BY RICKY POLLITT
In a battle of the top teams in the NJAC, the Salisbury football team shocked the undefeated Rowan Profs, 31-28 to give fans a Homecoming weekend to remember.
“We just wanted to prove to the nation that we can play with the elite, and for people to pay attention to us. That’s all we want,” Sea Gulls head coach Sherman Wood said.
Entering the game, Rowan held a 13-8-1 all time record against Salisbury, and had not lost a conference game since October of last season.
It was a defensive battle early on, with both the Gulls (3-1, 3-0 NJAC) and the Profs (4-1, 3-1 NJAC) forcing turnovers, causing pass breakups and recording tackles for losses.
After trailing Rowan 14-9 at halftime, Salisbury’s junior cornerback Christian Wilson came out in the first minute of the half and made the play that gave the Gulls momentum.
Rowan sophomore quarterback Dante Pinckney watched as a pass was tipped by Sea Gull defensive linemen Tyler Paradysz and picked off by Wilson for a 24-yard touchdown. The turnover sparked a 22-point run that would eventually give Salisbury the victory.
“My teammate, Tyler, he tipped it, and I just made the play and took it to the house,” Wilson said. “When we come to the field it’s all business, and we’re just trying to prove we can the best secondary week in and week out.”
On the drive following Wilson’s interception, Salisbury was finally able to get its passing game going. Junior quarterback Ryan Jones found senior wide receiver and fellow Hereford High School graduate Isaiah Taylor down the field for a 42-yard touchdown marking the third time this season the two connected for a score.
“We’re used to be a nationally ranked program, and we’ve kind of lost that mentality, but to come out and beat a top-25 team, we’ve got all the confidence in the world moving forward,” Taylor said.
The victory has even more meaning to Salisbury players, as the game was played in front of 2,700 fans on homecoming and family weekend.
“We talked about the people that are out here to support us, and we need to do it for them, and that was the message today,” Wood said.
Rowan fought back in the fourth quarter, cutting Salisbury’s lead to three with just over six minutes left in the game. However, the Gulls defense refused to give up a win that would mean so much to them and their fans.
Linebackers Shane Marvel and James Hall created havoc on the Profs offense combining for 19 total tackles. Hall forced a fumble early in the game, and recorded one sack and three tackles for losses.
“There was no way we were going to let this game slip out of our hands, so the seniors and team made sure we didn’t lose on our homecoming,” Taylor said.
Undefeated in the NJAC, the Sea Gulls are proving they have what it takes to play in one of the toughest conferences in Division III.
Salisbury returns home next weekend to face William Paterson before going on the road to take on Kean.
“We know what we have to do if we want to win this conference,” Wilson said. “We just need to take it one step at a time and accomplish our goal.”