Friday, November 18, 2016

Delaware Valley Football - Aggies vs Muhlenberg Game Preview

DOYLESTOWN (PA) – The Delaware Valley University football team will compete in the postseason for the ninth straight year and the 13th time in the last 14 seasons when the Aggies travel to Allentown, Pennsylvania on Saturday, November 19 for a meeting with Muhlenberg College in the Second Annual Centennial-MAC Bowl Series. Kickoff at Frank Marino Field at Scotty Wood Stadium is slated for 12 p.m.

The Centennial Conference and the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) announced late last year their partnership to hold two postseason football games involving the top two teams from each conference that are not selected to the NCAA Division III Championship. The top team from each conference that is not selected to the NCAA Division III Championship will host the second best team from the opposing conference not moving on to NCAAs.

DelVal and Muhlenberg are no strangers to the postseason or each other. The Aggies have had at least one extra game each year since 2008 and they have notched six NCAA berths, five ECAC Bowl games and appearances in the first two Centennial-MAC Bowl Series over the last 14 campaigns. Meanwhile, the Mules will make their 13th postseason appearance in the last 17 years.

The two programs met on the gridiron three straight years earlier this decade. DelVal was victorious in the 2010 (27-7 in Allentown) and 2011 (10-9 in overtime in Doylestown) season openers. Then in 2012, the teams met at Muhlenberg for the ECAC South Atlantic Bowl and the Aggies pulled out a 24-21 triumph.

This year’s DelVal edition has notched an 8-2 overall record, including last Saturday’s 45-7 trouncing of archrival Widener University in Chester. The triumph was the Aggies’ second straight over the Pride as they retained the Keystone Cup that is handed out annual to the winner of the contest.

DelVal dominated all three facets of the contest. On offense, the team racked up 339 yards and controlled the ball for more than 35 minutes (35:03). Meanwhile, the Aggie defense permitted just 113 total yards with 63 of them coming on a late scoring drive. They notched seven sacks on the afternoon, forced three turnovers - including one that was returned for a score - and held the Pride to just one first down and minus-nine yards rushing through three quarters of play. And the special teams unit got on the scoreboard with a punt return for a touchdown.

For the season, DelVal is averaging 35.9 points and 388.5 yards per game (195.6 avg rushing, 192.9 avg passing). The offense has put up 28 or more points in seven of the 10 contests.

Sophomore quarterback Dashawn Darden (Norristown, PA/Cardinal O’Hara)was an all-MAC honorable mention selection earlier in the week. He has completed 124 of 220 passes for 1,793 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has also been a threat to run with 435 yards and eight scores on 97 carries. Last week at Widener, Darden accounted for 203 yards (128 passing, 75 rushing) and four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing).

Devauntay Ellis (Ewing, NJ/Ewing) and Robert Cleveland (Willingboro, NJ/Willingboro) have split the tailback duties all year and each were named to the all-conference team for the second consecutive season.

Ellis, a junior and two-time first-team honoree, is the leading rusher with 598 yards and eight touchdowns on 98 carries. He also has six receptions for 176 yards. Ellis had a combined 30 yards at Widener.

Cleveland, a second-team pick for the second straight year, has produced 484 yards and six touchdowns on 101 rushes. The senior also has seven catches out of the backfield for 74 yards and one score. Cleveland had 47 yards on the ground in last week’s win.

Sophomore Eric Shorter (Trenton, NJ/Princeton) picked up first-team all-MAC accolades for the first time. He has caught 23 passes for 425 yards and five trips to the end zone (one last week at Widener). Shorter has also been a threat on special teams with 27.7 yards and one touchdown on six kickoff returns.

Senior Mike Jensen (Woodbridge, NJ/Bishop George Ahr) has also caught 23 passes this season and they have gone for 355 yards and four touchdowns. He had a pair of grabs for 18 yards at Widener.

Defensively, the Aggies are 13th in Division III in both scoring (13.2 avg) and total yardage (257.1 avg). In fact, the first-team unit has given up just 13 touchdowns all season. They have racked up 28 sacks and have forced 23 turnovers (15 interceptions, eight fumble recoveries).

Juniors Nicholas DiGati (Townsend, DE/Middletown) and Shawn Miller (Laurel, DE/Laurel) were first-team honorees. DiGati transferred in prior to the season and the linebacker leads the squad with 70 tackles, including 16 behind the line of scrimmage. He is tied for top honors with two forced fumbles to go along with three sacks. DiGati had a team-best seven stops at Widener.

Miller, picked up his second straight all-conference award as the safety leads the team with five interceptions for 117 yards with three of the picks coming in the season-opening win at No. 7 Wesley College (tying a school record). He also has 49 tackles, three pass breakups, two sacks and one blocked kick to his credit. Miller had two stops and one interception last week.

Junior linebacker, TJ Waters (Philadelphia, PA/West Catholic) was a second-team all-MAC pick in his first year with the Aggies. He is second on the team in tackles with 56 and leads the way in fumble recoveries with three. Waters also has one sack and one interception (returned 49 yards for a touchdown) to his credit with the pick coming in last Saturday’s win at Widener.

Seniors Aric Boyes (Parksville, NY/Tri-Valley) and Devante Ford (Philadelphia, PA/West Catholic) were each on the second-team all-MAC defensive line for the second straight campaign.

Boyes is tied for the team lead in sacks with four. The end has also made 42 stops with 12 coming behind the line of scrimmage. He notched six tackles and two sacks at Widener.

Ford had two stops, half a sack and a fumble recovery last week. It upped the nose guard’s season totals to 34 tackles (11 for losses of 14 yards), 1.5 sacks and one fumble recovery.

The Mules have notched a 9-1 record this season with their lone setback being a narrow, 34-30 decision at nationally-ranked Johns Hopkins University back on September 24. They have one common opponent with DelVal in Wilkes University (Muhlenberg opened the year with a 29-22 road triumph over the Colonels while the Aggies posted a 52-10 home rout to avenge an upset loss from 2015).

The Mules are 19th in Division III in scoring with an average of 41.4 points per showing. Their lowest point output this season was the 24 points against Johns Hopkins. They are also 24th in total offense at 477.9 yards per game.

Record-setting quarterback Nick Palladino is a big key to Muhlenberg’s offensive success. The senior and Centennial Conference Player of the Year is the conference’s all-time leader in total offense yards (11,422), total offense touchdowns (111), passing touchdowns (88) and completions (862). He needs 39 passing yards on Saturday to reach the 10,000-yard plateau.

This year, Palladino has completed 197 of 291 passes for 2,497 yards, 26 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He has also rushed for 288 yards and six scores. In last week’s 31-12 win at archrival Moravian, Palladino threw for 302 yards and a score and also found the end zone once on the ground.

Junior running back Nick Savant was a first-team all-conference pick as he is fifth in Division III in rushing with 1,511 yards. He has reached the end zone on 16 of his 217 carries and has also caught 16 passes for 271 yards and four scores. Savant ran the ball 27 times for 168 yards and a touchdown last week.

Senior wideout/kickoff returner Mike Lamb was also a first-team all-conference honoree. He has caught 69 passes for 950 yards and nine touchdowns while also averaging 34.3 yards and recording two scores on 12 returns. Lamb had five catches for 134 yards and a touchdown at Moravian.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Mules are 25th in the country in scoring, allowing just 16.4 points per contest. Opponents have managed just 297.3 yards per game against them, including only 97.9 yards in the air.

Heading the unit is senior linebacker Mike Luby. Luby was a first-team, all-Centennial selection after recording 67 tackles, nine sacks and three forced fumbles during the regular season. He had nine stops, one sack and a forced fumble in last week’s win.

Sophomore cornerback Nate Corvil was a second-team honoree. He has 50 tackles and five interception on the year, including eight stops and two picks last week. He opened the scoring against Moravian with a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown.

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