By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There probably wasn’t a more exciting college football team to watch in the Delaware Valley in 2012 than the Division III Widener Pride.
Averaging an obscene 45.8 points a game, Widener went 11-1, won the Middle Atlantic Conference and advanced all the way to the NCAA quarterfinals before seeing their season end with a loss to eventual champ Mount Union.
That success opened the door to a new opportunity for head coach Isaac Collins, who moved on to Division II Seton Hill. The new man in charge at Widener is Bobby Acosta, who comes to Chester after a successful run as the offensive coordinator at The College of New Jersey. He thinks his first camp is going quite well.
“Tremendous,” Acosta tells KYW Newsradio. “The first thing that we’re doing, we’re building chemistry, we’re building a family bond and we’re getting our guys ready to play against Wesley (in the season opener). We’re very impressed with the progress we’ve made so far.”
A new coach doesn’t mean lower expectations as the bar is still set quite high for the Pride. Widener has been picked to finish second this season in the preseason MAC poll and senior safety Colin Masterson says the transition from Coach Collins to Coach Acosta has been smooth.
“Camp’s going well so far,” Masterson says. “A lot of the young guys came together, stepping up. we don’t have that many seniors this year, but the in-between guys, the guys who were freshman last year, some sophomores from last year, they’re definitely stepping up. They are going to play big roles on our team this year. I think our senior leadership, though, is very strong, coming down from last year. So I think, all together, it’s been a good camp so far.”
The biggest hole this Widener team has to fill is under center. Last year’s quarterback and team leader Chris Haupt, who threw for more than 3800 yards and an incredible 38 touchdowns as a senior, is gone. Acosta says they have multiple players vying to take over the position.
“Right now there is a very competitive situation with the three quarterbacks we have with (senior) Tevin (Campbell), we have (senior) Mike Thompson and we have (Freshman) Seth Klein,” Acosta says. “We’re very impressed with the progress they’ve made. We haven’t announced a quarterback yet because the competition’s so strong, but shortly we definitely will.”
Whoever gets the job, they are going to be a trigger man for Acosta’s fast-paced, offensive attack.
“We want to play basketball on grass,” Acosta says. “We want to play transitional football pretty much on the field. We want to put the ball in the playmakers hands.”
The biggest of those playmakers is junior wide receiver Anthony Davis. He has earned preseason All-America honors from various outlets after scoring 17 touchdowns a season ago (16 receiving, one rushing). He averaged 19.3 yards on 64 receptions as a sophomore and rolled up 2331 all-purpose yards. Needless to say, he seems poised for another huge season.
While the offense has gotten much of the attention with the Pride, the defense also played good football in 2012, posting a pair of shutouts and forcing 35 turnovers.
“The defensive backs I’m very impressed with,” Acosta says. “The defensive line, it’s a very strong unit.”
Widener will get a great feel for where they are right away with that season opener against Wesley, another team that advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2012 and traditionally a regional power. Masterson says they are looking forward to starting the season with this top-flight match-up.
“Wesley’s obviously a great team, but I think we can match with them,” Masterson says. “It will definitely be a challenge, but it’s going to be two great teams going at it. You wouldn’t want to start a season any other way.”
That season opener for Widener will be on Friday night, September 6th, at Wesley in Dover, Delaware.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw