Wesley notebook: Star DL Vessels team leader for Wolverines

DOVER — Chip Knapp remembers chatting with Troy Haynes a couple years ago.

The Wesley College football coach asked the former Woodbridge High quarterback what he says when he breaks out the team huddle.

“He said, ‘Oh, I don’t break out the team,’” Knapp recalls. “Shymere breaks out the team. He’s the team leader. When I heard that, it just stuck with me. It was impressive to hear that about Shymere.”

Shymere Vessels

At the time, the Wolverines were only recruiting Shymere Vessels, Woodbridge’s standout defensive lineman.

Three years later, Vessels has more than proven to be the player and leader that Wesley hoped he would be.

On Sunday, the 6-foot-1, 260-pound junior was named the NJAC Defensive Player of the Week after helping lead the Wolverines (3-0) to a come-from-behind 20-17 win at Endicott. Vessels collected 12 tackles, including four for losses.

Vessels said nobody panicked when Wesley fell behind 17-0 at halftime of that contest.

“We just came into the locker room understanding what we had to do as a team,” said Vessels. “We kept our poise. And we realized this is nothing new to us. As long as we play together — as Coach (Mike) Drass — used to say, we’ll be fine.”

Of Wesley’s six team captains, Vessels and fellow junior, linebacker Dante Daniel, are the only non-seniors, A first-team All-State defensive end at Woodbridge, the Seaford native helped the Blue Raiders win their first Division II state title in 2016.

“He’s very coachable,” said Knapp. “He does everything we ask. He’s very dependable and a hard worker. He’s gained the respect of the team because of those things.

“Now he’s starting to do the same things he did at Woodbridge — speaking out and being a team leader.”

Vessels remembers when Knapp told him he was going to be a team captain this season. He felt a responsibility to live up to the position.

“He said I’m one of those guys he can lean on and trust — like be a big brother on the team,” said Vessels. “Since then I’ve accepted that role. It just comes naturally to me, leading by example on and off the field.

“I use that to help the younger guys out. At the end of the day, they’re the future of this program.”

Vessels is second on the squad with 22 tackles. And, of those 22 stops, 7.5 have been for losses.

He likes being part of a defensive front that is anchored by several local players. Besides him, Dover grads Nick Glover and Will Scott along with Newark’s Rock Hunter are among the mainstays up front.

As a team, the Wolverines are allowing only 202.7 yards and 11.7 points per game.

“We argue just about every day about past stuff, going up against each other and who’s school is better and what they’re doing now,” Vessels said with a laugh. “It helps with our chemistry and makes us closer together.”

That camaraderie came in handy when the Wolverines were trailing Endicott, 17-0, last Saturday. Wesley limited the Gulls to only 83 second-half yards as they rallied for the win.

“I don’t necessarily look at it as a down game,” said Vessels. “I actually take that game as a lesson. We understand that it takes more than just showing up to win a football game. As long we stick together and give it our all, then nobody can really beat us.”

Mullin to start at QB

Knapp said all along that Wesley’s starting quarterback position was going to be a work in progress.

On Wednesday, he said he’s told backup Jon Mullin that he’ll be the starter in the Wolverines’ next game, on Oct. 5 at home against Rowan.

Mullin started the second half of the Endicott game and completed 22-of-27 passes for 253 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The senior also ran for 17 yards on four carries.

“Jon made a big statement,” said Knapp.

“Quarterback is about taking care of the football but also making plays,” said Knapp. “Jon Mullin came in and started making plays — making things happen. That’s what we’re looking for. Until you get in game situations. … that’s the true test.

“It’s kind of easier sometimes when you’re the backup and you’re coming in in almost a no-lose situation. … But we’re waiting for guys to make some throws and now we’re starting to figure out what the guys can do.”

Bruhn delivers

Nick Bruhn had a long wait before kicking his game-winning 27-yard field goal with two seconds left to beat Endicott.

Wesley called one timeout with the Gulls then calling two in a row before Bruhn delivered his second field goal in the final five minutes.

“It was very similar to a guy shooting a game-winning free throw (in basketball),” said Knapp. “You don’t want him to get into his head too much. We just went through the operation of the kick and make sure we protect. It worked out well.”

Senior Anthony Calcutta was the long snapper with Mullin holding on the kick.

Bruhn’s heroics were especially gratifying for Knapp since he’s gone through some ups and downs in his career.

“It was great to see,” said Knapp. “We want our guys to have a good, positive experience playing football and that’s one he’s going to remember.”

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