DOVER — What was looking like a comfortable victory for the Wesley College football team against 21st-ranked Rowan on Saturday suddenly turned into a nail biter during the fourth quarter.
Rowan was able to pull within six points, but the fourth-ranked Wolverines forced a pair of turnovers in the final five and a half minutes.
Finally, Jamar Baynard sealed the 38-25 victory with a 14-yard touchdown run with just under two minutes remaining.
The win kept the Wolverines (7-0) unbeaten and in first place in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (6-0.)
“We got a turnover when it was a six-point game,” said Wesley coach Mike Drass. “The offense moved it down and Jamar made a great play getting in the end zone.
“We have to be better. It’s great to be in a game that’s tough and right down to the wire, but we have to know how to put a team away. They’re a top-20 team and we respect the living daylights out of them.”
The intrigue started with just over nine minutes remaining and Wesley leading 31-16. Wolverine defensive back Craig Petit intercepted a fourth down pass at the Rowan two-yard line, but fumbled and then recovered the ball in the end zone. Rowan was credited with a safety to pull within 31-18.
The Profs’ Jamel Smith returned the ensuing free kick 83 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly it was a 31-25 Wesley lead with 8:52 remaining.
“We just stayed humble throughout the game, even through adverse situations,” Baynard said. “That’s what the coaches preach to us every single day. There will be mistakes, but you have to work to overcome that.”
Wesley drove into Rowan territory but turned the ball over on downs at the 36-yard line. With 5:36 to go, Prof running back Withler Marcelin broke free for a 24-yard run, but was stripped of the football by Wolverine corner Anthony Brinkley and it was recovered by end Roderick Caine.
But two plays later, the Wesley offense gave the ball right back to Rowan. A Joe Callahan pass bounced out of the hands of Bryce Shade and into the hands of defensive back Eddie Davis for an interception at the Wolverine 41-yard line.
The Wesley defense rose to the occasion one more time. Corner Andre Connally picked off a Dante Pinckney pass and returned it all the way to the Rowan 18.
“They were running comeback (routes) all day,” Conally said. “On that play I was able to jump the route and be there for the tipped ball and picked it. I was confident that would seal the deal.”
After a sideline penalty during the return backed the Wolverines up to the Rowan 33, Baynard went to work. The Middletown native carried the ball five straight times covering 33 yards, including the 14-yard scoring run that finally salted the game away. It was his third touchdown of the day.
The junior finished with 123 rushing yards and added seven receptions for 46 yards.
“It was a great call because everybody was in the box,” Baynard said of the sweep right that he scored on. “All I needed was a block on the edge from Bryce (Shade,) and the split end. I only had to make one man miss and scored.r“I take pride in running the ball. The line did a great job the whole game. Given the opportunity, I felt it was my job to seal the deal.”
Wesley gained control of the game in the third quarter by scoring 17 points, which included Baynard’s first two touchdowns and a 24-yard field goal by Eric Speidel.
“Jamar’s a guy that can hurt you running the football or catching the football,” Drass said. “He has no quit in him. The more touches he has, the happier I’m going to be at the end of the day.”
A pair of touchdown passes by Callahan gave Wesley a 14-9 lead at halftime. The first was a 44-yard strike to Caesar Rodney product Alex Kemp, and the second to Tory Robinson of six yards erased the Profs’ only lead early in the second quarter
In all, it was another productive day for the Wesley offense. Callahan passed for 399 of the Wolverines 540 total yards. The senior completed 37-of-50 passes but was intercepted twice.
Meanwhile Shade caught 12 passes for 159 yards, while tight end Kyle George added 10 receptions for 96 yards. Wesley also converted 10-of-14 on third down.
Rowan managed 404 yards of offense, including 163 on the ground by Marcelin. However, the Profs turned the ball over six times and Wesley turned that into 21 points. Marcelin, one of the top backs in In Division III, put it on the ground twice. The Profs converted only 2-of-13 on third down.
The Profs sacked Callahan for a safety and then scored on the first play after the free kick to take a 9-7 lead in the first quarter. Pinckney hit Davis on a 61-yard pass. Pinckney completed 15-of-29 passes for 224 yards with three interceptions.
“Today we messed up some the keys we learned during the week,” Connally said. “But we managed to keep our composure and keep playing hard.”
Wesley defeated Rowan for the second straight time after losing their first eight tries. This was first win over the Profs as a member of the NJAC.
“Rowan is always a rivalry for us. There’s a bunch of Jersey guys on our team and a lot of them know guys on their team,” Baynard said.
The Wolverines travel to Montclair State next week… Connally had two interceptions in the game and leads the team with five this season…Callahan passed Chris Warrick in career touchdown passes in the first quarter, He now had 102 in his career. The senior also surpassed the 10,000-yard mark on the play. He has 10,374 career passing yards. He will pass Warrick to become the Wolverines all-time leading passer with 169 more yards… It was a penalty-plagued game. Wesley had 12 for 101 yards and Rowan eight for 81 yards… Pettit led Wesley with 11 tackles and broke up two passes…James Williamson forced two Rowan fumbles and had three tackles for losses.