DOYLESTOWN (PA) – The Delaware Valley College defense forced five turnovers and kept Salisbury University's patented triple-option in check as the Aggies jumped out to a 23-point lead and finished with a 23-12 victory in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
With the win, Delaware Valley improved to 9-2 overall and advanced in the 32-team tournament for the fourth time in as many tries. The Aggies will now face the task of travelling to Alliance, Ohio and taking on 10-time national champion University of Mount Union in the second round on Saturday, November 27 (12:00 p.m.). The Purple Raiders, who are the top seed in the bracket, routed St. Lawrence University, 49-0, in their first round contest. Salisbury finished its 2010 season with a 7-3 record and its seventh NCAA appearance.
The game featured a Sea Gull offense that was ranked second in Division III in rushing (407.89 avg) and 17th in scoring (40.22 avg) against a Delaware Valley defense that was allowing just 11.8 points (14th) and 60.2 rushing yards (8th) per contest. The Aggies won the battle for most of the game as they permitted 126 yards on the ground through the first three quarters. Salisbury more than doubled that figure in the fourth as it tried to mount a comeback and the unit finished with 280 rushing yards.
Delaware Valley's offense wasted no time as, on the first play from scrimmage quarterback Mark Hatty hit fullback Vincent Lochetto out of the backfield for a 35-yard pass. Hatty then found wideout Joe Gionfriddo for 16 yards on the next play to put the ball at the Salisbury 18-yard line. Six players later, tailback Matt Cook bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out. Jake Sobchak's extra-point attempt sailed wide left, but the Aggies had a 6-0 lead just 3:26 into the contest.
The Sea Gulls managed just 11 yards on five plays on their opening drive and Delaware Valley took over its own 20 following a punt into the end zone. The Aggies then went on a 19-play, 71-yard drive that took more than nine minutes (9:11) off the clock. They converted four, third-down opportunities on the drive and it culminated with a 26-yard field goal by Sobchak to make it a 9-0 ballgame 14 seconds into the second quarter.
Salisbury reached Aggie territory two times in the quarter, but turned the ball over each time. The first was a fumble that was recovered at the Delaware Valley 48 by linebacker Ken Fowlkes while fellow linebacker Jim DiLisio followed with an interception of a Dan Griffin pass at the 35-yard line. The Aggies could not take advantage of either turnover and they went into the intermission with the 9-0 lead.
The Sea Gulls got the ball first to start the second half and drove to the Delaware Valley 28 on seven plays. However, safety John Robinson stripped the ball away from Griffin on the next snap and recovered the ball for the third Salisbury turnover of the contest.
The teams exchanged punts, but the Sea Gulls were trapped deep in their territory when they had to kick and Delaware Valley took over at the Salisbury 40. Five plays later, the Aggies hit paydirt with Cook capping it with a one-yard plunge. Sobchak added the extra-point for a 16-0 advantage with 7:26 remaining in the third quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Salisbury faced a fourth-and-one from its own 40. The Sea Gulls elected to go for it, but Nick Coates was stopped at the line by Garrett Wooters and Kyle Gesswein for the big defensive stand. Nine plays, Delaware Valley was in the end zone as Hatty hit a wide-open Lochetto from three yards out. Sobchak's boot made it 23-0 with 36 seconds left in the third.
Salisbury hit the scoreboard with 8:36 left in the contest as a 10-play, 83-yard drive ended with a 19-yard touchdown run by Brandon Norwood. Norwood had a big 28-yard run earlier in the possession. The two-point conversion attempt was stopped, leaving the score at 23-6.
The Sea Gulls stopped the Aggies on the next drive and took over on their own 29-yard line. Three plays later, Norwood busted loose for a 58-yard run down to the six-yard line. Griffin had a two-yard carry and Bryan Woolson completed the drive with a four-yard run into the end zone. The two-point conversion failed again as Delaware Valley maintained a 23-12 advantage with 3:04 left on the clock.
The Aggies' Dan Heiland recovered the onsides kick, but they were forced to punt again. Salisbury's final drive of the season ended with its fifth turnover of the game as Wooters recovered a fumble to seal the deal.
Wooters led the defensive charge with eight tackles, one sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Robinson, in his first start, had six tackles, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and a sack.
Offensively, Hatty was 18-for-33 for 187 yards and one touchdown. Gionfriddo led all receivers with seven grabs for 67 yards while Lochetto added five catches on 62 yards and one score. Cook, the Aggies' all-time leading rusher, was limited due to an injury and managed 24 yards and two scores on 12 carries. Isaiah Hall, Kyle Schuberth and Tyler Neal combined for 81 yards on the ground.
Norwood carried the ball six times for 122 yards and one score. Griffin added 61 rushing yards and was just 2-for-7 for 20 yards in the air. Defensively, Ricky Cassidy and Jamey McClendon had 10 tackles apiece.