Fireworks weren’t the only thing lighting up Coach Richard Wackar Stadium on Saturday night. Before the sky-engulfing extravaganza, the Rowan football team took the field against Southern Virginia University. This would be the Profs’ first game inside the New Jersey Athletic Conference this season.
The brown and gold would come out on top, 28-19, giving them a 2-0 record in the young season. Sophomore running back Anthony Diorio lit up the offensive stat sheet against the Knights along side junior wideout J.J. Kulcsar. The power-back rushed for 107 yards and put up a hat trick in touchdowns on 24 touches, with Kulcsar reeling in five balls for 109 yards.
It’s not often to see such drastic improvement in so little time, so Diorio wanted to prove as one of those rare phenomena.
Serving in a backup role in 2016, Diorio ran for 446 yards and two touchdowns. He has already come close to half of that in just two games thus far, accumulating 262 yards on the ground on 54 touches. He has already eclipsed his touchdown total from last year with the showdown against the Knights.
Diorio and the offense have been firing on all cylinders since the first snap of the season. Kulscar said the tailback has all the skills to be as great a player as he is a person.
“I saw from day one that he is a complete leader,” Kulscar said. “He leads the way for our offense. He is a motor and opens up the passing game.”
The drive that swung momentum into Rowan’s favor for good came with 3:17 left in the first half. Junior running back John Mannion returned the ball to the Profs’ 49 yard-line, setting up sophomore quarterback Naldy Tavarez for a smooth drive. He would go five-for-seven with 52 yards in the air in the possession. Diorio’s third touchdown of the half from one yard out capped off the scoring drive.
“I think once Naldy got confident and saw that we were moving the ball down the field, it really opened up everything,” Kulscar said.
Tavarez totaled 13 completions on 22 attempts for 171 yards, and Mannion chimed in with 51 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Junior defensive end Kevin Stokes blocked two extra points, including one in the fourth quarter that kept Rowan leading by two scores late. Senior linebacker Chris Noesges wrapped up 10 tackles to pair with a forced fumble. As one of the vocal leaders of the defense, he, along with his teammates, is confident in making plays and applying pressure.
“We [the front seven] are a strong group of guys that know their responsibilities and are getting their jobs done,” Noesges said. “If we work together as a unit, then we can stop anybody when it comes to running or passing the football. We take care of each other.”
The Profs will travel to William Paterson University on Saturday for another NJAC match-up. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
“With a younger team, it is nice that we had the two home games,” head coach Jay Accorsi said. “We need to get set and get ready for an away game. They always play us tough up there. Their another conference opponent that is good and tough. We are going to be prepared for another good NJAC team.”
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