Stevenson is not a typical third-year program.
The Mustangs take the long bus ride to Edwardsville this afternoon at noon to face Wilkes, and Colonels coach Frank Sheptock knows he can’t take this opponent lightly.
Stevenson may be on a three-game losing streak, but it started the season 3-0, including a win over Albright — a team that Wilkes just lost to a week ago. The Mustangs have also played the Colonels tough in previous meetings, including last season when Wilkes needed a game-winning field goal with 11 seconds left to pull out a 38-35 win. In the first matchup between the teams in 2011, Wilkes won a 43-34 shootout.
“They’ve played extremely well and that’s given them confidence,” Sheptock said. “I think some of the things they’ve been able to build on over the last two years has increased the confidence of the program.”
Despite the 30-12 outcome last week against Albright, the Colonels led 6-0 and were trailing the Lions by four points late in the third quarter until Wilkes mistakes took over and the Lions took advantage, scoring the game’s final 14 points to net the victory.
Overall in the game, Wilkes committed 10 penalties for 50 yards and turned the ball over once, which helped Albright take the lead in the second quarter. The Colonels’ penalties came at bad times, with three happening on third-and-1, one occurring on fourth-and-4 and another being a running into the kicker mistake to give Albright another opportunity.
“We’re in situations where we can take a step forward, but we haven’t been able to capitalize on them yet,” Sheptock said. “A lot of penalties in critical situations. There’s been opportunities in each of the last three or four games for us to seize momentum and we haven’t been able to do that.
“I like the passion and the effort. So it’s not that part, I think it’s the execution in those critical times.”
Stevenson (3-3, 2-3 MAC) at Wilkes (2-4, 1-4 MAC)
When: Noon today at Schmidt Stadium, Edwardsville
Last Week: Both squads lost last week with the Mustangs falling to King’s, 31-24 and Wilkes losing to Albright 30-12.
Last meeting: Last season, the Colonels pulled out a 38-35 victory.
Wilkes player to watch:Kick returner Mason Smith, who is averaging 28.9 yards per return this season, including a 96-yard return last week against Albright.
Stevenson player to watch: Quarterback Zach Jefferson, who is second on the depth chart, relieved the injured starter last week against King’s and went 14 of 24 for 158 yards and touchdown. He is starting this afternoon.
Colonels’ team leaders: RB Pat Inguilli 407 yards, 3 TDs; QB Taylor Young 446 passing yards, 3 TD, 6 interceptions; WR David Claybrook 18 receptions, 218 yards, 2 TDs; LB Tate Moore-Jacobs 74 tackles (leads MAC); four players with 2 sacks; six players with one interception.
Mustangs’ team leaders: RB Trey Lee 581 yards, 5 TD; QB John Gasparovic 894 yards, 6 TD, 8 interceptions; WR Jeromie Miller 25 receptions, 409 yards, 1 TD; LB Donnell Brown 49 tackles; DE Moses Anoh 3.5 sacks; DB Billy Lewis 4 interceptions.
Wilkes will win if…Its offense, which is last in the MAC in scoring (18.3 points per game), can break out of a slump against the Stevenson defense, which is allowing 25.3 points per game and has allowed 103 points in its last three games, all losses.
Stevenson will win if…The team can put the last three games in the past. The Mustangs have lost three in a row and were hit by many injuries along the way. If the team’s confidence took a big hit over that span, its in trouble.
What to know: Through six games this season, Wilkes has had six different players grab an interception. In all of 2012, the Colonels also had six players register a pick.