Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Delaware Valley vs Wesley Football Game Preview

A File Photo
DOYLESTOWN (PA) – The Delaware Valley University football team, ranked 20th in Division III, will open its 2017 season on Thursday, August 31 when the Aggies host No. 11 Wesley College. Kickoff at Robert A. Lipinski Field at James Work Memorial Stadium is slated for 7 p.m.

This is the earliest that DelVal has ever opened a season and it’s one of the biggest non-conference match-ups in Division III. The Aggies have reached the postseason 13 of the last 14 years, including six NCAA appearances (2004-05-09-10-11-14). Last year’s playoff showing was a victory at Muhlenberg College for their second straight Centennial-Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Bowl Series title.

Wesley has qualified for the NCAAs in 12 consecutive seasons, including last year’s run to the second round. The Wolverines were semifinalists in 2015 as well as on five other occasions.

DelVal and Wesley met for the first time since 2010 in last year’s season opener. The Aggies, ranked 25th at the time, forced five turnovers and did not commit any of their own as they downed the seventh-ranked Wolverines, 21-14, in Dover, Delaware.


Fourth-year head coach Duke Greco has 16 starters back from a team that went 9-2 last season. Six of the starters are on the offensive side of the ball, including junior quarterbackDashawn Darden (Norristown, PA/Cardinal O’Hara).

After taking over the quarterback duties midway through his freshman season, Darden started all 11 contests last year and was named to the all-MAC team as an honorable mention pick. In ’16, he completed 131 of 237 passes for 1,850 yards and 18 touchdowns while also rushing for 501 yards and eight trips to the end zone.

Senior Devauntay Ellis (Ewing, NJ/Ewing) is a two-time, all-conference first-team honoree at tailback. He split time with teammate and fellow all-MAC tailback Robert Cleveland (now an assistant coach) and racked up 627 yards and eight touchdowns on 109 carries.

A young receiving group is led by junior Marquis Ellis (Owings Mills, MD/Franklin), who played the final seven games of the 2016 campaign for DelVal. He notched 12 catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns.

Up front, the line will be led by a pair of second-team, all-conference honorees in seniors Tyler Sylvester (Burlington, NJ/Burlington) and John Walsh (Ocean Township, NJ/Ocean Township). Sylvester (6-0, 270) shifted to the center position last year while Walsh (6-0, 305) is moving from right guard to right tackle.

On the defensive side of the ball, nine starters are back from a unit that permitted just 14.5 points and 268.3 yards per game a season ago. Six of the nine earned all-MAC accolades last year, including three in the secondary. Heading the cast is senior free safety and preseason All-American Shawn Miller (Laurel, DE/Laurel).

Miller shined in 2016 as he racked up 56 tackles, five interceptions for 117 yards, two sacks and a blocked kick. Three of the picks came in the season-opening win at seventh-ranked Wesley College to tie a school record. Miller was named to the all-MAC first team for the second year in a row and was a all-East Region selection as well.

Senior cornerback Sammy Mohr (Lincoln, DE/Cape Henlopen) and sophomore strong safety Jarren McBryde (Brigantine, NJ/Atlantic City) were second-team honorees last year. Mohr notched 26 tackles, four pass breakups and three interceptions. McBryde’s included 46 tackles, four pass breakups, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

The linebacking group has all four starters back, including a trio of all-MAC honorees. SeniorNicholas DiGati (Towsend, DE/Middletown transferred to DelVal prior to the 2016 season and picked up first-team honors while also being named the Centennial-MAC Bowl Series Most Valuable Player. He recorded 81 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Fellow seniors TJ Waters (Philadelphia, PA/West Catholic) and Nick Wright (Hatfield, PA/North Penn) were named to the all-MAC second team and honorable mention respectively.  Waters finished the year with 63 tackles, three fumble recoveries, two sacks and two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown). Wright had 34 tackles, seven pass breakups, three interceptions and one sack.


Head coach Mike Drass and the Wolverines posted a 9-3 overall record last year and won their second straight New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship. In the NCAAs, they reached the second round – defeating MAC champion Stevenson University in the opening round – before falling in double overtime to John Carroll University.

Taking the snaps this year for Wesley will be senior Nick Falkenberg, who took over as the starter midway through the 2016 season. He threw for 1,544 yard and 16 touchdowns.

Falkenberg has a talented receiving group to throw to in 2015 All-American James Okike and two-time all-NJSC honoree Alex Kemp. Okike sat out the 2016 season after finishing the year before with 1,426 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns while Kemp recorded 1,194 all-purpose yards and 11 total touchdowns in ’16.

The 2016 NJAC Rookie of the Year will once again line up in the backfield in sophomore tailbackE.J. Lee. Lee ran for 512 yards and five touchdown last season.

The Wolverine defense has seven returners in the mix including all-conference seniors Isaiah Ingram, DaJahn Lowery and Samer Manna.

Ingram, an end, was a all-region selection as he tallied 40 tackles. Lower, a cornerback, notched 36 tackles, 10 pass breakups and two interceptions. Manna, also an all-region pick, had 96 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2016.