District football Week 11 preview: It's win and in for W&J
Game of the week
Waynesburg at W&J
1 p.m. Saturday
Jesse Zubik got a taste of the NCAA Division III playoffs as a freshman, and he has been hungry since.
The senior receiver can ensure a return trip if the 10th-ranked Presidents (9-0, 7-0 PAC) beat Waynesburg (2-7, 2-5) in the "PAC Backyard Brawl." A victory clinches the conference title and an automatic playoff berth, and Zubik has delivered a clear message to his younger teammates: Carpe diem.
"They know what's at stake," said Zubik, an Avonworth graduate who leads the PAC with 960 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns and last week became the conference's all-time leader with 4,264 yards.
"I'm trying to get through to them that an undefeated regular season and the playoffs aren't something that are guaranteed in the future. They know what we have right now is special, and we have to keep it going."
No. 16 Case Western (9-0, 7-0) could finish tied with W&J, but the Presidents own the tiebreaker. The teams didn't play each other because of the PAC's unbalanced schedule, so the deciding factor is strength of conference wins.
"I think we're fine playing under pressure," said Zubik, one of 40 seniors on the roster. "We believe in our team, and we know what we're capable of."
One of the underclassmen in the spotlight is backup quarterback Jacob Adams, who will start his third straight game in place of senior Alex Rowse (shoulder).
"We expect (Adams) to keep getting better," Presidents coach Mike Sirianni said. "He has a very similar style to the way Alex plays, so we really don't have to change a lot on offense."
The Presidents hope Rowse can return if they make the playoffs, but for now, Adams is the guy. He went 21 of 29 for 214 yards in a 31-17 victory at Geneva last week. Perhaps most importantly, he has the endorsement of his top receiver.
"I love the way he plays," Zubik said. "He stepped into the Westminster game (a 34-33 victory Oct. 21) in overtime and threw a beautiful touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone. I talked to him afterwards, and he said, 'Jesse, you can't stop a moving train.' He's playing great for us. I have all the confidence in Jake."
The Presidents lead the PAC with 296.7 yards passing per game, but they've relied more heavily on the ground game since Adams took over. Against Geneva, they ran for 236 yards and four touchdowns, including 154 by sophomore Jordan West (Washington).
Although Waynesburg started 0-7 and remains near the bottom of the standings, the Yellow Jackets have won two straight since their bye. Junior Austin Wilson leads the team with 465 yards rushing, including 102 against Saint Vincent last week.
"If you turn on their past two games, they're a different team (from the beginning of the season)," said Sirianni, whose team leads the all-time series 40-4 but lost in 2014 when the Presidents were going for an undefeated regular season. "I'm very impressed with them."
Other top matchups
IUP at West Chester
12:10 p.m. Saturday
The No. 3 Crimson Hawks (10-0, 7-0) and Golden Rams (8-2, 6-1) meet in the PSAC championship with an automatic berth to the NCAA Division II playoffs on the line. … IUP also won the championship in 1986, '87 and 2012. … Crimson Hawks redshirt junior QB Lenny Williams is 27-3 as a starter. … IUP sophomore running back Samir Bullock needs 8 yards to reach 1,000. … West Chester's losses came to Slippery Rock and Bloomsburg.
Cent. Conn. St. at Duquesne
Blue Devils (6-3, 4-0 Northeast Conference) and Dukes (7-2, 4-0) meet with conference title on the line along with automatic berth to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. … Duquesne is eyeing third straight NEC crown, although team lost out on postseason berth because of a tiebreaker last season. … Dukes sophomore A.J. Hines rushed for a career-best 253 yards last week. … Central Connecticut State has won six in a row. … Cameron Nash leads the NEC with 10 touchdowns rushing.
JR Stevens, IUP
RS sophomore DB
The ballhawking Stevens is tied for fifth in NCAA Division II with six interceptions and is a major reason IUP ranks second in the nation with 19 interceptions. That includes two games with two interceptions: Last week against Mercyhurst and Oct. 14 against Slippery Rock's Tanner Garry, one of the top QBs in the conference.
By the numbers
18 — Field goals by Cal (Pa.)'s Will Brazill, third in NCAA D-II
2 — Duquesne's FCS ranking in red-zone offense (93.5 percent)
Jeff Vella is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.