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Wesley College looks to pull an upset in the NCAA playoffs

Photo Credit: Denise Monaghan

Wesley College needs to pull off a major upset if it wants to advance in the NCAA Division III football playoffs.

The Wolverines tangle with the nation’s top team, Mount Union, in a quarterfinal contest in Alliance, Ohio Saturday.

The Purple Raiders are undefeated and looking to take the next step toward reaching the Stagg Bowl - the Div. III championship game - for an 11th straight year.

They boast the nation’s number one defense, allowing just over five points per game.   They also score more than anyone in Division III, averaging nearly 55 points per contest.

Wesley senior free safety Craig Pettit says that combination means the Wolverines must be as stingy on defense as possible.

“As a defense, we just have to stop them from making big plays.  As you said, they put up big points, big numbers and a lot of that comes off big plays – long runs or long passes. We’ve got to control them and hold them down," said Pettit.  "If they’re going to score on us, we’ve got to make them long drives – 12, 15 play drives. [We need to] make them earn their touchdowns.”

Head Coach Mike Drass adds his special teams and offense must also deliver, avoiding miscues that Mount Union can ounce on.

"We cannot have a punt block.  We cannot give up a kick return," said Drass.  "We can't fumble.  We can't turn the ball over on offense. We have to cherish each possession and make the most out of each possession."

This is fifth time since 2009 these two teams have met in the post-season and the third straight year.

Mount Union has won every contest to date.  Two years ago, Wesley lost to Mount Union 62-59 in the Div. III quarterfinals.  Last year, they were swamped 70-21 in a semifinal.

But senior defensive tackle Brenton Barnes says this is a new year and a new opportunity.

“They’re a great team and we’re also a great team. And the thing is we’re a different team coming in then last year and they’re a different team as well. So, I’m looking forward to going out there and battling and competing," said Barnes.

Drass agrees, embracing the rare chance for his team to play the role of underdog.

Because of last year’s game, no one’s giving us a chance but us.  And believe me, I don’t mind that at all," said Drass.  "I’m looking forward to going out there and letting our kids be loose and just play football.”

Saturday's contest kicks-off at noon at Mount Union.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.
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