Wesley out to play spoiler for Sea Gulls

DOVER — Vince Ebron has been here before.

The Wesley College defensive lineman knows that facing Salisbury means dealing with double-team blocks, and cut blocks and a constant pounding from the Sea Gulls’ running backs.

“All they do is triple option,” said Ebron. “It’s just running, running, running, running. You’ve just got to mentally prepare yourself to possibly get exhausted at some point. But you’ve still got to fight.”

There’s a big reward for the Wolverines, however, if they can find a way to slow down Salisbury’s triple option on Saturday.

While Wesley’s NCAA Division III playoff dreams are now dashed, the Wolverines (4-3 NJAC, 5-3 overall) can help spoil things for the unbeaten Sea Gulls (7-0, 8-0).
Ranked No. 18 by D3football.com, Salisbury still has to face No. 6 Frostburg State for the conference title next weekend. If the Sea Gulls don’t beat the Bobcats, a loss to Wesley would severely limit their chances of earning an at-large NCAA playoff berth.

As usual, Salisbury comes into Saturday’s showdown with the top rushing offense in Division III at 386.6 yards per game.

The Wolverines’ defense has had its share of success against the Gulls but there’s never anything easy about it.

“Some of these guys, as we say, are going to go through the grinder,” said Wesley coach Chip Knapp. “They’ve got to play hard and they can’t let up. They’ve got to be disciplined in what they’re doing — for every play.

“The triple-option offense can score on any play. If you relax, that’s when the big play happens. The defense has to have a mentality of being relentless on every play.”

On the other hand, Salisbury does have the least-productive passing offense out of the 247 Division III teams in the country. The Gulls average just 26.5 yards per game through the air — 34 yards fewer than the next-lowest offense in the country.

There’s still a lot of pride on the line for the Wolverines when they take on Salisbury. After getting thumped by the Gulls in the early days of the Route 13 Rivalry, Wesley has won 12 of the last 13 meetings to build a 20-8 advantage in the series.

That’s one thing the Wolverines would like to try to hang onto.

“It would be exciting,” said Ebron. “I think everybody’s pretty much just focused on beating Salisbury.”

Back to work

It’s been a long time since the Wolverines have been in this situation.

They’ve haven’t lost three games in a regular season since 2003,

Knowing that it lost those three games by a grand total of three points doesn’t make it any easier to swallow for Wesley.

For seniors like Ebron, the reality of the situation only makes him want to work harder in the games he has left.

“Eventually at some point you have to realize, ‘OK, we’ve got to keep pushing,’” he said. “I mean, yeah, it happens. life happens. You’ve just got to make the best of it.”

The Wolverines still have a chance at earning a spot in an ECAC post-season game. Wesley has also failed to win at least six games in a season only once since 1990.

After Salisbury, the Wolverines still have to play at Christopher Newport in their regular-season finale.

“We tell the players, there’s nothing we can do about the past,” said Knapp. “We can only control what we do now. So that’s what we’re doing.

“I was very happy with yesterday,” he said about Tuesday’s practice. “You could feel the energy from the defensive side of the ball. And, on offense, we had a really good practice. The whole thing about moving on and the most important thing is the next thing we do, their actions are showing that they’re buying into it.”

Extra points

Standout receiver Alex Kemp left last week’s game with Montclair State with a leg injury. Knapp said the Caesar Rodney High grad plans to try to play on Saturday. … Salisbury has nine Delaware players on its roster. Dover High grad Tyler Rosello, a junior, is the Gulls’ starting center. … Since 2005, Wesley is 21-2 in regular-season games in November. … The last time the Wolverines weren’t ranked in the Top 25 was in 2016. … Frostbug is No. 2 in the NCAA East Region rankings that came out this week while Salisbury is No. 6. Brockport State is No. 1.
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

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