By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It is rare in football that you have all three aspects of the game — offense, defense and special teams — playing at a high level. But when you do, it is a lot of fun, and that’s what is happening these days for Division III Widener out in Chester.
The Pride, now ranked as high as 13th in the country, improved to 6-0 on the season on Saturday as they beat Wilkes, 59-12. In that game the offense was led by sophomore quarterback Seth Klein. He tied a program record with six touchdown passes.
On defense, Widener continued its dominant play, holding Wilkes to just 23 yards rushing.
But special teams may have been the most impressive unit of them all on Saturday, as Widener blocked not one, not two, but three punts, returning two of them for scores and recovering the third deep in Wilkes territory to set up another touchdown.
Making that feat even more incredible is that the same guy blocked all three punts — sophomore defensive tackle Alex Stewart — and the same guy recovered all three: senior defensive back Ameer Sorrell.
“We just have a good time out there,” Stewart says. “It’s always a competition to get to the ball. If I would’ve got there first, I’m sure he would’ve been blocking for me, but he’s (Sorrell) a quick guy. We’re just having fun out there. Every play we go out there, we know we have a job to do.”
Widener’s success this season is coming under first-year head coach Mike Kelly and Klein says it didn’t take them long to get a feeling this season would be special.
“I would definitely say that Rowan was kind of the start to everything (season opening 19-7 win in Glassboro),” Klein says. “At that point and time, going up against them, who were highly ranked, I think we saw what we can do and the potential that we have.”
Listen to the entire interview with Widener’s Seth Klein
For the season, Klein is completing 63% of his passes and his record-tying game on Saturday upped his touchdown total for the season to 20.
On defense, Widener is just smothering opponents. Believe it or not, the 12 points they allowed to Wilkes represents the second most they’ve given up in a game this season, as they are surrendering just 7.5 points per contest.
A big reason why? The Pride stop the run. They’re allowing just 46.2 rushing yards a game and 1.5 yards per carry this season.
One of the top performers on that defense is senior linebacker Brandon Harper, and he credits the work of new Widener defensive coordinator Bill Shuey.
“He makes it so easy,” Harper says. “It seems so easy, but to the offense it’s so difficult, like, ‘What are they doing?'”
Listen to the entire interview with Widener’s Brandon Harper
Shuey should be a familiar name to local football fans. He spent several years on Andy Reid’s staff with the Eagles, including a stint as linebackers coach. He also spent time as an assistant at Division II West Chester University.
Harper also says that the unit enjoys a true bond.
“We just try to stay as one,” Harper says. “It’s just the communication, that’s all it is for defense, is everybody being on one page and the communication with each other. So we’re just one big group together, everybody on the same page, we’re like brothers, we hang outside of football.”
With their 5-0 conference record, Widener is tied for first in the Middle Atlantic Conference with Delaware Valley College. These two rivals will meet for the “Keystone Cup” on November 15th in what could truly end up being the game of the year on the local calendar. But there is still a ton of football to play between then and now and Klein is enjoying the ride.
“It’s awesome, honestly,” Klein says. “6-0, Coach Kelly’s an awesome dude, the whole coaching staff, this whole team, everybody’s great. We’re having fun because we’re playing within ourselves and we’re doing good things.”
Next up for Widener, they will visit Lycoming on Saturday out in Williamsport.
You can follow Matt Leon on Twitter @mattleonkyw.
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