Senior Derek Willits has 17 catches for 190 yards in three seasons with the Dayton Flyers, and the majority of that production has come in the last two games.
Willits, an Alter graduate who was a member of Dayton’s 35-man 2019 recruiting class, is a special teams captain who has become a weapon on offense, too. He had four catches for 83 yards in a 23-20 victory against Stetson and then three catches for 43 yards in a 31-24 victory against Valparaiso last weekend.
“Development over the course of the season is always something that happens,” Willits said Wednesday. “Any of the guys in the receiver room could be making those plays. It just happens to be me. But I think at any given time any of those guys could really let loose.”
Willits ranks fifth on the team in catches (14) and yards (168). He appeared in one game as a freshman in 2019, didn’t play in 2020 because the season was cancelled by the pandemic and had three catches for 22 yards in nine appearances last season.
Willits is the vice president of UD’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and won the team’s John L. Macbeth Memorial Scholar-Athlete Award last year.
“He wants to be a doctor someday,” Dayton coach Rick Chamberlin said. “He’s a very organized, balanced young man. He doesn’t let things overwhelm them. It’s the same thing out on the football field. He’s very steady out there.”
Dayton (6-2, 4-1) plays Presbyterian College (1-8, 0-6) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Clinton, S.C. Dayton rallied from a 23-0 deficit at Welcome Stadium to win the only previous meeting 63-43 last September.
The Blue Hose sit alone at the bottom of the Pioneer Football League standings, one half game behind Drake (1-8, 1-5), while Dayton is tied for second with Butler (6-2, 4-1) and Davidson (6-2, 4-1). St. Thomas (7-1, 5-0) continues to lead the league.
Dayton has won three straight games since a 31-0 loss at Butler on Oct. 8.
“We just did not play up to our ability against Butler,” Chamberlin said, “and the guys knew that and that’s what disappointed them there. We didn’t change anything. The guys didn’t start playing harder, and our practices weren’t more intense. We kept the same routine. The guys just got into a flow, and I really felt like the last few weeks we’ve built momentum and confidence in what we’re doing.”
A victory Saturday would give Dayton 700 in its history. It would become the ninth Football Championship Subdivision team to join that club. The others are: Yale; Harvard; Penn; Princeton; North Dakota State; Dartmouth; Delaware; and Lehigh. Chamberlin has been a part of 399 of the victories as a player, assistant coach and head coach.
Presbyterian was picked to finish last in the PFL and has been outscored 222-82 in six league games. It lost 37-7 at Marist last Saturday.
Dayton won last weekend on a 23-yard touchdown run by Jake Chisholm with 18 seconds left.
“The whole defense was going crazy and everyone else on the sideline,” defensive tackle Sam Schadek said. “I remember running over to some of the other defensive linemen, and we were hugging each other and screaming. It was awesome to see that offensive line really starting to wear down on them.”
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