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Wesley College renews playoff rivalry with Mary Hardin Baylor

A familiar foe stands between Wesley College and another trip to the NCAA Division III national football semifinals.

The Wolverines face Mary Hardin-Baylor in a quarterfinal contest Saturday in Belton, Texas.

Interview with Wesley senior center Tim Putman.

Interview with Wesley senior center Tim Putman.

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Wesley College renews playoff rivalry with Mary Hardin Baylor

Wesley has faced the Crusaders in the post-season six of the last seven years. The Wolverines won four of those contests, including a 27-24 victory last year in the national quarterfinals.

But when the two met for the first time in the regular season back in September, it was Mary Hardin Baylor that walked away with the win,defeating the Wolverines in Dover 32-25.

If it sounds like the two teams have developed a rivalry despite the distance between the two schools, Wolverine players don’t argue the point.

“Yes, exactly, [it's a] a rivalry,” said senior running back Askia Jahad. “We seem to play them every year in the playoffs, so it’s a rivalry.”

“Absolutely, it’s three straight years in [this round],” said senior center Tim Putnam. “We basically got Salisbury and Mary Hardin-Baylor. Those are our two rivals now.”

Interview with Wesley senior running back Askia Jahad.

Interview with Wesley senior running back Askia Jahad.

Video

Wesley College renews playoff rivalry with Mary Hardin Baylor

And with that in mind, Wolverine players are itching for some payback for that September loss to the Crusaders in Dover.

“It definitely hurt. We have won loss at its to them. Now we get [a chance] at revenge,” said Jahad.

“The worst thing about it is the way we played,” added Putnam. “Mary Hardin-Baylor is a great team, but the way we played, we helped them win.”

Head Coach Mike Drass downplays the idea of a rivalry and seeking to avenge the loss earlier this season. He says advancing in the playoffs, not revenge, is the primary goal this week. To do that, Drass says his squad will need a much better effort than it produced in September’s seven point loss.

Interview with Wesley head coach Mike Drass.

Wesley Football head coach Mike Drass.

Video

Wesley College renews playoff rivalry with Mary Hardin Baylor

“Honestly, they were the better team that day. It was a one-touchdown game, but if there’s a one touchdown game that they should have won by two maybe it was that day,” said Drass. “That doesn’t mean we can’t win. We can win. We have to play a great game and we’ve done that a couple of times against them before to get the win. Back in September they did it to us.”

The one thing Drass and his players say is certain is that neither team will be caught off-guard. Both teams know each other too well at this point. That means you can’t afford to make mistakes.

“It’s all about execution. We know what they’re going to do. They know what we’re going to do. Whoever executes better and plays their game is going to win,” said Putman. “The last game [in September] we had some penalties. We turned the ball over. We didn’t execute. That’s why we lost the game.”

“When you a team real well and you know what their trying to do, and they can say the same thing about you, if you make a mistake it sticks out like a sore thumb,” said Drass.

Wesley is 10-1 and ranked sixth nationally. Second ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor is undefeated at 12-0 and outscoring its opponents by an average of 33 points.

Kick-off in Texas is at 1 pm.