Wesley wants to make the most of ECAC bowl game

DOVER — It’s been three decades since Chip Knapp played his last football game.

His Cornell squad lost to Penn for the Ivy League title.

It was a tough day for the senior quarterback.

“Growing up, there’s always another season,” said Knapp. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. It felt like a chapter of my life had closed.

“I remember sitting in the locker room for a long time, not wanting to leave.”

First-year head coach Chip Knapp wants to send his seniors out with a win. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh.

So Knapp — now the head coach at Wesley College — is pretty excited that the Wolverines’ seniors get to play one more game this weekend.

After finishing the regular season with a 16-14 loss at Christopher Newport last Saturday, Wesley (6-4) was awarded an ECAC bowl game bid on Monday. The Wolverines will travel to Westminster, Pa. (7-3) on Saturday for a noon contest.

Knapp could see it was difficult for Wesley’s seniors at Christopher Newport knowing that might have been their final game.

“We had a lot of seniors hanging around the football field at the end of the game,” said Knapp. “They were reluctant to take that last step off the field thinking that was it. Our team is very thankful to be playing again.

“We’ve been in six ECAC games over the time that I’ve been here. The team has taken different attitudes. Some of them were very excited to be in the game and, for some of them, it was a letdown because we thought we were going to the (NCAA Division III) playoffs and we didn’t make it. But our team is very appreciative to play another game — that’s the sense I’m getting.”

Offensive tackle Devin Miller (Cape Henlopen) was one of those seniors who found it difficult to walk away after Wesley’s loss at CNU.

“I was one of the last few off the field,” said Miller. “I was just trying to take that moment in. It felt like it was really the last time I was going to get to play with my brothers, the guy’s I consider family.

“It’s definitely a blessing,” he said about the ECAC bid. “I’ll just look at it as a chance to win my last football game, another chance to play with my brothers. There was definitely a lot of doubt. But Coach Knapp said that we had our bid in so we had our fingers crossed, hoping for whatever we could get. When we found out, it was some pretty exciting news.”

Because the Wolverines have been in the NCAA Division III playoffs for the last 13 seasons, they haven’t won their season finale since 2004. Wesley also hasn’t finished with fewer than six victories in a season since going 6-4 in 2003.

Offensive tackle Devin Miller, a Cape Henlopen High grad, is excited that Wesley’s season didn’t end with last week’s loss to Christopher Newport. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh.

“This is a real important game for our program, for our current team and seniors” said Knapp. “It’s a big game as we move forward.”

“Personally, I feel like it’s the last chance to make Coach (Mike) Drass proud,” said Miller. “I just want to leave that lasting impact as I make my exit from Wesley College. … We’re still doing everything we can to win this game because it’s still a big thing to us.”

First-time foe

Saturday’s contest will be the first time Wesley has ever faced Westminster in football.

But the Titans have a proud tradition in the sport, having won six NAIA national titles before moving to Division III in 2000. This is the program’s 19th post-season appearance.

This season, Westminster actually beat No. 7 Washington & Jefferson, the eventual Presidents’ Athletic Conference, by a score of 27-20. But the Titans also lost to No. 14 Wittenberg and No. 18 Case Western Reserve.

“We’re going to have to play like we’re capable of,” said Knapp. “Really, a lot of our losses were due to unforced errors — mistakes that we could have prevented by better decision-making and doing some basic fundamentals.”

Extra points

Wesley is 2-4 all-time in ECAC bowl games. … After catching a career-high 10 passes for 165 yards against CNU, senior Alex Kemp (Caesar Rodney) needs 28 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. With 3,382 career receiving yards, Kemp is second only to Steve Koudossu (4,059) on the school’s all-time list. … Two of the Wolverines’ opponents, Delaware Valley and Frostbrug State, are both in the Division III playoffs while another, Salisbury, is in an ECAC bowl game.

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.

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