NCAA Division-III Playoffs: Wesley vs. Stevenson
The No. 22 Wesley Wolverines will play host to the No. 21 Stevenson Mustangs on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Division-III football playoffs. Wesley enters the playoffs following an 8-2 season where they were 8-1 in the conference, downing Frostburg State who also finished 8-1 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). Stevenson won the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC), going 8-1 within the conference and 9-1 overall.
How They Got Here:
The Wesley Wolverines opened the season 1-2 after dropping their first game of the season to Delaware State and then losing to Christopher Newport two weeks later. In between there was a big victory over Frostburg State, 43-7. Following their second loss, Wesley got on a roll, winning their last seven contests, including a 59-14 victory over William Paterson on the last weekend of the season. The Wolverines scored at least 37-points in eight or their final nine games.
The Stevenson Mustangs won their first eight games of the season before falling to Wilkes on November 5. They rebounded to defeat Lycoming 28-10 on the final Saturday of the season to clinch the MAC title. The Mustangs dominated most of their opponents, only having two contests decided by five points or less. That was a 31-26 victory over Albright and the 38-25 loss to Wilkes. Otherwise, Stevenson won every other contest by at least 11-points.
Wesley 40.1 PPG, 194.3 Rushing/Game, 268.5 Passing/Game, 462.8 Yards/Game
Stevenson 36.7 PPG, 135.4 Rushing/Game, 225.3 Passing/Game, 360.7 Yards/Game
Wesley 16.8 PPG, 139.9 Rushing/Yards, 164.3 Passing/Game, 304.2 Yards/Game
Stevenson 17.1 PPG, 119.6 Rushing/Game, 197.9 Passing/Game, 317.5 Yards/Game
Players to Watch
Jamar Baynard continues to the lead the Wesley offense, and he is a good one. The running back gained 924-yards rushing and scored 14-touchdowns. E.J. Lee is his backup and he is an outstanding back as well, gaining 489-yards and 5-TDs in limited action. Two quarterbacks have seen considerable action for this offense. Both Dan Kesack and Nick Falkenberg have played in eight games. The two combined for nearly 2,700-yards passing and 24-touchdowns, but each threw 6-interceptions. Bryce Shade and Alex Kemp are the two top receivers. Shade made 49-catches for 927-yards and 8-scores, and Kemp made 46-catches for 770-yards and 10-TDs.
Samer Manna is an outstanding linebacker who finds ways to get into plays. He led the team with 80-tackles, plus he had 2.5-sacks and an interception. Isaiah Ingram led the team with 6.5-sacks.
QB Daniel Williams leads the Stevenson offense. Williams threw for 2,146-yards and 24-touchdowns. He has two outstanding receivers in Devin Salisbury (65-catches, 675-yards, 5-TDs) and Preston Addo (41-catches, 737-yards, 11-TDs, 18.0 per catch average). Three other receivers had double-digit numbers in catches. Jainerd Crawley-Lambert and Devonte Williams combined to rush for 1,06-yards and 12-touchdowns.
Austin Tennessee is an outstanding defensive back who made 6-interceptions and broke up 22 other passes. He was third on the team in tackles as well. Ashton Leschke led the team with 77-tackles.
Both of these teams enter the playoffs looking good, but Wesley is the superior team here. That is not a knock on Stevenson; the Wolverines are just better. For the Mustangs to win they have to get a few mistakes from the quarterback duo of Wesley and turn those into scores. Not likely though. The Wesley Wolverines will win, we predict 47-20.
By Robert Pannier