This was a real defensive struggle and the Rowan defense was able to come out on top, holding the Pride to just 131 yards of offense.
Leading the way for that Rowan defense was junior defensive end Kevin Stokes. He dominated the line of scrimmage, finishing with 6 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss, 2 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble.
“We wanted to get after it so bad after three long weeks of camp,” Stokes told KYW Newsradio after the game. “We finally hit another person [wearing] a different color and I just seized the opportunity.”
Stokes, a graduate of Oakcrest High School, made a huge play late in the fourth quarter to help seal the win. Widener hit a big pass play that set them up deep in Rowan territory with under four minutes remaining. The drive eventually saw them sitting with a first and goal at the Rowan 10-yard line. But on first down, Stokes teamed up with teammate David Gajderowicz for a 16-yard sack of Widener quarterback Sean McGaughey. On the next play, McGaughey threw an interception and the Profs salted away the victory from there.
“I knew that we needed a big play after a big momentum shift like that,” Stokes says about the sack. “I knew somebody had to make a play and as a returning starter on a very young team, I decided that I had to take it upon myself to make one of those plays.”
After his outstanding performance against Widener, Stokes is already halfway to his numbers of a season ago when, as a sophomore, he finished with 11 tackles for loss and 4 1/2 sacks.
Stokes is a captain for the Profs this year and he takes pride in being a leader.
“I don’t think of it as something different [like] I have to change what I’m doing,” he says. “It’s more so I show [leadership] with my effort in practice and my attitude every day. I try to do the right thing, I try to be a role model for the younger kids.”
Stokes and the Profs will be home again on Saturday, hosting Southern Virginia University in their New Jersey Athletic Conference opener.