DOVER — In typical Mike Drass style, the Wesley College football coach reflexively shifted the praise when discussing the meaning of his 200th career coaching victory on Saturday afternoon.
The No. 5 Wolverines had just completed a 44-24 victory over visiting Christopher Newport, and Drass didn’t miss opportunity to cite others who had plenty to do with all the wins in a juggernaut Division III program.
“It’s nice to be recognized, but that’s more about our players throughout the years,” he said during a postgame interview under clear and sunny skies at Scott D. Miller Stadium.
Before going home to watch the SciFi channel on television to unwind, Drass said he would attend Wesley President Robert E. Clark II’s home for a celebratory gathering. He planned to extol the virtues of coaching partner Chip Knapp, who he joined the Wesley program the same time he did and hasn’t stopped working since.
“I’d like to recognize Coach Knapp and the sacrifice he’s made for this program,” Drass said. “He’s made all this success possible.”
Also high on the list assistant head coach Steve Azzanesi, the former Wesley quarterback great who piloted the team to the ECAC Bowl in his senior season. Drass referenced associate head coach and offensive coordinator Knapp again when continuing to explain how the wins came with such regularity for 23 seasons.
“Those two guys mean the world to this program,” Drass said.
There’s no overlooking the lead architect of the program, however, especially with the Wolverines’ home turf officially named “Drass Field” and spelled in all capital letters at both ends of the field.
While Drass didn’t heap praise on himself, his players surely expressed their feelings. Junior cornerback Andre Connally, who made his third interception in two games Saturday said, “It feels good to make him look good. He’s a good coach and observes.”
Junior running back Jamar Baynard, who rushed for 179 yards and three touchdowns against Christopher Newport, said his head coach’s dedication to the program filters into the rest of the coaching staff.
“Everyone under him is working just as hard as him,” said Baynard, a team captain. “He make sure everything gets done the right way.
Quarterback Joe Callahan, an All-American candidate and team captain who threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, described earning No. 200 for his coach as part of a “special day.”
Drass became one of 15 active coaches to win 200 games, and his .789 percent winning percentage is eighth-best all-time for coaches with at least that many triumphs.
The Wolverines (2-0) had to earn the milestone, and some spotty play via penalties and early defensive lapses made for a mostly competitive first half.
Drass lamented three touchdowns called back due to some of their 10 infractions, and said his squad has plenty to work on before traveling to No. 13 North Central (Ill.) next Saturday to play in what he forecast to be a “playoff atmosphere.”
Callahan said the Wolverines “left a lot on the field” and a repeat performance against a quality team like North Central just won’t cut it.
Fortunately on Saturday, Wesley’s starting offensive line including seniors Devin Filliben, Matt Schmidt, and Temi Adebayo, junior Austin Eagle and sophomore Matt Gono cleared plenty of space to ramble downfield, evidenced by Wesley’s 263 rushing yards and 572 yards of total offense overall.
“The guards, centers, tackles, tight ends, the push they’re getting this year is crazy,” said Baynard, who had 197 yards total offense, much of it coming on runs straight up the middle.
Sophomore middle linebacker Samer Manna made 17 tackles, while Connally and junior defensive end Roderick Caine made nine and eight, respectively.
Besides Connally, senior free safety Craig Pettit and senior strong safety James Williamson also made second half interceptions.
Callahan connected with Alex Kemp for a 20-yard scoring strike just 90 seconds into the game, but Christopher Newport (1-2) did not go away easy.
The visitors from Virginia were up 17-14 early in the second quarter before Wesley reeled off four straight touchdowns and a 20-yard field goal by Eric Speidel to go up 44-17 with 3:41 left in the game.