Wesley notebook: Williams, Wolverines not ready for season to end

At strong safety, Coray Williams (Sr., 6-2, 220) was not only the Wolverines’ leading tackler with 79 stops but also had three interceptions and nine passes defended. Delaware State News file photo

DOVER — Sure, Coray Williams can remember when he was a freshman.

Back then, the Wesley College senior strong safety thought his college career would last forever.

“I just remember, my freshman year, listening to the seniors give their senior speech,” said Williams. “I was like, ‘I’ve got years until this comes.’ But now it’s already here.”

Indeed, Williams and 13 other seniors know there’s a chance that the Wolverines’ 1 p.m. home game with Christopher Newport (2-4 NJAC, 2-7 overall) on Saturday could be the last of their careers.

No. 12 Wesley (5-1 NJAC, 8-1 overall) is going to try to avoid that possibility. The Wolverines hope that a victory in their season finale will put them in the NCAA Division III playoffs for the 15th time in the last 16 years.

The playoff bracket comes out on Sunday.

Either way, though, Wesley’s seniors will be honored before Saturday’s game. The program’s tradition is also for them to give a speech to their teammates during the week.

With seven career interceptions, Williams has been a stalwart for the Wolverines’ secondary for several seasons. Like any player, Williams has done his share of maturing over the years.

“I definitely bought in more and and listened to what the coaches are saying more — just taking everything more seriously,” he said. “I’ve become more of a leader on and off the field — just doing my best to be the best man I can be.”

“Coray is a team leader,” said Wesley coach Chip Knapp. “Our defense has come through for us time and time again. A lot of the good stuff that’s happening on defense comes through Coray.”

Williams and junior free safety Marcus Gaspard have given Wesley a solid tandem in the heart of its defense.

Marcus Gaspard

Williams has been something of a mentor to Gaspard, who’s in his first season as a starter.

“He’s taught me a lot about the little things that are the most important things,” said Gaspard. “And he has a great work ethic. I’m trying to just keep up with him.”

Williams has three interceptions with Gaspard adding one on a unit that leads the NJAC in pass defense at only 121.3 yards per game. As a team, the Wolverines have surrendered just six touchdown passes compared to nine interceptions.

“Marcus, I consider him my little brother,” said Williams. “Sometimes he’ll be running around but when he’s locked in, he’s locked in. He’ll ask questions. He’s a great player.

“I love being back there, looking to the side of me and knowing he’s at the other safety. He gets better every week. He brings the energy every practice, every game.”

Knapp said the Wolverines have always talked to the seniors in terms of the legacy they leave behind.

“Not the stats or the touchdowns,” he said. “After a while, even the wins kind of fade away. It’s just what kind of teammate you were, what kind of football player you were and how you represented yourself in the four years.

“It’s not easy to play four years of college football. Not everyone can do it. The fact that they can grind through all the practices, all the meetings and all the preparation that goes into the games and come out four years later with a good legacy, it really says something about them.”

Back in the playoffs?

After missing the NCAA Division III playoffs for the first time since 2004 a year ago, Wesley is fairly confident it will get an at-large bid if it wins on Saturday.

Probably more important than the Wolverines’ unofficial national ranking is the fact that they are No. 2 in the NCAA’s East Region rankings. And they’ve beaten both No. 3 Delaware Valley and No. 10 Endicott in the region.

While Knapp has looked at where Wesley stands, he’s also tried not to get distracted by it.

“We’re saying it’s a one-game season and we’ve got to be completely focused on beating Christopher Newport,” said Knapp. “Anything else doesn’t matter. You can do all the calculating and projecting you want but you have to win.

“I think we’ve put ourselves in a good position to be selected.”

Obviously not making the NCAAs was difficult on everybody in the program. But Williams said missing the playoffs last season also lit a fire under the Wolverines.

“It was tough,” he said. “But, at the same time, I also feel that everything happens for a reason. So us not making the playoffs last year, it just gave us the motivation and the chip on our shoulder we needed for this year.

“I just want to keep playing, keep playing with my brothers and keep this season going as long as it goes,” he added.

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