Wesley searching for Callahan replacement

DOVER — As much as they always wanted to be ready to play at any time, they knew what the deal was.

Joe Callahan was Wesley College’s starting quarterback and that was that.

“You knew Joe was the guy,” said junior QB Dan Kesack.

But with Callahan wearing a Green Bay Packers’ uniform these days, somebody else is going to be lining up behind center for the Wolverines this fall.

With Wesley opening preseason camp on Thursday, both Nick Falkenberg and Kesack would like to think they’re ready to take over as the Wolverines’ starting quarterback.

Without Callahan, last year’s Gagliardi Trophy winner as the top player in Division III football, things have changed a lot for both junior QBs.

“It’s definitely different,” said Falkenburg, who was Callahan’s backup last season. “The spotlight’s on you.Wesley football-Nick Falkenburg-1

“I’m rooting for him (Kesack), he’s rooting for me. We’re good friends, we’re competitors. That’s what makes this all great.”

What gives coach Mike Drass confidence is that Wesley still has longtime assistant Chip Knapp as its offensive coordinator.

Under Knapp, the Wolverines have produced a continuous line of standout quarterbacks dating back to 1998. That string of QBs includes Jason Visconti, Chris Warrick, Shane McSweeney, Justin Sottilare and Callahan.

Those five QBs hold the top five spots on Wesley’s list of all-time leaders in virtually every major passing category.

“I look at what Coach Knapp has done and it’s no surprise to us that, every third year, an All-American quarterback sprouts up at Wesley College,” said Drass. “To me it’s been amazing to look at our offense over the years. You let the offense evolve to the talent that you have.”

Drass said the way that both Kesack and Falkenburg played in spring practice has given him confidence in both players as well.

Still, the fact remains that the two quarterbacks are largely untested at the college level.

While they’ve gotten their share of playing time, it’s all been mop-up duty. Falkenburg completed 7-of-8 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown last season with Kesack completing 6-of-8 passes for 63 yards and a TD.

On the other hand, the two players both say that Callahan was a pretty good quarterback to watch.

“Joe was a great player and we learned a lot from him,” said the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Kesack. “We’re just going to watch what he did over the last three years and try to put that in our game a little bit.”Wesley football-Dan Kesack-2

“No one’s going to be Joe Callahan but you’ve got to play to the best of your ability,” said the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Falkenburg. “Being under him for two years and watching what he does, if you follow that route, I think you’ll do pretty well.”

Whoever is the starting QB when Wesley opens the season by hosting Delaware Valley on Sept. 2, he’ll still have a pretty impressive offense around him.

The Wolverines still have standout players like running back Jamar Baynard and receivers Bryce Shade and James Okike as well as most of their starting offensive line. Last year Wesley was ranked No. 1 nationally in Division III in total offense (592.2 yards per game) and No. 7 in scoring offense (46.8 points).

So for the time being, the Wolverines just need a quarterback who can keep things going in the right direction.

“You don’t want to turn the ball over, you want to execute our offense and do what we do,” said Kesack.

Callahan did give his two potential replacements some advice before he left.

“He said, ‘Listen to Coach Knapp,’” said Kesack. “He said, ‘Just stick with Coach Knapp and good things will happen — and work hard.’”

Falkenburg also remembers Callahan saying something about how to approach playing the game.

“He said ‘Go out there and sling it,’” said Falkenburg. “Every time we’re up by 50, he said, ‘Go out there and sling it.’”

Extra points

Smyrna High grads Darren Helwig (offensive tackle) and Ameer Watson (tight end), who both started their college careers at Delaware State, are now on the Wesley roster. … There are 11 former Henlopen Conference players on the Wolverines’ roster. … The season opener against Delaware Valley is being called ‘Bob Andrus Night,’ in honor of the former Wesley and Dover High coach, who passed away last year.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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