By Grant DeVivo
Saturday was a battle of the undefeated greens. Stevenson football, ranked this week No. 25 in the country by the American Football Coaches Association, squared off against No. 10 Delaware Valley in what was a highly anticipated game all week leading up to kickoff.
Someone was going home undefeated on Saturday. As big of a day as Saturday was, 12-year head coach Ed Hottle, the lone head coach of Stevenson football since the program was introduced in 2009, did not want to change his team’s approach and morale based on widespread attention for this one single game.
“The preparation is not different [for any game],” Hottle said. “For us, it is about finding consistency in our preparation. It does not change from one week to the next.”
The team to leave Saturday undefeated was not Stevenson, as the Mustangs (4-1 overall, 2-1 in the MAC) fell to Delaware Valley (5-0, 3-0) by a score of 26-7. However, it was a tighter game than the score indicates.
“You learn far more about yourself and about your football program when you are not successful on a Saturday,” Hottle said about the loss. “When you are winning, you tend to miss things. [Today] is a growth opportunity to learn about us and about how we are going to rebound.”
Delaware Valley’s incredible defense, which is the best in the country, helped contribute to the outcome of the game. As of today, their defense remains in the MAC lead for the least number of yards allowed this season. They have only allowed 154 yards.
The defense, who on average only allows 2.5 yards per play, held Stevenson to just one yard per rush — 32 yards on 33 carries.
Hottle praised Delaware Valley’s front seven, mentioning their big physical presence and maturity.
“Those guys present a pretty unique challenge,” Hottle said about Delaware Valley’s defense. “You go into games like this knowing that [the opponents] are going to make some plays, and [Delaware Valley] made more plays than we did today.”
In addition, Delaware Valley’s defense sacked Stevenson quarterback Ryan Sedgwick, who is in the middle of a historic season, four total times in the game. Although not a sack, a QB pressure from the Aggie defense led to an interception and a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Louis Barrios IV.
“Those kinds of things happen,” Hottle said of the pressure on Sedgwick that led to an interception. “Probably 98 out of 100 times, that guy does not catch (the ball), but he caught it.”
Two big pass plays by the Aggie offense — the second a 29-yard TD pass from Barrios to Tahmir Barksdale — put DV up 12-0 at halftime.
The score entering the fourth quarter was 19-0 thanks to another Barrios touchdown pass, this one from 20 yards out. Stevenson, known to be second-half heroes thanks to their outscoring opponents in the fourth quarter 43-7 going into Saturday, did not let Delaware Valley walk off easily at the end.
With 10:42 left to go in the fourth quarter, Stevenson finally got on the board with a 7-yard touchdown from Sedgwick to wide receiver Brandon Booze. It was Sedgwick’s eighth touchdown of the season, and it gave the Mustang faithful on hand some hope until a 1-yard run into the end zone by Barrios dampened those hopes.
Hottle complimented his team for fighting the whole way through. However, he continues to stress to his players that they “need to play four quarters.”
“We have this rap that we are a second-half and fourth-quarter team, and that does not get it done,” Hottle said about his team’s late heroics reputation. “We have got to be a four-quarter team coming out and playing at an emotional level that you can be efficient in the first, second, third, and fourth quarters.”
Though the game may not have gone the way that the fans wanted it to and while the chilly and rainy weather was unwelcoming, the fans on hand did not seem phased. Nothing stopped the fans from sporting their Mustang green. Nothing stopped the marching band, the twirlers, or the national champion dance team from blowing fans away with their performances. Nothing stopped the T-shirts from flying into the stands. Those who showed up made noise.
Hottle complimented the loyal fanbase for coming to the game and supporting his team amidst the weather circumstances, calling Stevenson University “a fun place to play at.”
“I couldn’t have been happier,” Hottle said about the fans. “I feel very fortunate to be a part of the university and our fans are nothing but phenomenal and supportive.”
As the disappointment from Saturday’s loss begins to wear off, the focus now shifts to next Saturday when they will travel to King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to take on the 2-1 Lions. The last time these two teams met on Nov. 6, 2021, Stevenson came out with a 35-10 win.
As Hottle begins preparing his team for the next game, he keeps in mind the advice he was given during his early coaching days at Stevenson. Someone once told him to not let [the opponents] beat you twice.
“You cannot approach next week’s preparation with any less intensity and any less purposeful purpose than you did the week prior,” Hottle said, “because if you wear it for too long then (the opponents) will end up beating you twice.”
Hottle’s goal for next week? The Mustangs will not allow themselves to be beaten twice.
Stevenson seeks to improve to 5-1 and get its third conference win at King’s College this upcoming Saturday. The kickoff is set for noon.