DELAWARE VALLEY UNIVERSITY - NCAA Playoffs

FIRST ROUND: Delaware Valley (W) 35 - Western New England 0

August 31, 2016

DelVal Football - Aggies vs Wesley Week One Game Preview

A MACfb.com File Photo
DOYLESTOWN (PA) – The Delaware Valley University football team, ranked 25th in Division III, will open its 2016 season on Friday, September 2 when the Aggies travel to Dover, Delaware to battle seventh-ranked Wesley College. Kickoff at Drass Field at Scott D. Miller Stadium for the non-conference match-up is slated for 6 p.m.

DelVal and the Wolverines are meeting on the gridiron for the first time since 2010. That game also took place at Wesley and both teams were ranked in the top 10 in Division III at the time. The Wolverines, ranked third, scored a late touchdown for a 21-17 triumph over the No. 8 Aggies.

DelVal has reached the postseason 12 of the last 13 years including six NCAA appearances (2004-05-09-10-11-14). Last year’s playoff showing was a victory over Moravian College in the inaugural Centennial-Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Bowl Series.

Wesley has qualified for the NCAAs in 11 consecutive seasons, including last year’s run to the quarterfinals. They were semifinalists the season before as well as on five other occasions.

DELAWARE VALLEY UNIVERSITY

Third-year head coach Duke Greco has 15 starters are back from a team that went 9-2 last season. Seven of the starters are on the offensive side of the ball, including sophomore quarterback Dashawn Darden (Norristown, PA/Cardinal O’Hara).

Darden took over the starting role in week seven last year (he saw significant time in the first six contests) and finished his rookie campaign with 686 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 89 times for 594 yards (6.7) and four scores.

Darden’s top two targets are back in senior Tyler Bing (Galloway, NJ/Absegami) and sophomore Eric Shorter (Trenton, NJ/Princeton). Bing earned first-team all-MAC honors after catching 19 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown while also adding 380 yards and five trips to the end zone on 45 carries (8.4 avg). Shorter also had 19 receptions and they went for a team-best 351 yards and three touchdowns.

The DelVal ground attack will be led by 2015 all-conference honorees Robert Cleveland (Willingboro, NJ/Willingboro) and Devauntay Ellis (Ewing, NJ/Ewing). Cleveland, a senior, was a second-team pick after netting 599 yards and two touchdowns on 116 carries. Ellis, also a senior, finished with 711 yards and four scores on 95 touches (95), en route to a spot on the all-MAC first team.

On the defensive side of the ball, six starters are back from a unit that allowed just 16.5 points per game. Among the returnees are a trio of all-conference players in junior safetyShawn Miller (Laurel, DE/Laurel) and senior linemen Aric Boyes (Parksville, NY/Tri-Valley) and Devante Ford (Philadelphia, PA/West Catholic).

Miller was a first-team selection a season ago as he notched 63 tackles and a team-best four interceptions. He returned one of the picks a record-tying 100 yards for a touchdown in a key win over previously undefeated Stevenson University.

Boyes and Ford were both second-team honorees in 2015. Boyes, an end, is coming off a campaign that saw him tally 40 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Ford, a nose tackle who transferred from Wesley, had 29 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in his first season in an Aggie uniform.

WESLEY COLLEGE

Head coach Mike Drass has the second-most wins among active Division III head coaches with 210 (210-56-1). Eleven of those victories came last season (11-2) as the team earned a share of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title and reached the NCAA quarterfinals before falling to eventual national champion University of Mount Union.

Wesley is looking to replace Gagliardi Trophy winner and current Green Bay Packers backup Joe Callahan at quarterback and the starter against DelVal will either be Dan Kesack and Nick Falkenberg. Kesack and Falkenberg, both juniors, combined for just 16 pass attempts and 120 yards last season.

Whoever lines up under center has a talented receiving group to throw to including All-American senior Bryce Shade. Shade caught a school-record 83 passes for 1,427 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. He also averaged 15.1 yards per punt return.

Sophomore Alex Kemp had a standout first collegiate season as the wideout had 44 grabs for 653 yards and eight scores.

Senior running back Jamaar Baynard is coming off a 2015 campaign that saw him carry the ball 260 times for 1,381 yards and 17 trips to the end zone. He also added 62 receptions for 656 yards and two touchdowns.

The Wolverine defense is led junior linebacker and preseason All-American Samer Manna. Manna notched a team-best 127 tackles last year. He also had three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one sack to his credit.

Two other players to watch are seniors Roderick Caine and Andre Connally. Caine, a linebacker, was second on the team in sacks with 5.5 and third in tackles with 68. Connally, a cornerback notched 71 tackles (second on the team) and paced Wesley with five interceptions and nine pass breakups.