Wesley notebook: Quarterback Falkenberg ready to lead offense

DOVER — Nick Falkenberg’s career as a starting quarterback almost ended as soon as it began.

After he struggled in last year’s season-opening loss to Delaware Valley, Wesley College football coach Mike Drass benched the junior.

Falkenberg didn’t start again until the ninth game of the season.

“It’s a humbling experience,” he said. “But I never got down on myself. I always practiced hard. I knew why I went on the bench.”

Falkenberg emerged from that stretch a new man.

Starting the last five games of the season, he went 4-1, helping the Wolverines win the NJAC’s automatic NCAA Division III playoff berth and reach the second round.

Wesley QB Nick Falkenberg. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Drass said Falkenberg has only continued to improve in the off-season. Now, with Wesley preparing for its season opener at Delaware Valley on Aug. 31, there’s no question that the senior is the starting QB.

Falkenberg’s comeback was pretty remarkable, said Drass.

“Nick went through a tough stretch that a lot of guys couldn’t have gotten through,” said Drass. “When he came back, he was a different player. I think he was extremely confident in what he was doing.

“He had a four-game stretch there where he played as well as anybody.”

Over those last five games, Falkenberg completed 89-of-152 passes for 1,150 yards with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. He threw at least one scoring pass in all five games.

Falkenberg also ran 27 times for 121 and a TD in his four wins as a starter.

“He has a great arm,” said Drass. “Sometimes he’ll make a pass and it’s like, ‘Man, that’s the same pass Callahan, or McSweeny or Sotilaire could make.’ He can make those throws.

“He’s a better runner than people give him credit for. So I think he has a pretty strong command of the offense.”

While Falkenberg has been pushed for the starting job by junior Khaaliq Burroughs, he said he definitely feels more settled into the position than he did a year ago.

“He (Burroughs) comes in every day and competes with me — and I compete with him,” said the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Falkenberg. “It’s awesome.

“There’s definitely a lot more confidence in myself,” said Falkenberg. “There’s a lot more understanding and not going every day thinking, ‘Am I going to be the backup or am I going to be the starter?’”

Wesley adds transfers

When preseason camp started, Isiah Mitchell was a member of the Stony Brook football team.

But, as of a couple days ago, the former Middletown High cornerback is a Wesley Wolverine.

He’s been joined by former St. Georges defensive end Stefon Woodruff, who also transferred in after spending his first year at Delaware.

Both are second-year freshmen who will be eligible to play right away at Wesley.

The two players say they don’t really look at it as step down going from FCS Division I programs to the national-caliber Division III Wolverines.

“Me, I like to follow tradition and a good head coach,” said the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Woodruff, “Just because it’s ‘D-3’ that doesn’t matter to me. I want to play wherever I’m going to be most successful.”

Mitchell said he remembers talking with Drass even after he had verbally committed to Stony Brook.

“As a man-to-man thing, I thought that was a nice thing that he did,” said Mitchell, a 5-11, 180-pounder. “He still showed interest in me. With him taking that chance on me, I figured I’d turn around and hopefully he’d give me another opportunity.”

Both players were first-team All-State selections as seniors. At the same time, they know they have to earn their way onto the field with the Wolverines.

“That’s anywhere you go,” said Mitchell. “I was taught way back in Middletown, you’ve got to earn your stripes. That’s how it is.”

“In football, you’ve always got to work on your craft,” said Woodruff. “There’s always work to be done.”

Extra points

Wesley currently has 35 in-state players on its roster. … The Wolverines play their first three games on the road as well as having an open date. They don’t play their first home game until Sept. 30 when they host Southern Virginia.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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