The football team faced off against undefeated Delaware Valley on Saturday afternoon. The Aggies were able to defeat the Colonels 30-0 in dominating fashion.
Delaware Valley is currently ranked tenth overall in Division III football and is currently sitting at the top spot in the MAC conference. They lead all of Division III in points per game allowed. Wilkes knew they needed to play their best football of the year to have a chance for the upset.
“We didn’t prepare any differently than any other week,” said head coach Jonathon Drach. “I thought we had a pretty decent week of practice. We just didn’t make a couple of the big plays in the big situations that we needed to make.”
The Aggies received the opening kickoff of the game. They used an 11-play drive to set up the opening score of the game when running back Donte Simmons ran the ball into the endzone from two yards out.
Following a quick three-and-out for the Colonels, Delaware Valley scored another touchdown. Quarterback Ryan Loughlin threw a strike from 15 yards out to allow his team to quickly go up 14-0.
Wilkes offense needed to have a strong drive to not let the game get too out of hand early. Senior quarterback Jose Tabora led his team down the field as the Colonel offense started to find some rhythm. However, Delaware Valley showed why they are a top ranked defense, and picked off Tabora to give the ball back to their offense.
The Aggies once again marched down the field, but the Colonel defense had other plans. They forced a fumble on a big fourth down stop in the red zone.
“We’re a family and we battle through adversity together,” said junior linebacker Dante Gazzola. “Our defense knows what we have to do every play, and we play every play separate from each other. Only the moment matters.”
There was a slight shift in momentum as Wilkes came up with the takeaway. On the Colonels first play of the drive following the change of possession, Tabora was taken down in the endzone, resulting in a safety. The teams traded a few punts and Delaware Valley took a 16-0 lead into the locker room.
Players and coaches understood they would need to make some adjustments at halftime to try and help them get back into the game. One decision they made was to give sophomore quarterback Xavier Powell a chance to lead the offense.
“I just wanted to do the best I could with what coach gave me,” said Powell. “Just tried to run the plays and do everything I could to help us win. Ultimately, I just wanted to play my butt off.”
Powell was leading the Wilkes offense into Aggie territory and they were on the brink of putting their first points of the game on the board. The young quarterback then made a costly mistake, as he threw an interception that was returned 87 yards for a touchdown.
Despite the interception, Powell led the team in passing yards with 38, and was tied for the team lead in rushing yards with six.
The entire game was chippy between both teams, as there were multiple unsportsmanlike penalties called between both sides. With the game being so late in the season, both teams knew how much was on the line when it came to playoff implications. Delaware Valley racked up over 182 penalty yards on 15 penalties.
The Colonels were never able to take advantage of the mistakes by the opposition. Delaware Valley scored again on a Donte Simmons touchdown early in the fourth quarter to make the score 30-0. Simmons had a fantastic day on the ground, piling up 141 yards on 17 attempts, with two touchdowns.
Wilkes needed a miracle to happen for them to come back and beat the tenth-ranked Aggies. The Colonels were forced to air the ball out to try and get back in the game. Drach made the decision to substitute Tabora back in, but was pressured by the defensive line and threw his second and third interceptions in the fourth quarter.
“They’re a very good defense,” said Drach. “I believe they are one of the best in the entire country. They have a lot of very good players. We had some opportunities to make some plays down the field, but we dropped the balls. I thought they did a good job of limiting some things in the run game. It was difficult to move the football against them.”
The Colonel offense struggled mightily the whole afternoon. The running game was stuffed all game long, finishing with negative nine yards on the day. Tabora and Powell did not find much success through the air as well, as they combined to go 9-26 for 75 yards.
Turnovers killed the offense as well, as the team finished with four interceptions and one fumble lost. Delaware Valley proved why they have the top ranked defense in the country, as they shut down the usually high-powered Wilkes offense.
Wilkes fell to 6-3 on the season with the loss. With the dominating win, Delaware Valley continued its undefeated season, moving to 9-0. They clinched the MAC Championship for the fourth year in a row, as well as the automatic bid from the conference into the NCAA Tournament.
Wilkes will close out their regular season next week as they face cross-town rival Kings in the Mayor Cup. The game will be played on Monarch territory, and kickoff is scheduled for noon on Saturday.