Being Wilkes’ head coach for 18 seasons, Frank Sheptock has seen many players grow up on the field.
In a matter of about three minutes last week, Sheptock and the Wilkes faithful saw quarterback Taylor Young mature in a last-second victory over Stevenson.
The freshman threw a pair of touchdown passes in the game’s final 2:13, bringing the Colonels back from a 10-point deficit. He did all that with a bruised and bloody throwing hand.
“I thought it gives him great confidence from his teammates that he can bring us back,” Sheptock said. “As a quarterback, when people have that type of trust and faith in you I think it’s worth its weight in gold. They already have confidence that he has a great arm and he’s gonna make some plays for us. But to have that ability to come back and be resilient, that’s going to carry him a long way.”
Sheptock said that Young’s hand has not been problematic since the day after the victory. But tonight, Sheptock, Young and the rest of the Colonels have another challenge when they travel to New Jersey to face FDU-Florham.
Sure, the Devils enter with a 1-6 record and are 0-6 in the MAC, but in recent years they play exceptionally well on Friday nights. Heck, their only win this season is against a 4-3 TCNJ squad on a Friday night in their first game of the season. A few weeks later during another Friday night contest, the Devils trailed MAC power Delaware Valley by two points midway through the fourth quarter before the Aggies pulled away late. Tonight is FDU’s final night game this season which could add more motivation.
“It’s something that their kids rally around. The majority of kids grow up playing Friday night games and there’s that excitement of playing under the lights and all of those things,” Sheptock added. “They definitely play better on Friday nights and they’ve been able to steal wins on Friday nights against some teams that you wouldn’t think.”
Wilkes (3-4, 2-4 MAC) at FDU-Florham (1-6, 0-6)
When: 7 p.m. today at Robert T. Shields Field, Madison, N.J.
Last Week: Wilkes is coming off a dramatic 21-17 win over Stevenson, while the Devils lost 59-14 to Widener.
Last meeting: Wilkes was victorious last season winning 37-27.
Wilkes player to watch: Wide receiver and return man Jonathan Conklin, who picked up two receiving touchdowns and 88 yards on three receptions last week. He is also averaging 15.4 yards per kick return. Conklin’s pass catching on offense can help draw coverage away from freshman David Claybrook, who is averaging 54.7 receiving yards per game this season.
FDU player to watch: Quarterback Michael Santos is a do-it-all player behind center. He has thrown for 1,387 yards and eight touchdowns, while rushing for three scores on 49 carries.
Colonels’ team leaders: RB Pat Inguilli 480 yards, 3 TDs; QB Taylor Young 617 passing yards, 5 TD, 7 interceptions; WR David Claybrook 23 receptions, 328 yards, 2 TDs; LB Tate Moore-Jacobs 84 tackles (leads MAC); four players with 2 sacks; seven players with one interception.
Devils’ team leaders: RB Craig Kimbrough 459 yards, 3 TD; QB Michael Santos 1,387 yards, 8 TD, 10 int; WR Anthony Fruncillo 34 receptions, 507 yards, 2 TD; DB Joe Mancino 2 int, 73 tackles; four players with 1 sack
Wilkes will win if…The team can take advantage of opportunities and get an early lead against a reeling FDU squad that has allowed 276 during its six-game losing streak. If Wilkes lets FDU hang around on a night the Devils always seem to play well, that can spell trouble for the visitors.
FDU-Florham will win if…The team can use the motivation from its final Friday night game of the season and get riled up from the scene and rowdy crowd.
What to know: Wilkes coach Frank Sheptock has never lost to FDU-Florham in his previous 16 meetings. In the previous 29 matchups between the programs, Wilkes has won 27 times.