December 1, 2014

Widener Football - The Pride will host Linfield in NCAA Quarterfinals

Image: John Green
Chester, PA – Two home NCAA Tournament victories for No. 10 Widener football have given the squad a date Saturday in the quarterfinals against No. 10 Linfield.

Game time at Leslie C. Quick Jr. Stadium is at noon. Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for students. No complimentary tickets are available and all need to pay admission to gain entrance.

The Pride have their No. 10 ranking according to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and the Wildcats have their ranking according to D3Football.com. This will be the first meeting between the schools.

Widener (12-0, 9-0 MAC) moved on after its 37-27 victory Saturday over Christopher Newport in the “Sweet 16.” Sophomore Seth Klein (Wernersville, PA/Wilson West Lawn) completed 21-of-29 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns with senior All-America Anthony Davis (Upland, PA/Chester) hauling in 13 catches for 146 yards and both scores.

The Pride opened the tournament with a 36-35 win over No. 22 Muhlenberg on November 22, one week after clinching their league-record 20th Middle Atlantic Conference title with a 44-28 triumph against 15th-ranked Delaware Valley.

Widener is 19-11 in the NCAA Tournament that includes national championships in 1977 and 1981. The squad also is 7-0 in NCAA Tournament games at Quick Stadium and 6-4 in the national quarterfinals. The Pride also are 12-0 for the third time in school history.

Even in its illustrious history, Widener only will be hosting a national quarterfinal for just the third time. It defeated Albright in 1975 and Baldwin-Wallace in 1979 at the since-razed Memorial Stadium.

Widener has been nationally ranked most of the campaign for many reasons. The defense is the key principle by sitting first in the country with only 61.3 rushing yards allowed per contest. Helping that figure was the fact the squad yielded minus-19 rushing yards November 1 vs. Stevenson and minus-13 rushing yards September 27 at FDU-Florham.

The unit also is third in the nation with 10.1 tackles for a loss per game, fourth in turnover ratio (36:10), seventh with a .556 red zone scoring percentage, sixth with 3.67 sacks per game, 19th with 15.1 points allowed per contest and 40th with 305.4 yards allowed per game.

It certainly does not hurt to have three all-conference returnees on the defensive line in Stacey Sunnerville (Freehold, NJ/Freehold), fellow junior Shakore Philip (Bay Shore, NY) and senior John DiBiase (Mount Laurel, NJ/Lenape). Sunnerville, who was tabbed second team All-MAC a second straight year, is third on the squad with 54 tackles and also has 9 1/2 tackles for a loss. Philip was first team All-MAC as well as second team All-ECAC South and DiBiase was Honorable Mention.

Linebacker Kevin Burns (Collingdale, PA/West Catholic) has a league-leading 20 tackles for a loss, also paces the team with 88 tackles and was tabbed first team All-MAC. Fellow senior Brandon Harper (Blackwood, NJ), named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year, is second on the team with 80 tackles. Sophomore and MAC Honorable Mention pick Alex Stewart (Pittsgrove, NJ/Arthur P. Schalick) had a school-record three blocked punts October 18 against Wilkes and first team All-MAC senior senior Ameer Sorrell (Port Norris, NJ) has four touchdowns this year that include three blocked punt returns.

First team All-MAC sophomore Sean Titus (Lancaster, PA/Lancaster Catholic) has had a monster year at safety. He has a league-best nine interceptions for 220 yards, including a 96-yard return for a touchdown November 8 vs. King’s.

Davis continues to be a menace for any opponent and once again is having another solid campaign. He is sixth in the country with 1,223 receiving yards, 77th with 128.4 all-purpose yards per game, tied for second in the MAC with 10 receiving touchdowns and fourth with 6.2 receptions per game.

Davis is first in school history with 261 career receptions, 6,576 all-purpose yards, 3,934 receiving yards and 1,704 kickoff return yards. He also is second with 41 touchdown catches and third with 45 touchdowns. He has been voted All-America the last two years, first team All-MAC all four seasons and this year was cited a Preseason All-America by four publications.

Klein was tabbed second team All-MAC, one season after being picked the MAC and ECAC South Rookie of the Year. This season, he is seventh in the country with 33 touchdown passes, 32nd with 266.6 passing yards per game, 47th with a .621 completion percentage and 42nd with 266.7 yards of total offense per contest.

Mike Kelly has won his first 12 games as head coach, the longest such winning and unbeaten streaks in school history. The previous unbeaten run was held by Dutch Sommer, who went 5-0-2 during his only season in 1913.

The Pride have outscored their opponents this season 478-181 that includes 140-47 in the first quarter and 96-20 in the third.

This will be Widener’s fourth straight home game, although it is unclear the last time this happened in program history. The squad in its early years as a military college rarely played road contests.

Linfield (10-1, 6-1 NWC) moved on with a stunning 31-28 victory at second-ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor in the second round. The Wildcats, who beat No. 17 Chapman in the first round, received an automatic berth by claiming the Northwest Conference.