Improvement to be tested against ranked 'Berg

Seniors Donnie Ary and Chris Ferguson will be pivotal in helping slow down the Heidelberg rushing attack. (Wilmington file/Randy Sarvis)
Seniors Donnie Ary and Chris Ferguson will be pivotal in helping slow down the Heidelberg rushing attack. (Wilmington file/Randy Sarvis)

Regardless of the opponent, head coach Stacy Hairston has been steadfast in his approach to the season. His focus is improving the Wilmington College football team on a daily basis.

It just so happens this week he gets to measure the team's development against one of the top teams in the country as the Quakers travel to No. 13 Heidelberg Saturday. The Student Princes fell a spot this week despite their 55-27 victory to open OAC play against Ohio Northern.

"Heidelberg is obviously a very good football team," said Hairston. "The team is coached well, and one of the better teams in the nation. They are a good team, but our concerns are with Wilmington."

The primary reason for the 'Berg success starts in the backfield with running backs Cartel Brooks and Bryan Lacey. Brooks rushed for 227 yards on 20 carries last season, while Lacey added 109 yards on 13 carries. Currently, they are ranked first and third, respectively, in the OAC. Brooks is the lone back averaging over 100 yards with 123.5, while Lacey is adding 87.5 yards per game.

"With the backs they have, those guys are very athletic," said Hairston. They have speed, and then they get in the open field they won't get caught. They are tough to bring down, so when you have one hole clogged up defensively, they cut to find another hole and when they hit it – they hit it so quick – and sometimes without being touched."

However, Heidelberg isn't a one-trick offensive pony. Quarterback Michael Mees is coming off a week in which he earned OAC Offensive Player of the Week honors. He is third in the league in passing, averaging 277.5 yards per game. Mees has completed 62.9 percent of his passes (22-of-35) with five touchdowns and two interceptions. His 35 attempts are the third lowest in the OAC, and less than half the attempts for the OAC leader – Wilmington quarterback Brandon Arehart.

Mees is averaging 25.2 yards per completion as the running game is giving the Heidelberg offense plenty of chances to beat opposing defenses deep. Donteea Dye is their deep threat, hauling in a team-high five receptions for 207 yards for a whopping 41.1 yards per reception.

For a team that is nearly 2-to-1 run to pass, they are losing the time of possession battle by nearly 15 minutes per game, meaning they are finding ways to score fast and get chunk plays on the ground.

Defensively, Heidelberg is holding opponents to 2.8 yards per run and just 7.7 yards per pass.

Leading the Student Princes is Adam Cepik with 18 tackles, 16 solo, with three tackles for loss, while Will Lance is adding 15 tackles. Defensive tackle Ben Poirier has two of the team's four sacks, while Mitchell Kelly has the team's lone interception.

Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m. at Mayer Field.