Challenges coming as Sea Gulls MBK starts 2-0

By CHRIS MACKOWIAK

Sports Editor

@cmackowiakSGSN

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Senior guard Jordan Brooks looks for an open opportunity vs. York (Pa.) last season. Amy Wojtowicz photo

If anyone is familiar with Salisbury men’s basketball, they knew many questions would haunt the Sea Gulls to start this season as the team lost six of their top players, including returning only two starters.

After a 2-0 start, it seems that the puzzle pieces are being put into place as to the identity of this 2017-18 team. Most notable on the team’s stat line is their 93.5 points-per-game and 53.5 rebounds-per-game.

Those two numbers seem insane considering the questions in the post and scoring this season, but this young, streaky team is proving the doubters wrong at least early on. Salisbury was picked to finish tied for third in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) after finishing as the conference runner-up the last two seasons.

While fresh faces and freshmen littered the opening day roster, the team was not as inexperienced as fans initially thought. That fact has played out on the court in their opening wins over Washington College and Goucher College.

Despite a packed Maggs PAC for the season-opener last Wednesday with an impressive student crowd, there should be some caution on high-expectations. Fans should let this team grow and breath as the season goes on.

Although the numbers are very impressive from the team’s opening victories, Washington and Goucher combined for 12 wins last season. Therefore, they are not the best competition to gauge this Sea Gull squad on. However, what Salisbury did on the floor is notable.

The real tests for this team come over a two-game stretch starting Tuesday. The Sea Gulls host Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Semifinalist Virginia Wesleyan (2-0) in their annual match-up as an appetizer prior to the Thanksgiving break. After that, Salisbury heads down to Newport News, Va. for their opening CAC game against their rivals Christopher Newport (2-0).

Marlins and Sea Gulls are more alike than one would think

Over the last few years, the VWU Marlins and Salisbury have matched up well. Both teams rely heavily on the three-pointer and like to play aggressive defense by stealing the ball to force turnovers.

This season the comparisons become a bit creepy. The Marlins lost a size-able amount of their team as well from last season, including four starters among the seven seniors from last season.

The two most notable players of the four were guards Tim Jones and Khory Moore. Moore is now playing professional basketball in Croatia after scoring over 2000 career points and averaging 17.8 points-per-game across his four-year career which included 93 starts in 114 appearances.

Jones provided scoring alongside his point guard duties during his 79 career starts, averaging 3.1 assists-per-game and 10.4 points-per-game.

With those two scorers gone from a team that averaged 82.5 points-per-game last season, the Marlins are looking for new options just like the Sea Gulls.

One more comparison between the two. VWU Head Coach Dave Macedo, now in his 18th season, has developed the Marlins into a perennial power in the past. He is the winningest coach in the program’s history, leading VWU to a national title in 2005-6 and two other Final Four appearances.

However, the team has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 2014-15, a rarity. On the court in Maggs on Tuesday will be two teams on the opposite ends of the spectrum.

A coach in SU’s Andy Sachs who is in his third season back in the maroon and gold trying to lead a younger squad to another NCAA Tournament in order to extend their program-record three consecutive NCAA appearance streak. On the other side, Macedo is looking to bring the Marlins back to the ‘promised land’ with a newer squad of his own.

Marlins and Sea Gulls will never see eye-to-eye, except on the hardwood Tuesday night as two teams picked to finish third in their respective conferences battle it out.

Changing tides under Sachs

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SU Head Coach Andy Sachs looks on at Salisbury vs. York (Pa.) from last season. Chris Mackowiak photo

The former Virginia Wesleyan assistant, Sachs has won his only two games against the Marlins as the Salisbury head coach. Two years ago, Salisbury took down the second-ranked Marlins 71-60 in Maggs. Last season, VWU could not find the revenge factor in their home venue and fell again to Salisbury 68-60.

For two teams that emphasize similar principles in their overall game plans, those two score lines display some good-sized victories for the maroon and gold in games that could have gone either way.

Two stats really made the difference in those last two contests: free throw percentage and turnovers.

Over the last two match-ups, both teams have gotten to the line, but only one has really capitalized on it. Salisbury has a 71.2 percent mark between the two games, near their seasonal average. VWU only had 56.3 percent mark at the line despite having more attempts in the two games.

Early on this season, the Marlins only have a 62.2 percent mark at the line, 10th currently among ODAC teams. It might be a formula that hampers the away side once again.

However, if VWU can find their touch at the line, they could see big points. After only committing a CAC-best 16.9 personal fouls per game last season, Salisbury is giving up 23 personals-per-game through their two games. For a young Salisbury team, the chances might come for the Marlins.

Taking advantage of opportunities provided by the opponent is definitely something to watch in this game. Both teams enjoy stealing the ball as both are first in steals-per-game among their respective conference teams.

Both squads also are forcing the most turnovers among their conference teams with 21.5 apiece. However, Salisbury has had the better defensive effort when the teams meet.

The last two seasons VWU has averaged 18.5 turnovers against SU, while Salisbury only commits nine turnovers-per-game against the Marlins.

As Sachs looks to implement his aggressive full-court press from two seasons ago, watch for the Marlins to try and tackle this obstacle.

Down the line, watch the CNU guard situation

While the Marlins are the focus this week with Salisbury’s next game over a week away, it is worth it to keep an eye on the conference-favorite and 14th ranked CNU Captains. As Salisbury grows into a new squad, they draw the two-time CAC defending champions as their conference opener.

However, the Captains are dealing with nagging injuries to start the season. CNU has started the season 3-0, but the first two were wins in close contests against Randolph Macon and Catholic.

Just like the Sea Gulls, CNU has lost much star power in the off season, which opens the door even more for a veteran heavy York (Pa.) squad in the CAC. However, one senior that does return for the Captains have been notably absent.

Maybe the best back court in the CAC, senior guards Aaron McFarland and Marcus Carter have not seen the floor in excess to start the season. McFarland missed the first game before returning for the last two, and Carter reportedly suffered an injury after playing for five minutes in the season opener.

As two players that are very important for the Captains to keep their CAC-run going, it is an important story-line going forward, especially considering that the Sea Gulls travel to Newport News, Va. on Nov. 29.

The depth of CNU Head Coach John Krikorian’s teams is always impressive and they have needed to go to it early on. However, if Salisbury can find their stride and chemistry early on this season, the Sea Gulls could take advantage.

The schedule also does work out well for the Sea Gulls in the end with the Captains not coming to Salisbury until Jan. 31, when the freshmen will be at their most experienced. For a Salisbury program that has not had the ball bounce their way in the certain recent CAC Championship games, the path may draw some light.

Sea Gulls head to ECAC Bowl to cap off season

By ETHAN WILT

Staff Writer

@Ethan__Wilt

What: Salisbury Football (7-3) vs. Ithaca College (7-3)

Where: University of Delaware

When: 5 p.m.

How to Watch: ECAC All-Access

Salisbury (7-3) is coming off against a crushing overtime loss against now-NCAA Tournament team Frostburg State last Saturday in the Regents Cup, but lucked out Monday and earned a spot in the Scotty Whitelaw Bowl this Saturday against Ithaca College (7-3). The Sea Gulls look to finish their season out on a high note and head into next season with momentum.

Salisbury

Salisbury’s offense was largely held in check against Frostburg, being held to 272 yards on offense. Against the Bobcats, Salisbury’s explosive triple option, which has worked for the Sea Gulls all season, was shut down by Frostburg’s fast and aggressive front seven.

Salisbury’s super backs left a lot on the field last week and will look to step up their game against the Bombers this Saturday.

Offense

If they want to end the season on a high note, Salisbury needs to be somewhat effective in their passing game. Last weekend senior quarterback Brandon Lewis, completed 2 of 8 passes in the game, and there appeared to be a hesitancy to use their passing game. Lewis needs to be more effective throwing the ball in the game this weekend to take some of the load off the shoulders of his backs.

Even with a stout Frostburg defense keying in on them all game, super backs Malique Pratt and Dandre Dennis found space to run and did enough to keep the game tied up at seven all for most of the game.

They were just under their season average, so some action in the passing game could really open it up for these two players, and thus the game for the Sea Gulls

Defense

Salisbury’s defense this whole season, when facing a potent offense, has been “bend, but don’t break.” And they have become strong at displaying that motto. The Sea Gull secondary held the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s (NJAC) top passing offense to 188 yards last weekend.

That show of defense in the secondary bodes well for this weekend, where Salisbury is going up Ithaca’s freshman quarterback, Wahid Nabi, who was just named The Liberty League’s Rookie of the Year.

The Sea Gull’s front seven and run defense should continue to have success in the Scotty Whitelaw Bowl Saturday, continuing their solid play they have demonstrated all season.

Keys to the Game

Salisbury needs to mix up the play calling this weekend. Against less dominant defenses, the triple option works beautifully, and the offense can ride that consistently to over 30 points each game. However, with a somewhat dominant front seven, it has been seen that shutting down the Salisbury run game shuts down their entire offense.

A mix of well-timed, play-action passes, that are executed, could open up the game for the Sea Gulls this Saturday. Their run game is always a focus for opposing defenses, so throw them off at times. Some quick slants certainly couldn’t hurt either.

Player to Watch: Brandon Lewis

We said it last weekend, and we’ll say it again: Brandon Lewis is what opens up this game for Salisbury. The run game can’t be relied on completely, and at times proficiency in the passing game is a necessity. A poor showing for Lewis in the passing game again, and Salisbury is immediately put in a more difficult position to win.

At Thursday’s weekly Coaches Luncheon, SU Head Coach Sherman Wood noted that Lewis has been banged up the last few weeks. If Lewis cannot make the start on Saturday, freshman quarterback Jack Lanham will get it.

Ithaca College

A member of the Liberty League, Ithaca comes into Saturday’s match-up with the same record as, and a somewhat familiarity with the Sea Gulls. Led by an experienced defense and an efficient offense, they have consistently kept themselves in the win column all season.

Offense

The Bomber’s offense is led by Wahid Nabi, their freshman quarterback. Nothing really jumps out at anyone when looking at their offense. They are remarkably average when compared to some of the explosive offense’s the Sea Gulls have played this year.

Their games are often kept close, so their offense doesn’t have to do too much, and they are comfortable with that. Surpassing 30 points just three times this season, their offense will be tested to see if they can keep up with Salisbury if needed.

Defense

While the offense is all about the future and youth, this defense is nothing if not experience. They are home to an all-conference defensive lineman, Brian Gill, linebackers Kenny Bradley and Dan Loizos as well as defensive back Jordan Schemm. They are stacked with talent at all levels of their defense.

Because of this, it is easy to see how they have been so effective all season, often holding opponents under 30 points.

This game, their top lineman and linebackers will have to be playing at the height of their games this Saturday in order to stop the triple option of the Sea Gulls.

Keys to the Game

Ithaca’s front seven holds their key to victory in this game. We saw what happened last weekend when Salisbury’s run game is shut down. If they can do the same thing this weekend, they could be well on their way to a bowl game victory.

Their offense often has not had to do a lot because of their defense this season. If they contain Salisbury’s super backs, what has often been just enough for the Bomber’s offense could be plenty enough to defeat Salisbury.

Player to Watch: Brian Gill

Their top player on the defensive line, Gill will look to set the mood for how the defense as a whole will play. Leading the point of attack against the run, Gill will play a large role in Ithaca’s defensive effort.

Not only stopping the run game, but also applying pressure on Lewis when Salisbury decides to pass will provide a large boost to Ithaca’s defensive effort.

With young talent, SU men’s basketball has a high-ceiling

By CHRIS MACKOWIAK

Sports Editor

@cmackowiakSGSN

Three seasons, three NCAA Tournament appearances. The last few seasons have been fruitful for the Salisbury University men’s basketball season, making three NCAA brackets in three consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

However, the program yearns for the next step in success moving forward. SU Head Coach Andrew Sachs has been at the helm for the last two of those three seasons.

Those two seasons are marked by rivalry battles with Christopher Newport, who have claimed the last two CAC Championships over the Sea Gulls by a combined two points.

That two-point margin is similar to the margin for Sachs and the Sea Gulls to take that next step. The pieces were there after two 20-plus win seasons, but those pieces create a completely different puzzle in this 2017-18 season.

With the departure of a historic senior core, Sachs brought in a revamped squad filled with young talent in transfers and true freshmen. The real question for the season is how quick this team will find chemistry and mature, and then how strong they will become in February after learning lessons early on.

“The goal never changes. It’s to win the CAC and get in the NCAA Tournament. We lost at the buzzer the last two years and it basically cost us a home game in the NCAA Tournament. The league is going to be much better,” Sachs said.

Needing to replenish

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Former Sea Gull Justin Witmer takes a three-pointer vs. York (Pa.) last season. Amy Wojtowicz photo

The most notable change fans will notice this season is the many departures. Six key players are gone from the team entering the current campaign.

Foremost, veteran forwards Wyatt Smith, Gordon Jeter and guard Justin Witmer graduate from the team as crucial members of a historic run. The three combined for one conference championship and three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, a first in program history.

The contributions of these three core players are known throughout SU Athletics. Witmer and Jeter both hit their 1,000th point mark last season. The trio leave having tallied over 2,900 points and nearly 1,400 rebounds in over 6,900 career minutes.

Smith had a well-known comeback story too, returning to the team for a strong campaign last season. He had a season-ending injury ahead of the 2015-16 season that left him off the court.

Also not returning to the team this season are previous junior-college transfer forwards Terray Quickley and Barry Bratten. Freshman center Nick Gittings also is not returning to the program following a strong second half to last season. All three players leave for various personal reasons.

Despite the losses, Sachs does see some positives to the new additional youth this season.

“Our depth is much better. We played a lot of guys. Obviously our bench will get shorter as the season starts. We did lose all of our depth from last year,” Sachs said.

“I think a younger squad is more open to learning. They’re not stubborn.”

This young group will be tested quickly as the season gets under way. The hope for Salisbury is that returning players improve and answer the call. One vacancy is within the leadership department where Sachs has his eyes on a few players.

“You hope the guys in your program get better. That’s what good programs do,” Sachs said.

Leadership stepping up

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Senior guard Jordan Brooks puts the ball to the floor. Amy Wojtowicz photo

 

One group clearly vacant from the roster are seniors. The team only brings back two seniors in guard Jordan Brooks and forward Chad Barcikowski.

Brooks has been up-and-down over his SU career, but Sachs does point out that the guard is one of only four SU players to ever appear on three separate Salisbury NCAA Tournament teams.

The Owings Mills, Md. native will be called upon to step up this season.

Barcikowski has become known for his perimeter shooting ability over the last two seasons after transferring to Salisbury from York (Pa.) as Sachs came into his new position.

The Sykesville, Md. native improved to 12 points-per-game (PPG) and 5.4 rebounds-per-game (RPG) last season, but that improvement has not come with leadership on the court, yet at least. He is a player to watch as the season goes on.

“I think if Chad learns to play with emotion and doesn’t get emotional, I think he can be a really good leader, but he has to be able to show that on a consistent basis,” Sachs said.

One player Sachs has his eyes on to excel at leading on and off-the-floor is a junior in Chase Kumor. The Newtown, Pa. native has only seen 25 career appearances in the maroon and gold, but he has made a strong impression on his head coach.

“Chase gets it. He understands the value of team. He’s very good at bringing the guys together. He’s extremely unselfish. He’s kind of what you want like a glue-guy, but he’s also my captain,” Sachs said.

After dealing with a preseason injury, Kumor has found it tough to get back on the court, but he certainly made an impact already on the freshman class. It is a class that Sachs sees future team leaders in two or three seasons down the line.

Back Court

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Sophomore guard Al Leder takes a three-pointer vs. York (Pa.) last season. Amy Wojtowicz photo

In Sachs’ first season two years ago, veteran guards overflowed the line-up. Last year, they were hard to come by. This season that depth should be back again with an influx of talented youth.

A foremost concern last season was the point guard spot. Witmer’s experience helped the position as then-freshman Al Leder adjusted Division III play early on.

Leder’s turnovers and inexperience were a worry throughout the season, but Sachs sees a new player in practice this season.

“Leder has accepted the challenge and has come in in great shape. He’s much better than he was last year, much more mature than last year. That’s what we’re looking for,” Sachs said.

With 28 starts now under his belt, Leder is much more prepared headed into his second season of play. Bolstering the depth at the position is also a new transfer, Blair Davis.

The junior Davis comes in from D-2 Lincoln University where he averaged 15 minutes per game in 25 appearances last season. The Towson, Md. native tallied 3.4 PPG and 1.4 APG during the season.

“We needed to create competition and that’s what we did,” Sachs said.

Salisbury also brought in freshman guard Johnny Fierstein who Sachs says possesses a high-ceiling within Division III after drawing D-2 eyes during recruiting.

“High basketball IQ. He has to know two positions,” Sachs said. “He knows the game really well, understands what he’s good at and what he’s not good at. Some guys aren’t really good at doing that.”

The Quince Orchard (Md.) graduate will see time on the ball and off the ball over the course of the season, but expect Fierstein to see much playing time early in the season despite his freshman status.

Returning to the team is Brooks too who offers experience to the young squad but also must show further consistency this season. Alongside Brooks, Braedon Dorsey returns to the fold in his sophomore campaign after contributing offensively off the bench last season.

Freshman guard Mike Ward is another player with a high-ceiling for the Sea Gulls. He is still working his way away from two seasons ago.

Local Eastern Shore fans will recognize a familiar face new to the Sea Gulls as Stephen Decatur High School prospect Gary Briddell takes the floor. Sachs is interested to see what the freshman brings with his strong energy and great rebounding.

“The three freshmen [overall] and some of the transfers have provided major competition in practice that I think some of the guys were shocked at honestly. They’re gonna play because they earned it. They’re not scared,” Sachs said.

Front Court

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Former Sea Gull forward Wyatt Smith looks for an open senior forward Chad Barcikowski in the corner. Amy Wojtowicz photo

One thing really for certain in the front court is the return of Barcikowski, who with his height improved on his rebounding a season ago. The senior will of course bring a streaky offensive force too.

The question marks come through the rest of the depth as Jeter, Smith and Gittings depart the squad. Due to various preseason injuries, it has been a revolving door for playing time in scrimmages vs. Morgan State and Wilmington University, but that is also a positive, offering good depth and experience.

Sophomore forward Lucas Martin and center J.P. Krotulis both return offering some stability to the new season. Despite both players feeling preseason injuries, Sachs sees the two getting good minutes early in the season.

“[Lucas] is another guy with a high basketball IQ. He’s a thin 4-or-5, but he’s got really good footwork. His left hand is much improved around the hoop,” Sachs said.

The two combined for 28 appearances last season. Junior guard Jack Ferguson also returns with a three-point shooting ability that really appeared in the second half of last season off the bench.

Among newcomers looking to contribute quickly is a former St. Mary’s (Md.) Seahawk in James Foley. Foley transfers in to SU after playing his freshman season in St. Mary’s City, where he averaged 4.9 PPG and 3.9 RPG in 16 starts and 27 total appearances.

“In the preseason, he’s really looked good. He’s really gotten himself in shape. He took a year off after transferring from St. Mary’s. I think once he rounds into shape I think he’s going to be really good for us. Skilled kid, real versatile,” Sachs said.

What Foley really brings to the mix is an already developed knowledge of the CAC having been through one season in the league already.

At center looking for a time with Krotulis will be another transfer. Sophomore center Johnson Ogunyoye comes in from Prince George’s Community College where he averaged 4.2 PPG and 5.0 RPG in 16 starts and 30 appearances last season.

“Johnson just goes after the basketball. Rebounding out of your area is something really good rebounders do. Guys who don’t rebound in their area – I don’t care how good they are – are not very good rebounders. He gets after it,” Sachs said.

Ogunyoye has been one of the only players not to face injuries in the preseason, which allowed him to see much time in scrimmages. He has taken advantage of those injury reps, utilizing his 6-foot-10-inch wingspan in multiple ways.

“You get a shot blocker in there. He makes our defense a little bit better. For a lot of guys that don’t guard great and can’t guard the basketball well and give up line drives, he makes up for a lot of mistakes,” Sachs said.

While Ogunyoye is pretty stout defensively to Sachs, the SU head coach sees room to improve on the offensive side. The JUCO-transfer’s ceiling will be determined by his offensive development in the first few weeks.

Sachs sees rebounding as an area of concern headed into the season, but the height and depth is there to get the job done on multiple fronts.

Expanding the staff

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SU Head Coach Andrew Sachs looks across the court vs. York (Pa.) last season. Amy Wojtowicz photo

Off the court the team is seeing changes too. With previous assistant coach Mike Fitzpatrick leaving for a coaching position at Susquehanna University, Sachs had the opportunity to bring in a few new voices to the coaching staff.

Replacing Fitzpatrick on the staff is former Division III player Daniel Eacho. Eacho possesses Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) blood, having his primary coaching and playing experience in the conference.

Other than time as an assistant coach in Virginia high school basketball and at Hampden-Sydney for one season, Eacho had his most experience at Roanoke College as a player. The 2015 Maroon graduate totaled over 1,000 career points and was a two-time All-ODAC honoree.

“I think he brings a little different [viewpoint,] plus he’s got a post presence where our post guys really feed off him,” Sachs said. “I think he’s a great teacher.”

Joining Eacho are two former Sea Gulls from the past. As a member of the 1994 SU men’s basketball team, Shawn Tucker returns to don the maroon and gold.

Tucker has spent his coaching career primarily at the local and community level, most recently coaching at Parkside High School in Salisbury.

“He’s a local guy. He has real positive energy in practice,” Sachs said.

Former Sea Gull Brian McDermott returns for another season on the Salisbury coaching staff. McDermott was part of the 1996-97 Elite Eight team. He has spent his career coaching around the Delmarva Peninsula, most recently coaching at Sussex Tech in Delaware.

“They bring a lot more maturity in practice. I think it helps. It doesn’t hurt you,” Sachs said.

Learning quickly

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Fans look on in Maggs Physical Activities Center as Salisbury faces York (Pa.) last season. Amy Wojtowicz photo

Before getting into the heart of CAC play early on, Salisbury has a few games to gel and retool their arsenal. That stretch starts at home.

On Wednesday, the Sea Gulls start the season hosting their fellow Eastern Shore school Washington College. They then will travel to Goucher College for their first road contest on Nov. 18.

Goucher and Washington do offer good opponents to figure things out against, after the schools combined for 12 wins last season.

The next week is when the schedule really starts to heat up with an appetizer before the Thanksgiving break on Nov. 21.

Salisbury welcomes in the Virginia Wesleyan University Marlins for the Tuesday showdown in an annual series. The Marlins had a winning record last season at 19-9 (10-6 ODAC), making it to the ODAC Semifinals. It is a solid strength of schedule test prior to their first conference game at Christopher Newport.

For a young team still finding their chemistry, the Sea Gulls could not have drawn a tougher opening-CAC opponent than CNU (27-3, 17-1 CAC). The Captains start the season ranked and have had the Sea Gulls’ number lately.

Despite their own losses, the Captains have retooled well, eyeing their third-straight CAC title. Last season, CNU made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

It will be a tough test early on for the Sea Gulls, but the stretch will give fans a taste for where the team is at early in the season.

One thing to keep in mind during this campaign is that this team’s peak may not come until January and February, which is exactly where a coach wants it to have postseason success.

“You want to try and get better every day. If you look at last year, we probably could have beaten anyone in December,” Sachs said. “But [this year] if we’re playing our best basketball in February and everybody is healthy, you better not sleep on us.”

Missed opportunities cost Salisbury football Regent’s Cup

By ZACH GILLELAND

Sports Reporter

@_zachariahg

In past memory, the Regent’s Cup had been a one-sided affair, with Salisbury winning 12 consecutive games from 2004 to 2015. But with Frostburg State Head Coach Delane Fitzgerald taking over the helm in 2014, the rivalry has seen more competitive, close contests.

Fans were treated to another instant classic in Sea Gull Stadium Saturday, with the Bobcats taking down the Sea Gulls in a defensive slugfest 14-7 in double-overtime.

The last time the two teams faced, it was Frostburg coming away with their first Regent’s Cup trophy since 2003, with quarterback Connor Cox connecting with Russell Neverdon on a 14-yard strike with a minute remaining to give FSU a 21-17 victory.

Two seasons ago it was the 51-yard completion to Isaiah Taylor on fourth-and-15 that set up the game-winning touchdown from Ryan Jones to Taylor that capped off a 20-point comeback in the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s match-up was a different game for the two teams. Both offenses came into the contest averaging over 30 points a game, with Frostburg hosting the NJAC’s top passing offense and Salisbury possessing the conference’s top rushing attack.

On a cold, cloudy Veteran’s Day, the final home game of the 2017 season offered a chance to reflect on the senior’s memories while wearing maroon and gold for one final time at Sea Gull Stadium.

“They definitely laid the foundation and continue to lay the foundation for what we are all about as a program,” SU Head Coach Sherman Wood said. “I told the young guys, ‘you will not know the moment until it happens.’ I just told them to know what they are filling.”

Senior super back Malique Pratt had one of his finest games of the season. The senior got Salisbury on the board early in the fourth quarter with a 47-yard touchdown run that tied the game and seemingly rejuvenated the SU faithful. Pratt, who took over the starting job earlier this season, led the Sea Gulls with 75 rushing yards on only nine carries.

“I just love my brothers man,” Pratt said. “I wouldn’t trade this team for anyone else, I just wish I had more time.”

The only score for SU in the game, the story on Saturday were the missed opportunities. Senior slot back Brady Curley all but tied the game in the third quarter with a 58-yard touchdown run, but an illegal shift negated the would be scoring play.

Frostburg found the end zone first early in the second quarter with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Cox to Sergio Andino, the wide out’s 10th receiving touchdown in six games. Salisbury’s Dakari Ellis looked to have a chance at an interception after undercutting the route, but the ball sailed over his head and was tipped by Andino, who made a one-handed diving catch.

The Bobcat defense swarmed the Sea Gull triple option offense, holding SU to 272 yards of total offense. Frostburg’s lethal pass rush was on display, allowing Salisbury’s Brandon Lewis to complete just two passes on eight attempts. Bobcat defensive lineman Zach Strand contributed three sacks and the team had seven tackles for loss.

Fumbles continued to be a problem for the Sea Gulls, who coughed up the ball seven times, losing three. A sloppy afternoon for both offenses, the two teams fumbled the ball a total of 10 times and threw two interceptions.

Salisbury had an opportunity late to put the game away. Driving deep into FSU territory with a minute remaining in regulation, the offense looked to get into field goal range for senior kicker Alex Potocko.

With 18 seconds left, Lewis rushed for a two-yard gain that put the ball on the Bobcat’s 20 yard-line, but an unsportsmanlike penalty from senior wide receiver Brad Rose pushed the Sea Gulls back 15 yards, turning the would be 35-yard field goal into a 50-yard attempt.

The field goal attempt was short, sending the game into overtime.

Missed chances highlighted the first overtime period. FSU’s Josh Washington intercepted a Lewis pass and gave the Bobcats a chance to win the game. Hassan Mostafa set up for a game-winning 34-yard field goal attempt, but was blocked by Ellis.

It was Cox, who led Frostburg on a game-winning drive a season ago, who would send the Bobcats to their second-straight Regent’s Cup win. The junior scrambled on third-down, evading the Salisbury pressure to find tight end Christian DiPaolo all alone for a 27-yard touchdown.

The Sea Gulls tried to answer, but a fumble by Pratt ended the SU attempt.

An emotional, intense game, both teams were flagged a total of 28 times for a combined 332 penalty yardage.

“We have a lot of young guys that just got caught up in the moment,” Wood said. “It’s an emotional game, both teams look forward to it and we just got the raw end of the stick.”

The win propels Frostburg to a possible at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. Salisbury will wait and see as to whether their resume is good enough for a bowl bid.

“We hurt ourselves,” Wood said. “We took ourselves out of a victory.”

Regents Cup rivalry is renewed Saturday

By Ethan Wilt

Staff Writer

@Ethan__Wilt

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Salisbury hoists the Regents Cup after a 28-27 win vs. Frostburg State in 2015. SU Athletics photo

What: Salisbury Football (RV) hosts No. 16 Frostburg St.

Where: Sea Gull Stadium

When: Saturday at 1 p.m.

How to Watch: Sea Gull Sports Network

On Saturday, Salisbury looks to start another streak against their longtime rivals Frostburg State. Falling to the Bobcats last year 21-17, Salisbury’s 12-game winning streak in the rivalry came to an end. With a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title out-of-reach, Salisbury (7-1 NJAC, 7-2) looks to finish the season on a high-note, while Frostburg (7-1 NJAC, 8-1) continues to be in the hunt for an NCAA Playoff spot.

Salisbury

With consistency year in and year out, the Sea Gulls are always a tough match-up for visiting teams with their explosive players on offense, a stout defense and a special teams unit with a knack for making plays. With a strong team in Frostburg, Salisbury will have to be playing at the top of their game.

Offense: The Salisbury offense is largely one dimensional with the triple-option, not even attempting 100 passes on the season. They rely on the legs of their quarterback, senior Brandon Lewis, as well as senior super backs Malique Pratt and Dandre Dennis.

While one dimensional, this has done nothing to inhibit the Sea Gull offense. Salisbury is ninth in the nation in rushing, averaging 295.4 yards on the ground with 5.1 yards per carry. With that in mind, the Salisbury option offense has been dominant this season.

Defense: While the offense continues to run, run, run, the Sea Gulls’ defense has developed into a true star unit for the most part this season. Last week’s game against Wesley is the first time a Salisbury opponent has cracked 20 points since the first game of the season at Albright.

The defense consistently holds teams under 100 yards rushing and 200 yards passing. Salisbury also possesses a strong ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ mentality, allowing 12.4 points-per-game (second in the NJAC, 16th in the nation). The low amount of points allowed is also a tribute to their 55 percent red zone defense, seventh best in Division III.

Staying fresh has also not been an issue, as the Sea Gull offense averages 32 minutes of possession a game, not allowing the defense to tire out.

Keys to the Game: Salisbury needs to maintain a potent rushing attack, or do something they have not done all season: pass the ball. That was a necessity vs. Wesley last week, but SU completed only 4-of-16 passes in the contest.

Frostburg comes into Saturday’s matchup with the top rushing defense, not allowing over 60 yards per game this season good for sixth best in the country. With a reliance on the ground game, Salisbury could get stuck with a lack of production out of their run option.

If they can get Lewis going in the passing game, however, the offense should be able to get enough opportunities against the Bobcats.

Player to Watch: Senior Quarterback Brandon Lewis

Lewis really needs to shine in order to win against Frostburg. Using both his arm talent, and his skill at weaving between defenders on the ground, he will have to put this game on his shoulders Saturday.

In this top-3 NJAC battle, this is going to be a tough match-up, without factoring in the history between the two teams. Each team is going to want this win badly, but with Salisbury playing well at home this season with a 4-0 record, it’s their game to lose.

Frostburg State

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SU holds a 27-17 advantage in the overall series. SU Athletics photo

Frostburg comes into Sea Gull Stadium in a similar position to Salisbury within the conference and is looking ahead to potential playoff opportunities. With the potent rushing attack of the Sea Gulls, the Bobcats will face quite the challenge this Saturday.

Offense: Compared to Salisbury’s one-dimensional offense, the Bobcats are much more dynamic on offense. Not only are they averaging almost 170 yards per game on the ground, but they add almost another 270 yards passing on top of that.

Experience in the pass game has been a key to that success. Throwing to a very deep receiving core is junior quarterback Connor Cox. Despite not starting in the team’s 17-14 win vs. Kean last week, Cox is expected to be back after being banged up over the course of the season.

The Davidson, Md.-native is 27 passing yards from 2000 for the season and leads the NJAC in total offense per game with 263.1 yards. Coz is familiar with playing in Salisbury, nearly leading the Bobcats to a win two years ago in the same venue.

Defense: The Frostburg defense really matches up well with Salisbury’s offense. The Bobcats lead the conference in rushing defense, allowing 57.3 yards per game.

While Salisbury’s defense stays fresh because of their offense’s time of possession, Frostburg’s does just as good of a job and their defense stays just as fresh. Their defensive line play is excellent led by senior defensive lineman Niles Scott who totals 14.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks in 2017.

Their defensive backs are on the attack as well led by junior Josh Scales, leading the team in tackles and fumble recoveries. However, the unit has been porous through the air, seventh in the NJAC in pass defense.

Keys to the Game: This offense seems to breathe through their upperclassman quarterback Cox. Play well against the Salisbury secondary that has given up big plays this season, and they could be well on their way to a win.

However, if he falters, the Sea Gull defense can focus in on running back Jamaal Morant, and the run game. Then, they won’t be leaving Sea Gull stadium with a ‘W.’

Player to Watch: Frostburg’s defensive line

With Salisbury counting on their ground game, Frostburg’s defensive line will play a large role in deciding the success of Lewis, Pratt and their explosive read option. A victory for them will be decided in the trenches between a young, bruised Salisbury offensive line and Scott and the Bobcats.

Takeaways from the 2017 campaign: SU men’s soccer

By CHRIS MACKOWIAK

Sports Editor

@cmackowiakSGSN

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Eiben sends a pass off down the field vs. Misericordia as the SU bench looks on. Sept. 16. Hannah Wichrowski photo

The penalty kick. It is one of the most suspenseful moments in all of sports.

One person standing at a spot where one score or one miss can define a season or a legacy.

As miniscule as some of the moments at the spot were for the Salisbury men’s soccer team in 2017, the final moments were some of the most impactful. Success at the spot changed the tide in many matches including the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) first round.

After drawing 1-1 following 90 minutes and two overtime periods, the fifth-seeded Sea Gulls went to penalty kicks vs. the fourth-seeded York (Pa.) Spartans. Following 10 grueling rounds at York, SU prevailed 8-7 on a save from SU junior goalkeeper Trevor Brookhart.

That penalty kick victory got Salisbury to the conference semifinals for the first time under second-season Head Coach Alex Hargrove. It was a season of firsts for the program now under Hargrove: his first conference playoff appearance and first playoff victory.

While it is not the conference titles the program is used to seeing like in 2015, it is progress in the right direction for a program that Hargrove is still making his own and still learning from.

After failing to make the CAC playoffs in 2016, the program could only build up and so they did, bringing in 16 new faces from the crowd.

The youth that marked the 2017 squad as inexperienced, might be an advantage in 2018. Despite losing a very strong senior class at the end of this season, a core is there to improve on in the future.

Hargrove learning, adapting

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Hargrove (left) gives instructions on the field during a substitution vs. St. Mary’s (Md.). Oct. 4, 2017. Emma Reider Photo

Taking over with a senior-heavy class, 2016 was a rough start for Hargrove in his first season, missing out on the conference playoffs. Little consistency aided the former SU midfielder.

Due to the large departure of seniors, the head coach had some flexibility headed into his second season in which he revamped over half the squad with an influx of youth.

2017 displayed a similar start to his first season, losing five of their first six matches for an early 1-5 record. However, four of those losses were 1-0, showing a steady defense with lacking offense.

A good sign of a coach is one that is not stubborn, but instead adapts to a given situation in order to succeed.

That is exactly what Hargrove did.

Following their 3-2 overtime loss at Washington College, Salisbury switched their formation to a back-three from their previous back-four. Utilizing an experienced defensive unit, this worked wonders by adding an additional man to the offensive front.

SU then bridged a four-game win streak into conference-play after that, not allowing more than a goal in any match for the rest of the season. The defense became the backbone for a sometimes struggling offense throughout the season.

With Salisbury becoming a streaky team in 2017, SU finished conference play with their best stretch of the season, going 3-0-2 which propelled them into the fifth-seed of the conference tournament.

It is a good lesson that staying stubborn and hoping for the best is not the best solution. Sometimes a coach must take the risk and make the change in order to reap the benefits.

Defense wins championships

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Sophomore defender Alex Eiben rushes down the field vs. St. Mary’s (Md.). Oct. 4, 2017. Emma Reider Photo

The key to the formation change part way through the season was the seasoned depth on defense. With multiple names returning from the 2016 squad, the defensive unit was certainly going to be a focal point of the team.

In the later back-three, senior backs Mike Kramer and Nick Carrington were looked to as the central leaders. The two were the only SU players named to All-CAC honors at the end of the season, both as second teamers.

One big surprise was the scoring prowess of Carrington over his career. While it was from the penalty spot, Carrington became the go to man for penalty kicks during his two starting seasons in the maroon and gold. He never missed a penalty kick in his SU career and paved the way for many key results down the line.

While fans knew what they were getting out of Kramer and Carrington, the answers out of the other members of the defense are what made the unit successful.

Sophomore defender Alex Eiben was one that improved greatly. Eiben got the opportunity to move into the right center back role of the new back-three and excelled at it.

He quickly became a regular in the starting 11 and showcased his recognized recovery speed on multiple occasions. Eiben also displayed his aerial ability with a goal in overtime vs. Catholic during the season.

In front of the back three, there were two holding midfielders typically. 2016 center back Colby Fell moved into that role in the new formation.

Fell found success in the area higher up in the midfield. However, now after two strong years at SU, he will be gone come 2018.

Potential players to lock up those defensive midfield spots could be freshman midfielder Beau Johnson or junior midfielder Robbie Budd. Both players ended up seeing extensive time at the positions.

Johnson emerged later in the season into a starting role, impressing Hargrove as a likeness to himself in his midfield playing days.

Overall, SU’s defense kept the team in games during many close matches. The unit has been a strength over the program’s history and continues to be. Headed into 2018, it will be an interesting topic to see who steps up to the task with known commodities Eiben, Johnson and Budd returning, and do not forget about their goalkeeper too.

And then there was one

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SU goalkeeper Trevor Brookhart grabs the ball from a Catholic forward and senior defender Nick Carrington. Sept. 27, 2017. Emma Reider photo

From the start of the season, one of the big question marks facing Hargrove and his staff was the starting goalkeeper position.

After Drew Staedeli took control of the position for a few years previously, and then Robert Fiackos and Dan Brennan started both as seniors in 2016, the position was wide open in 2017.

The positional competition started in camp with three players in the fold: sophomore Sam Roy, freshman Ben Gentry and finally junior college transfer Trevor Brookhart.

In the end it was Brookhart who stood out to the coaching staff, starting in the first day. Little was known about the junior goalkeeper before then, other than a one-year crossover with Fell at their respective junior college.

However, Brookhart would not let up that starting job.

The Eldersburg, Md. native cemented his role behind his veteran defenders, working five shutouts and nine matches of five or more saves. His 0.96 GAA and 79.6 save percentage were among the best in the conference, ending in player of the week awards.

As the season went on, an early question mark turned into a later advantage. That advantage and game experience may work wonders down the road into next season.

With multiple departures on the defensive line, Brookhart will be one of the surer things entering the 2018 campaign. He may be relied on for big plays and leadership next season even more than he was this time around.

Sophomore three

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Sophomore midfielder Dolph Hegewisch keeps the ball from St. Mary’s (Md.). Oct. 4, 2017. Emma Reider Photo

In a 2016 season that had more lows than highs, fans learned of a strong group coming to play for Hargrove in his first season at the helm.

Last season midfielders Dolph Hegewisch, Ryan Spadin and Matt Hawkins came on to the field to make an immediate impact. Hegewisch gained the most starts among the three at 10, eventually also getting All-CAC Second Team honors.

This time around all three players appeared in all 20 matches alongside combining for 46 total starts here in 2017. Spadin had the most points among the three with nine from three goals and three assists. The three attacking midfielders combined for seven goals.

Spadin was the one that saw the most dramatic shift in playing ability. The new formation suited is playing style as he was able to have a free-flowing motion moving from the deep midfield up the striker line.

Hawkins developed into a strong option at the wing on the outside offering speed, while Hegewisch continued to distribute the ball and create chances as he had in 2016.

In essence, this group of three represents progress in the Hargrove regime. With senior forward Brooks Zentgraf gone in 2018, they will represent the true barometer of the offense moving forward.

Just as sophomores, each player as notched numerous starts and points for their team. It is valuable experience for players that will be an integral part in getting the team’s goals-per-game average closer to two next season.

Overall, with the many new faces that Hargrove brought in to start 2017, this team will be generally young again come next season. However, there is a big difference between young and then young with experience. Down the line over the next two years, SU may be a deceptive roster.

With such an influx of youth, the team has gone through growing pains these two seasons, but things may finally pan out come next season. Despite a 3-0 loss to CNU in the CAC Semifinals to end the season, the team was streaking and streaking well to end the regular season.

That bodes well for confidence in 2018. So when 2018 rolls around, do not be fooled by youth that this team fosters. It may be the key to success for the next two seasons.

SU field hockey enters NCAA field

By ZACH GILLELAND

Sports Reporter

@_zachariahg

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Salisbury celebrates their overtime victory vs. York (Pa.) in the CAC Semifinals. Nov. 1. Megan Campbell photo

For the 33rd time in program history, the Salisbury University field hockey team is headed to the big dance.

The 2017 Division III NCAA Tournament field was announced Sunday and, after a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to CNU in the CAC Championship game, there was some doubt as to whether the Sea Gulls would earn an at-large bid.

But SU’s resume was enough to receive that at-large bid. The sixth-ranked Sea Gulls (12-4) will travel to Grantham, Pa. for a regional hosted by the top-seeded and defending national champion Messiah College.

Messiah defeated the maroon and gold 2-1 in Salisbury’s home opener on Sept. 9. SU took the Falcons to overtime, but a goal from Messiah’s Kezia Loht extended the team’s now 41-game winning streak.

The Falcons enter the bracket with a perfect 19-0 record, defeating Alvernia 2-1 in the MAC Commonwealth Championship game. Messiah has defeated four ranked opponents alongside Division II Shippensburg University, outscoring opponents 83-11.

The Sea Gulls will receive a bye into the second-round of the tournament, facing the winner of the Gwynedd Mercy and Trinity (Conn.) match-up on Saturday at 2 p.m. Both teams received automatic bids after winning their respective conferences and will play on Wednesday.

Winners of the Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) after defeating defending champ Cabrini, Gwynedd Mercy holds a 17-3 record and a seven-game winning streak. Facing the Griffins are the Bantams (12-6), who also received an at-large bid after losing to Middlebury in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship game.

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SU forward Natalie Wilkinson drives the ball ahead vs. York (Pa.). Nov. 1. Megan Campbell photo

Salisbury returns to the field a year after losing to Tufts in the National Semifinals, the furthest the program has gone in the bracket since 2014.

The Sea Gulls’ resume includes four ranked wins this season and two wins against tournament teams—TCNJ and Misericordia. SU’s four losses this season have been by one goal against ranked opponents.

SU failed to win the CAC Championship for the first time since 2012. The maroon and gold defeated York (Pa.) 3-2 in overtime in the semifinal game after a goal from freshman midfielder Camryn Dennis.

A rematch against CNU Saturday decided which team would receive the automatic bid. The Captains defeated the Sea Gulls 1-0 on Sept. 30 for SU’s only loss in regular season conference play.

Salisbury struck first in the match-up with a goal from senior forward Natalie Wilkinson less than six minutes into the game. CNU answered a minute into the second half, tying the game after a goal from Jackie Kotoriy.

A defensive battle, the game headed to extra time, SU’s second straight game decided by overtime. In the seven-on-seven, no team could find the edge with both teams failing to score in the first overtime period.

After an hour and a half, Captain’s Courtnie Greene found the back of the cage to win CNU’s first ever CAC Championship in field hockey. Salisbury fired 21 shots and had 10 penalty corners.

For a program that has a multitude of young talent, the Sea Gulls punched their ticket to the program’s 33rd NCAA Tournament despite the loss. Come Saturday, Salisbury will have a chance to shine on the NCAA’s brightest stage.

Do not freak out about the College Football Playoff

By ZACH GILLELAND

Sports Reporter

@_zachariahg

Opinion- It is only natural for college football fans to freak out when the first College Football Playoff Rankings are released. Brushed aside are the AP and Coaches Poll and fans get a glimpse at what the criteria the College Football Playoff Committee judges by.

As a Maryland Terrapins fan, it is a foregone conclusion that the Terps will never make the playoff. If Maryland cannot consistently beat Indiana and Rutgers every year, then they cannot expect to beat Ohio State or Michigan at all.

The first rankings were revealed on Oct. 31, and as ominous as the date is, spooked and angered fans whose teams are vying for one of the coveted four spots. But with more than three weeks remaining before the committee releases their final rankings on Dec. 3, there is plenty of time for teams to strengthen their resume.

Below, The Flyer analyzes the first College Football Playoff Rankings and what the committee got right and wrong.

Top Four

  1. Georgia Bulldogs (8-0)

Signature win: at Notre Dame

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Georgia’s live-mascot UGA at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga. UGA Communications via 247 sports

Shocking to say the least, the inaugural poll of the 2017 season starts with a bang. The Bulldogs are enjoying a fine season under second-year Head Coach Kirby Smart.

The committee is justified in selecting the Bulldogs, who have that big signature win against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. Just like Alabama, Georgia is blowing out opponents, winning by an average of more than 26 points a game.

Two road games against Auburn and Georgia Tech stand between the Bulldogs and Alabama– the presumed SEC Championship game. If the conference title game comes down between both schools and both are undefeated coming into the matchup, a close loss for either team will more than likely keep them in the playoffs.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0)

Signature win: at Texas A&M

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Former Alabama running back Derrick Henry runs through the Michigan State defense in The Cotton Bowl Classic. Jerome Miron-USA Today Sports

It is a down year for the SEC if Alabama’s signature win is an eight-point win against the Aggies. No offense to A&M, but the team has not had the same success post-Johnny Manziel.

The Crimson Tide are no doubt a strong team, and in my opinion, are the strongest team in college football. What puts Georgia ahead of Alabama is that signature win and a Notre Dame win looks a lot better than the Crimson Tide’s win over Florida State in the opening week.

‘We want Bama’ is a common phrase exuberantly shouted after a contending team notches a signature win. That worked well for Vanderbilt, who lost to Alabama 59-0 and sparked a five-game losing streak.

Georgia may not be shouting that phrase now, but it is looking like both teams will collide in the SEC Championship game. A road match-up at Mississippi State and a cupcake game versus Mercer separates the Tide from the Iron Bowl game against Auburn.

The may not be No. 2 for long, but the committee got it right for now.

  1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1)

Signature win: vs USC

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Notre Dame junior starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush. NCAA.com

Four wins in 2016 and missing a bowl game for the first time since 2009, the Fighting Irish are having an unexpected season. Notre Dame’s resume is favored by a tough schedule, facing four ranked opponents, going 3-1 in those contests.

It is no shock that the Irish are ranked this high, their only loss is by one point to the first-ranked Bulldogs. Key wins over USC, Michigan State and NC State bolster an already solid resume.

The committee got this selection right. If Notre Dame can win out, they will hear their name called early come Dec. 3.

  1. Clemson Tigers (7-1)

Signature win: at Virginia Tech

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Clemson junior running back Travis Etienne breaks away from the Boston College defense. NCAA.com

Arguably the most shocking pick by the committee, they go with the defending-national champion Tigers at the fourth spot. A road upset against Syracuse remains the only blemish on Clemson’s season.

The committee got this selection wrong. The one-loss Tigers are not the same team that won the playoff last season. Sure the team has signature wins against Auburn and Virginia Tech, but Clemson is not winning in the fashion they did in 2016.

Junior Kelly Bryant replaces All-American Deshaun Watson at quarterback, but he has not replicated the success of his predecessor, with the offense averaging a touchdown less than last season.

Oklahoma or Ohio State would have been a justifiable selection. Undefeated Wisconsin and Miami are also options but lack signature victories.

Looking from Outside

It was interesting to see where the committee went after the top-four spots. Oklahoma holds the fifth spot, followed by Ohio State, Penn State and TCU. Wisconsin and Miami round out the top-10.

The committee is usually more favorable to the Buckeyes after selecting Ohio State instead of TCU in 2014 and Penn State a season ago. The win against the Nittany Lions on Oct. 28 helped save the Buckeyes chances at making the playoffs, but they fall short to the Sooners who beat them in Columbus, Ohio on Sept. 9.

Surprises

The year of the Cyclones. Iowa State enters the rankings at 14 after a surprising 6-2 campaign. ISU has two stunning road victories against top-five opponents in TCU and Oklahoma.

Although ranking the Cyclones at 14 is fine, there is no way that Iowa State is the 14th best team in the country. Losing to Texas at home by 10 is not good.

16 is way too high for Mississippi State, who are ranked high solely for the pedigree of their conference. The Bulldogs defeated LSU and Texas A&M fairly easily, but were blown out by Auburn and Georgia, allowing 80 points combined. A game against the Crimson Tide will send Mississippi State down the rankings.

Wisconsin at nine is puzzling. The Badgers are undefeated but have yet to beat a quality opponent. But the Paul Chryst-led team has beaten opponents by double digits in all but two games.

TCU at eight seems too high for the Horned Frogs, who looked ugly in the 14-7 loss against Iowa State. The win over Oklahoma State puts TCU over the Badgers, but the undefeated record should not be as overlooked as it is. Flipping both teams makes sense.

Arizona receives love as the 22nd ranked team. Another surprising team, the Wildcats have doubled their win total from 2016, holding a 6-2 record and are in the PAC-12 South championship picture.

The highest group of five team is UCF at No. 18. A resume that includes a 38-10 shellacking of my Terps, the top-ranked group of five team will receive a bid to a New Year’s six bowl game.

The committee has shown that it favors strength of schedule in the rankings, as evident in their top-four selections. Although with its flaws, the committee got it right this time.

Salisbury-Wesley football rivalry runs deeper off-the-field

By CHRIS MACKOWIAK

Sports Editor

@cmackowiakSGSN

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2016: Wesley at Salisbury. Joey Gardner photo for SU Athletics

Salisbury University and Wesley College have battled in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) since 2007 when Wesley joined the Chesapeake regionally-based conference. While CAC sports have mostly gone the way of the Sea Gulls, the two schools have heated up a rivalry in a different sport, football.

Over the decades, Salisbury and Wesley have excelled in their own respective spheres, only recently participating in the same conference, the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). This has ignited a Delmarva rivalry with a close proximity and overlain recruiting grounds offering a basis.

“Wesley just doesn’t like Salisbury based on where they are. Salisbury just doesn’t like Wesley, for whatever reason. I can’t even explain it. It’s been that way for quite some time,” SU Head Football Coach Sherman Wood said.

Wesley has an overall 19-8 lead in the series dating back to 1986 with 10-game win streak from 2005 to 2014.

While Wesley is leaving the CAC at the end of the spring season, the battle on the gridiron has only recently been born into a new age as the schools continue to be conference opponents for football in the NJAC. The last two years, this NJAC game has helped to decide the conference champion.

In 2015, an SU field goal from Alex Potocko with two minutes left in the game provided the Sea Gulls with a 38-35 road upset of the Wolverines, providing Salisbury with a conference title in their first NJAC season.

One year later, Wesley struck back winning in Sea Gull Stadium 44-27 as the Wolverines paved their season from a 1-2 start into a deep NCAA Tournament run.

This time around the teams meet again towards the end of the season. Both teams are undefeated in the NJAC with Frostburg State waiting in the wings with only one loss.

“I think it’s great to have a Route 13 rival. I think it’s great for the community. I think it’s great for the fans. Obviously, the additional reason that this game is kind of heated is because most of the time both teams are vying for some postseason recognition. You want to play your best for all those reasons,” Woods said.

While the battle on the field will certainly be one to watch as a top-25 match-up, the mindset off-the-field is what makes this recent rivalry so interesting.

On the Salisbury roster, seven players are from the state of Delaware. Two of those players have a close proximity to Wesley as natives of Dover, Del., where the college is located.

Those players are both starters in senior punter Tim Steindl and sophomore center Tyler Rosello.

“A lot of those players know each other. Obviously that can be a little competitive, a little emotional as far as playing against each other. Obviously the proximity is a big deal,” Wood said.

Each with familiar friends on the opposite side of the football field, the two have grown up through football seeing the impact of the Wesley program. It is a very unique experience for Rosello.

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2016: Wesley at Salisbury. Joey Gardner photo for SU Athletics

Last season, Rosello did not see much playing time against the Wolverines last season. This time he certainly will as the starting center for starting quarterback Brandon Lewis.

“[Josh Lipowski] enabled me to play center by moving to tackle, which I appreciate. Last year I traveled and played some games. Brandon and I during practice and when we did play were center-quarterback [combo],” Rosello said.

“Him and I developed that relationship last year and just got better over spring.”

Whether he was at center for Lewis or another offensive line position on Saturday, this game and rivalry certainly takes on a different meaning for a player with deep familial ties at the Dover college.

Rosello says that his uncle was a three-time All-American nose guard at Wesley, displaying that there is definitely some Wolverine blood somewhere in his veins. The Sea Gull’s offensive line coach for four or five years of his development also featured as an all-American with the Wolverines.

“We’re a really big family where I come from, so most people I know went to Wesley. The starting nose guard there played next to me on the offensive line in high school, so it’ll be a nice high school battle there,” Rosello said.

Growing up in central Delaware, Wesley seemed to be an obvious choice for the future collegiate offensive lineman, but some factors changed that decision.

Just like with any other future college student, several factors came into Rosello’s decision as he narrowed his schools to Salisbury, Wesley and Gettysburg College. He felt a connection on the Salisbury campus, but his father also pushed him to take the college-experience.

“I wanted a good academic institution and I wanted to get away from home a little bit. [Salisbury] is far enough, but not too far. It worked out in the end,” Rosello said.

“My dad was really big on me coming to [Salisbury.] He wanted me to have a college life. He didn’t want me to live at home and go to Wesley, which is two minutes away from my house.”

That one decision three years ago places the offensive lineman across the Maryland state border for this NJAC rivalry. As a Sea Gull among a pack of Wolverines, Rosello has fun with it.

He enjoys seeing his former teammates, but of course there is a contrast on and off-the-field.

“This year is going to be really interesting because obviously we travel there. I’m going against a three-year high school friend of mine who I played with,” Rosello said.

Rosello says that his family plans on throwing a tailgate around the game with both Wolverines and Sea Gulls invited. It is a perfect example of the comradery of football with slice of competition involved.

While Salisbury has ‘rivalries’ across many sports with many successful Division III schools, this one is unique. It is a battle of the Delmarva Peninsula for Division III football dominance each season.

Just like any rivalry, bloodlines run deep and display a uniqueness unlike anything else with about 60 miles separating the Wolverines and Sea Gulls, or just a dinner table.

Under the Feathers: SU football’s Brandon Lewis

By CHRIS MACKOWIAK

Sports Editor

@cmackowiakSGSN

No. 15 Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis. SU Athletics photo

Senior quarterback; Salisbury football

Hometown: Bel Air, Md.

HS: John Carroll

After featuring as the back-up quarterback last season, Lewis came into the 2017 season as the starter. He has held that role well in his dual-threat capabilities within the triple-option offense. Through eight games, the Bel Air, Md.-native leads Salisbury in rushing with 549 yards on the ground. He also leads the team with nine rushing touchdowns.

In the air, the senior quarterback has six touchdowns and over 500 passing yards despite three interceptions. Lewis leads an offense that is putting up 33.3 points-per-game and 367.3 total yards per game. For the final two weeks of the season, Salisbury faces two top-15 teams in Wesley and Frostburg State.

Below Lewis joins The Flyer for the latest edition of ‘Under the Feathers.’

1) What are your majors/minors? What made you interested in that field(s)?

“Business Management. I enjoy being involved in a team atmosphere and hopefully can use my leadership skills in order to be successful in the business world.”

2) What made you want to play football at or just come to Salisbury?

“I came to Salisbury because of the cost, ocean city and the campus life and community that comes along with being an SU student,” Lewis said.

3) What has been your favorite moment as part of SU football while here at Salisbury, and why?

“My favorite moment as a Salisbury football player was beating [Christopher Newport] on their Homecoming in my junior year. Even though I didn’t play much, I knew how much it meant for our team, and with the history between our two programs it’s always nice to be able to get a ‘W’ vs. those guys,” Lewis said.

4) Have you always played quarterback as you do currently over your football career (high school and college)? What do you enjoy about your position on the field?

“In high school, I started both ways playing quarterback and free safety, and I have been a quarterback since coming to SU in 2013. I enjoy playing quarterback because of the responsibility that comes with the position. It’s fun to put your team in a position to be successful and to be in a leadership role,” Lewis said.

5) In your senior year now, what do you think comes with the title ‘senior’ on a sports team and how do you embrace that today?

“Being a senior is important regardless of playing time or any of that stuff. As a senior, you must take what you’ve learned from upperclassmen throughout the years and apply that now in order to keep the strong Sea Gull culture going. No one wants to be the team that lets the standards slip, so most importantly we just want to focus on molding the younger guys,” Lewis said.

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No. 15 Lewis meets with his offense while off the field vs. William Paterson. Jalil Dukes photo

6) What is your favorite part of Salisbury University Athletics or your team-environment here at SU?

“Something I love about our team is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or senior. We all hang out and have great team chemistry, and that has definitely contributed to our success this season. We truly have that family atmosphere from the coaches down to the players,” Lewis said.

7) What is your favorite part of campus life at Salisbury, and why?

“Campus life is exciting. It seems each year since I’ve been here the administration tries their best to add events and improve the campus involvement as a whole. I’m excited for the tailgates in the spring. It’ll be our turn to return the favor to the different sports teams and support them,” Lewis said.

8) What are your hobbies and interests off the field?

“Golf, fishing, Xbox, reading,” Lewis said.

9) Where is your favorite place to go for a meal or snack on or off-campus?

“Chipotle,” Lewis said.

10) Is there any favorite music you like to listen to right before a game? Favorite band or artist?

“Jeezy, Shy Glizzy, Future and Migos have been mainly what I’ve listened to this year with a few EDM/house artists thrown into the mix,” Lewis said.

11) Is there something unique about you that many SU football fans don’t know?

“I have a 26-year-old brother and a 9-year-old sister, so it’s been cool to be able to experience being the middle child,” Lewis said.