NCAA Division-III Playoffs: R. 2, Wolverines v. Blue Jays
NCAA Division-III Playoffs
No. 12 Wesley Wolverines (10-1)
No. 6 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (11-0)
How They Got Here: The Wesley Wolverines won the New Jersey Athletic Conference title after going 8-1 in league games. The Wolverines had several big wins during the season, including victories over Christopher Newport and No. 23 North Central. Their only defeat loss was a three-point defeat to Salisbury. Wesley has been an offensive machine this season, with their lowest point total being the 35 they scored against Salisbury. They have had five games where they scored at least 50.
Wesley opened the NCAA Division-III playoffs with a 42-22 victory over Framingham State. This was a fairly close, back-and-forth battle that was tied at 14 into the second quarter. Two touchdown passes by Joe Callahan, including a 69-yarder to Alex Kemp, put Wesley up 28-14 before half and they remained in control from there. Callahan finished the day 32-42 for 411-yards passing and 4-touchdowns. Jamar Baynard scored two touchdowns on the ground and three receivers each had over 100-yards receiving. Alex Kemp made 6-catches for 143-yards and 3 scores, James Okike had 9-catches for 116-yards, and Bryce Shade made 10-catches for 107-yards and a score.
For the fifth season in a row the John Hopkins Blue Jays won the Centennial Conference. The champs went 9-0 in the conference as part of an undefeated season, holding four opponents to less than 10 points. The offense generated at least 34-points in every game this season and no team was able to get closer than a 21-point loss.
The Blue Jays opened the NCAA Division-III playoffs with a dominating 52-20 victory over Western New England. Johns Hopkins came out on fire, jumping out to a 38-0 lead heading into half. Quarterback Joe Germano had three first-half touchdown passes and finished with four overall in leading the charge. The Blue Jays QB finished with 293-yards passing.
Callahan is one of the best quarterbacks in all of Division-III football. He led the nation with 4,215-yards passing and 47-touchdowns. He completed over 70 percent of his passes while throwing just 7-interceptions. When he is on there are few that compare. He also rushed for 309-yards and 6 scores.
Despite being a fairly pass happy team, Baynard found a way to keep this a balanced offense, rushing for 1,192-yards and 15-touchdowns. Baynard is a bruising back who will hurt an opponent if they decide to try to shut down the passing game.
Shade and Okike both have over 1000-yards receiving. Shade has 70-catcches for 1,341-yards and led the nation with 17-touchdown receptions. Okike caught 61-balls for 1,034-yards and 15 TDs.
The defense is led by Samer Manna who made an amazing 111-tackles during the season. He always seems to be in on plays and no team has found a way to limit his effectiveness, as he had at least 10-tackles in seven contests and never finished with less than six in any game.
Germano is deadly accurate as well, also completing over 70 percent of his passes. He threw for 31-touchdowns and 2,657-yards. Add to this the 387-yards and 4 TDs he gained on the ground and it is easy to see that the quarterback matchup is going to be one for the ages.
Stuart Walters and Brandon Cherry are an outstanding 1-2 punch for this offense. Walters rushed for 853-yards and 17 TDs while Cherry was close behind with 735-yards and 8-touchdowns. Cherry had the better yards per carry average (6.7 to 6.0).
Jack Toner is a real ball hawk in the secondary. He recorded 6-interceptions and averages nearly 20 yards per return. Keonte Henson leads the team with 5.5-sacks.
Outlook: This could likely be the most exciting NCAA Division-III playoff game of the weekend. These are two very evenly matched teams who play sound football and know how to win. In a contest like this it makes sense to go with the team that has the star player; that is Wesley. Joe Callahan will be the difference in this game. Take the Wesley Wolverines as they win on a late field goal, 31-28.
By Robert Pannier