DOVER, Del. - After an immensely important 44-27 victory over No. 18 Salisbury University last weekend, the Wesley College Football team sits one win away from clinching at least a share of the New Jersey Athletic Conference regular season title and earning the program's first automatic qualifying bid for the NCAA Tournament in its history.
Wesley is no stranger to the NCAA playoffs. The Wolverines have made 11 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, but each one of those postseason berths have come as at-large selections. A win on Saturday would ensure the Wolverines earn at least a share of the NJAC regular season championships, depending on the Frostburg State-Salisbury result, and will lock up that A.Q. bid.
Standing in the Wolverines' way of history is the William Paterson Pioneers. WPU has posted a 2-7 record this season, earning a season-opening win over Alfred State and then beating Montclair State early in the season. The Pioneers enter this weekend on a five-game skid though and have struggled to stop opposing offenses.
The Wolverines understand that they have a job to do. Jamar Baynard will lead a hard-nosed rushing attack against the Pioneers. Baynard needs just one rushing touchdown to tie the Wesley program record for career rushing touchdowns, and would become the sole leader in the category with two scores on the ground. He has rushed for 44 touchdowns in his career, including 13 this season.
Through the air, Nick Falkenberg has taken over at quarterback for the Wolverines, leading the team to an average of 289.0 passing yards per game since earning the starting nod before the Montclair State game. Falkenberg threw for a career-high four touchdowns against Salisbury and added two more against the Red Hawks.
Bryce Shade is beginning to heat up on the outside. The senior wide receiver has gone for at least 150 yards receiving in each of his past two games, bringing his season total to 908 yards through the air this year. He has also caught eight touchdowns this year. Alex Kemp has emerged as the Wolverines' second option on the flanks, pulling in 38 catches for 600 yards and seven touchdowns this year.
On defense, the Wolverines have stepped up recently. After beginning the season without an interception in their first four contests, Wesley has picked off eight passes in their last five games, helping them to win the turnover battle. The squad has also forced 17 fumbles on the season and recovered 11 of them.
Samer Manna leads the team with 70 total tackles entering Saturday, while Ben Robinson has recorded 66. Isaiah Ingram leads the team with 6.5 sacks on the season while Roderick Caine has stepped up recently, recording 14 tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a sack in his last two games combined.
The Pioneers will give a much different look offensively than the Sea Gull offense the Wolverines faced last week. WPU has recorded a majority of their offense through the air this season, averaging 186 yards passing per game, nearly 75% of their offensive yards. The Wesley secondary will likely be tested by the Pioneer offense as they take to the air to try and break down the Navy and White.
Wesley and William Paterson will battle on Saturday, November 12 with kickoff scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Saturday will also stand as the Wolverines' Senior Day as well as Youth Football Day.