Second-half surge lifts No. 13/13 Wesley over RPI in NCAA First Round

Photo by Angela Benefield
Photo by Angela Benefield

DOVER, Del. – The 13th ranked Wesley College football rallied from a halftime deficit to take a 45-27 victory over RPI on Saturday in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Division III Football Playoffs.

The game featured four lead changes and three ties before Wesley put the game away in the fourth quarter.

As a team, the Wolverines picked up 566 yards of total offense. Wide receiver Alex Kemp led the offense with 239 total offensive yards. He notched 11 catches for 149 yards and a receiving touchdown. Kemp also ran the ball three times for 90 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Quarterback Khaaliq Burroughs went 27-of-44 passing for 325 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. He also carried the ball seven times for 39 yards. Running back E.J. Lee tallied 159 yards of total offense. He collected 116 yards and a rushing touchdown on 29 totes while catches four passes out of the backfield for 43 yards and a score.

Linebacker Samer Manna led the Wesley defense with 13 tackles. Defensive tackle Stephen Yorkman and safety Cappadonna Miller each recorded seven tackles. Yorkman added two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Safety Coray Williams broke up two passes while defensive end Kimane Jones notched two sacks. Defensive end Isaiah Ingram forced two fumbles and registered 1.5 sacks in the win.

The Wesley defense forced two George Marinopoulos interceptions. DaJahn Lowery picked off a pass in the second quarter that led to a Burroughs to Kemp 23-yard touchdown connection on Wesley's following possession. Daquay Harris-Winbush stymied an RPI drive late in the fourth quarter when he intercepted Marinopoulos in the end zone.

It was back-and-forth in the first half between the two teams. Facing a 3-point deficit after halftime, Wesley regained the lead when Lee capped off an 11-play drive with a 6-yard touchdown scamper. Nick Bruhn added the extra point to give Wesley a 24-20 lead with 8:40 to go in the third quarter.

Rensselaer took the lead 27-24 two minutes later when Marinopoulos extended a play and found Johnny Ramsdell in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.

Wesley answered with 21 unanswered points to overpower RPI. Following a 4th down conversion, Burroughs found Lee out of the backfield and Lee outran the linebacker for a 15-yard touchdown just before the end of the third quarter to make it a 31-27 game.

With eight minutes to go in the game, Burroughs threw a jump ball to James Okike who 'mossed' the RPI defender for a touchdown to make it a two-score game.

Kemp clinched Wesley's trip to the second round of the playoffs when he took a reverse 61 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.

The Wolverines (10-1) will face the Brockport Golden Eagles in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 25. Kickoff from New York is set for noon.