With their 17-7 win over Southern Virginia University, the Rowan football team improved to 5-1 on the season and 4-1 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). Good defense helped propel the Profs to victory and has been a reoccurring theme this season.
Despite a loss in the third game of the season to Montclair State University, the brown and gold have played excellent football, managing to defeat nationally ranked opponents Christopher Newport University and Salisbury University in consecutive weeks.
A defense built around a dominant secondary and heavy hitters has watched new faces step up this season to help put Rowan at the top of the NJAC.
Sophomore defensive end Kevin Stokes is one new face making his presence known in just his second season with the team.
Stokes did not see much playing time last season as a freshman, working behind a talented bunch of seniors that included All-Conference first teamer Josh Popper. After waiting for a chance to prove himself, the sophomore is taking advantage of every opportunity.
So far this year, Stokes has recorded 30 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two blocked kicks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries, one of which went for 57 yards.
Aside from being a great player for the Profs this year, Stokes has displayed great leadership and maturity with a team-first mentality.
The defensive lineman from Mays Landing, New Jersey, is not playing for individual accolades or praise, instead he openly embraces his teammates as the reason for the Profs success on defense.
“The game of football is a team sport,” Stokes said. “I know that me doing my job doesn’t matter if no one else does theirs because we have to work in a unit or else the whole play breaks down. One person doesn’t make the team.”
Stokes’ teammates have even noticed his rise through the ranks from rookie to playmaker.
Senior defensive lineman Will Flake has played with top-notch defenses during his time in brown and gold, but was now faced with the task of watching a new, younger bunch step up to the challenge.
Flake has not been disappointed with what players like Stokes have brought to the team this season.
“He goes against bigger tackles and a lot of people might view that as a mismatch, but once you watch Kevin play you’ll realize he’s a lot stronger than he looks,” Flake said.
In only his sophomore season, Stokes can prove to be vital part of the Profs for years to come if he stays healthy and keeps up his upbeat level of play.
With Wesley College (4-2, 4-1) next on the schedule, Rowan will need Stokes and the defense to be on top of their game if they want to continue their win streak. The Wolverines boast the best passing offense in the NJAC, but have only allowed 14 sacks on the year.
“All the years we’ve played here, all the games, all the championships, it’s always started with our defense,” head coach Jay Accorsi said. “This group is shaping up to be one of those defenses you can rely on in crunch time.”
Rowan will host Wesley College this Saturday at 1 p.m.