By LUCAS MCCOY
The Salisbury University football team has been off to an excellent start in the 2016 season. With a game on Oct. 8 marking the season’s halfway point, the Sea Gulls look to remain undefeated and pick up their fifth win in a row.
The Sea Gulls statistically rank first in total offense in the conference so far this year, averaging almost 490 yards-per-game. While this is a tremendous feat in itself, a key part of Salisbury University’s football team has been on the other side of the ball with their defensive play.
The Salisbury defense is ranked first in passing defense among all other teams in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). The secondary unit of the Sea Gulls have added a few different players to their group this year, and it has worked out tremendously for them.
“When it comes to our secondary I have to start with Shane Gaines, because he’s the returning defensive rookie of the year in our conference,” head coach Sherman Wood explained. “He has definitely provided a lot of leadership, and he has made sure that our team chemistry is much better than it has been in the past.”
Wood had high praise for his leader Shane Gaines, as well as two other veterans of the secondary unit, junior defensive back Mark Davis Jr. and senior defensive back Christian Wilson. With these players being recognized as the true veteran leaders of the secondary unit, Wood also highlighted some new players that have made big contributions.
“We’ve been picked on the last couple of years, so we wanted to get a little more athletic in our secondary,” Wood said. “We have a couple new guys with a little more athletic ability, guys like Jorry [Matherson] and obviously Andre Boone. Those two kids have really helped us out a lot.”
The emergence of these two new players has helped the Sea Gulls to four straight wins to start the season. Senior defensive back Jorry Matherson, a transfer student, has learned a lot in just a short amount of time and has come in as a huge spark for the team.
“All of these guys have taken me in and have taught me as much as they know, and really given me everything they have,” Matherson said. “We have so much talent on this team, and the guys have really pushed me hard. The players took me in and pretty much made me one of the guys, so it made it easy transitioning with them giving me everything I need to know to be successful.”
Not only has Matherson transitioned well with his teammates, he has transitioned exceptionally well on the football field. Matherson notched two interceptions in the same game against conference opponent Southern Virginia University two weeks ago. By playing the way he has, being a transfer does not even matter because he has proven himself as a capable leader of the team.
“I want to lead by being an example more than anything, and that is by how I act on and off the field,” Matherson said. “It’s not so much about what you say, but more about what you do.”
While Matherson has come in as a transfer and made an immediate impact, another source of the Sea Gulls’ athleticism in their secondary unit has come from freshman defensive back Andre Boone. Even though Boone is just a freshman, it seems like transitioning from the high school to collegiate level has not been a problem at all.
“It’s definitely been a process, of course, coming from the high school to collegiate level. It has been a different level of competition, speed and strength,” Boone explained. “I feel I have been able to manage it well though, as far as the time management and life in general. My teammates and I are all like brothers so it has been easy for me. We’ve been like a family on and off the field.”
Boone has shown absolutely no signs of slowing down when having to adapt to a faster paced game. Boone has already piled up 24 total tackles and one interception in the first four games, and he received the award of NJAC Defensive Rookie of the Week after his performance against Southern Virginia University.
“My goals week to week would just be to get better every day, and improve on things I didn’t do the week before,” Boone said. “I want to maintain my consistency, but also play higher than the level that’s expected.”