DOYLESTOWN (PA) – Delaware Valley College scored 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter as the Aggies rallied from a 27-7 deficit to defeat visiting Rowan University, 35-27, in the season opener for both teams.
The game was part of the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC)-New Jersey Athletic Conference Challenge (NJAC) with the Aggies giving the MAC a big win in the series. It was also the first game played on Delaware Valley's new turf surface at Robert A. Lipinski Field as the school officially dedicated the field and recognized Lipinski before the contest. Lipinski, a 1980 graduate and Board of Trustees member, gave a seven-figure gift for the renovation and he was an honorary captain for the game.
Both teams received national votes in the D3football.com preseason Top 25, but the game was all Rowan for the first 45 minutes as it built the 27-7 advantage. Delaware Valley began a drive at the end of the third quarter and found the end zone 2:07 into the fourth as Chris Smallwood's one-yard touchdown run capped an eight-play, 74-yard drive. Brandon Snyder kicked the extra point for a 27-14 score.
The Profs went three-and-out on their ensuing possession and the Aggies took over at their own 41-yard line following the punt. A pair of runs netted 15 yards and quarterback Aaron Wilmer followed with a 36-yard pass to Rasheed Bailey, who leaped over a pair of defenders for the grab at the eight-yard line. Two players later, it was third-and-goal when Wilmer and Bailey teamed up again, this time Bailey juggled the ball as he was being hit, but held on for the touchdown. Snyder's point-after pulled Delaware Valley to within six, 27-21, with 8:13 remaining.
The Aggie defense stopped Rowan again after three plays and took over on its own 39. They reached the Prof 45-yard line and then went to their bag of tricks as Wilmer threw behind to Michael Anusky, who lined up as a wide receiver. Anusky, a quarterback in high school, threw back to Wilmer, who used the blockers in front of him to gain 38 yards to the Rowan seven-yard line. On second down, Wilmer lofted a pass into the right corner of the end zone and Lewis Vincent made the grab for the touchdown. Snyder hit the extra-point to give Delaware Valley its first lead of the game at 28-27 with 4:02 to go.
Rowan faced a third-and-four from its own 44-yard line on the next possession when senior safety Pete O'Hara, who suffered a season-ending injury in last year's opener against the Profs, intercepted a pass and returned it 31 yards to the Rowan 15. On second down from the 13, Wilmer scrambled out of trouble and somehow stayed inbounds down the left sideline for a touchdown and a 35-27 advantage with 2:05 left.
The Profs had one more chance but three incomplete passes left them with fourth-and-10 from their own 25. Quarterback Paul Hamersma was then sacked by Rashaad Lighty to give the ball back. Delaware Valley was able to run all but one second off the clock and Rowan laterals on the last play went nowhere as the Aggies had the come-from-behind win.
Rowan took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards on 10 plays, capped by Withler Marcelin's one-yard touchdown run. The drive was kept alive by a costly Delaware Valley unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Mark Diedrichsen's point-after made it 7-0 just 4:17 into the contest.
It remained 7-0 until late in the first half when the Profs scored two touchdowns in a 54-second span. The first score came on a nine-play, 90-yard drive that saw Hamersma throw a strike to Ed Eisenhart for a 38-yard touchdown with 1:22 to go before the break. Hamersma came up with a big throw earlier in the drive as he hit Russ Forchion for 26-yard on a third-and-11 from its own nine-yard line.
On the Aggies' next possession, Wilmer was picked off by Frank Rupoli and Rupoli returned it 27 yards to Delaware Valley five. On the next play, Hamersma found a wide-open Todd Guillaume in the end zone. The extra-point clanked off the upright, leaving the score at 20-0 with 34 ticks left on the clock.
The Aggies got on the board for the first time with 6:07 remaining in the third quarter as Darren Parrott capped a four-play, 56-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown. However, the Profs matched it five minutes later with a Michael Weber one-yard score. That set the stage for Delaware Valley's fourth-quarter heroics and the improbable comeback.
The Aggies, which were without the services of all-region tailback Kyle Schuberth (injury), finished with 436 yards of total offense, including 182 yards in the fourth quarter. Wilmer completed 19 of 30 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 44 yards and a score. Bailey had a career day with seven catches for 138 yards and a touchdown. Parrott led the ground attack with 59 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Defensively, Delaware Valley gave up 305 yards, but only 20 yards in the critical fourth quarter. Bernard Avery and John Marcelline led the way with 11 and eight tackles respectively.
Hamersma was 25-for-41 for 206 yards and two touchdowns for Rowan. Eisenhart made nine catches for 101 yards and one trip to the end zone. Marcelin carried the ball 20 times for 89 yards and one score. Defensively, Josh Popper had eight tackles and 2.5 sacks while Chris Alvarez and Dominic Caruso had eight stops apiece.