Wesley defense pounds Cortland St. into submission in second round
DOVER, Del. – Wesley put up 14 points before its offense even saw the field and rolled to a 56-6 victory against Cortland State on Saturday afternoon in the second round of the DIII playoffs at Scott D. Miller Stadium. The Wolverines improved to 10-1 and advanced to take on Mary Hardin-Baylor in the national quarterfinals on Dec. 1.
The victory gave Wesley its seventh season with at least 10 wins, all coming in the last eight years. In their two playoff victories this year, the Wolverines have outscored opponents 129-20, and the 129 points is the most that the Navy & White has scored in a two-game span.
Turnovers certainly did not help the Red Dragons (9-2) as they threw five interceptions and also fumbled once. On just the third play of the game, Michael Brandenburg intercepted a Chris Rose pass and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown just 46 seconds into the game. It had nearly been a full year that Wesley had returned an interception for a touchdown, with the last coming in last year's second-round win against Linfield when Leon Jones went 99 yards for a score.
Cortland tried to respond on its next possession but the result ended up the same for Wesley. Rose dropped back to pass on a third-and-7 play but Devin Hardy made the sack and stripped the ball. Sosthene Kapepula then recovered the fumble and ran it in from 28 yards in to give the Wolverines a 14-0 lead with 12:54 left in the first half.
Both teams traded three-and-outs but Cortland took advantage of good field position, and with 4:42 left in the opening quarter, made a 22-yard field goal to get on the board.
Steve Koudossou capped off Wesley's ensuing drive with a three-yard touchdown on an end-around to make it a three-score game less than a minute into the second quarter. His score ended an 11-play, 72-yard drive that took up more than five minutes of clock with the key plays being three consecutive gains of more than 10 yards by Matt Barile, Jeremiah Howe and Askia Jahad.
With the momentum firmly in their hands, the Wolverines then attempted an onside kick but the boot went out of bounds. Cortland took over at Wesley's 48 yard line and eventually kicked a 38-yard field goal to make the score 21-6.
After scoring 21 points in the first half, the Wolverines put up 21 points in the third quarter on touchdowns by Koudossou, Chris Cummings and Barile to put the game out of reach. Justin Sottilare then hit Matt Bundy in the fourth quarter for a score and Devar Robinson ran one in from 34 yards out to put Wesley on top by 50 points.
An opportunistic Wesley defense allowed the Red Dragons to gain just 194 yards on the day. With the five interceptions, the Wolverines now have 26 interceptions on the year which breaks an 11-year-old school-record. Sean Hopkins picked off a pair of passes, his second multi-interception game of the year, while balls also found the hands of Jordan Wescott and Payton Rose.
Wescott also led the defense with eight tackles, including two which went for loss. Jared Morris and Terence Gavin also made eight tackles while Hardy was credited with a pair of sacks.
With 30 mph winds as a factor, Sottilare finished just 8 of 17 passing, but finished with 192 yards and three touchdowns. Koudossou had just one reception, but it went for a 78-yard touchdown, Wesley's longest play from scrimmage this season. Bundy, Barile, Howe and Robert Wiggs all had two catches each.
Led by Jahad's 90 rushing yards on 16 carries, the ground game was also working for Wesley once again who finished with 174 yards on the ground.
For Cortland, Rose finished 14 of 26 for just 100 yards and four interceptions while Tyler Hughes also threw a pick. Mike Humphrey and Kordel McInnis combined for 13 of Cortland's 17 receptions, but they only went for 96 yards.
Justin Autera was the leading rusher for the Red Dragons with just 65 yards on 23 carries.