game.”

But like many other things that happen to him, Minter just took the penalty in stride.

The senior’s ability to adjust to whatever comes next is what makes him such a valuable No. 2 running back, says Knapp.

Minter figures to get some more chances to score on Saturday when No. 7 Wesley (1-0 NJAC, 2-0 overall) hosts struggling William Paterson (0-1, 0-2) at 1 p.m. A year ago, the Wolverines dumped the Pioneers, 66-0.

With Minter owning 468 rushing yards and the two TDs on 101 career carries, Knapp likes having a dependable veteran to back up starter E.J. Lee.

“He has a great attitude, he’s a great teammate,” said Knapp. “He’s positive — he brings great energy every day. He does everything we ask of him — and then some.

“I think we’ve got some of the best tailbacks in the country. One of the things I’m trying to do every game is get him (Minter) in as early as possible and get him into the flow. It’s tough when you’ve got another great tailback in E.J. Lee. But I forced myself to do it every game and so far it’s paid off.”

Minter’s biggest problem getting playing time last year was that he was injured for part of the season. It was a freak injury, too, with a teammate accidently falling into the side of Minter’s right knee during a drill in practice.

The 6-foot, 215-pounder suffered a sprained MCL in the mishap.

“The ball was snapped bad and I was going to pick it back up,” Minter recalled. “As soon as I picked it up, I turned around and there was a dude on my feet. He just rolled backward and my leg kind of caved in.”

Then in this year’s preseason camp, Minter was slowed by some minor injuries again. But he feels like he’s at full strength now.

“He seems faster, quicker — everything about him has improved — in the first two games,” said Knapp.

That’s actually good news for Lee, whose workload can be cut back.

“My role on the team, I just think of it as giving E.J. a break sometimes so we can all be healthy throughout the season,” said Minter. “I try to make the most of every play really.”

Minter said Wesley’s running back room is a closeknit group.

In fact, Minter was so excited when freshman Xavier Drummond (Sussex Tech) broke off an 86-yard TD run last Friday that he got in the way of the referee running down the sideline. Minter was called for a penalty and — for a moment he thought it would wipe out the touchdown.

So Minter was as relieved as anyone when he found out the penalty would just be assessed on the ensuing kickoff.

“It’s definitely fun seeing the young guys, straight out of high school, coming in and making big plays,” said Minter. “I was really excited for him (Drummond). It was amazing.”

Delmar’s Johnson returns

Dustin Johnson may be in his first season as William Paterson’s head coach but he’s no stranger to Delaware or Wesley.

The Delmar High grad was a former standout quarterback at Salisbury, lining up a few times against the Wolverines.

“He was just an unbelievable quarterback in their system,” said Knapp. “He was almost unstoppable.

“He was definitely a guy that we would have liked to see here but he made a good decision with the type of offense he was able to run at Salisbury.”

Johnson, who started his coaching career as an assistant at Delmar in 2001, was the defensive coordinator at Stevenson University for the past five season. He’s the offensive coordinator as well as head coach for Paterson.

The Pioneers, stuck in an 18-game losing streak, haven’t finished with a winning record since 1993.

Everybody in

One of the good things about blowout wins, like Wesley’s 62-point rout of TCNJ, is that lots of backup players get on the field.

It not only gives the coaching staff a chance to evaluate more players in game situations but it makes the reserves feel more a part of the team.

“They’re a little more interested,” said Minter. “They pay attention more. They come to practice more confidently, ask more questions. Production just goes up when more people play.”

“The fact that they’re playing is a motivational factor for them to get back out there again,” said Knapp. “So the energy and enthusiasm is going to be there the following week — the thought that they get to play again.

“We’ve got 100-plus players on the team and everyone is important. We want to include everyone. They’re there to play football and they get the chance so it’s great for the team.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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