Wesleyan succeeds with local players
Former rivals in the Dual County League, Acton-Boxborough Regional grad Kevin Hughes and Concord-Carlisle High products Dan D’Arcy and Peter George are contributing to the best football season at Wesleyan University since 2002.
Wesleyan, 5-2 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, hosts undefeated (7-0) league rival Trinity College on Saturday. A victory in the season finale would enable the Cardinals to match the six-win season of the 1998 squad.
“This season has been a turning point for our program,” said Hughes, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound junior who is also joined on the roster by senior tackle Jim Curley, a graduate of St. Sebastian’s School in Needham, and sophomore backup defensive lineman Zach Bartlett of Norfolk. “We’re learning how to win, and hopefully we’re moving in the right direction.”
Lining up as an H-back and tight end, Hughes has hauled in 28 receptions for 408 yards and three touchdowns, while the 6-3, 215-pound D’Arcy, a senior wide receiver, has 10 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. Both are also effective downfield blockers.
George, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore backup QB, has chipped in with four tackles on special teams.
Two weeks ago, Hughes caught a 22-yard scoring pass on a fake field goal attempt as Wesleyan rallied from a 14-0 deficit to defeat Bowdoin. “Kevin is probably the smartest football player I’ve coached in almost 30 years,” said Mike Whalen, in his third season at Wesleyan. “His versatility has made him a special player and he has incredible hands. He’s one of the top skill players in the NESCAC.”
Shifting to D’Arcy, he added, “Dan came here as a quarterback, but we felt he could really be a factor at receiver. It’s been a transition for him and he’s improved every year.”
Whalen said he had an eye on Hughes when he was head coach at Williams. “He has one more year of eligibility and if he comes back, no question he’ll be a top receiver in this league.”
Selected for the Shriners’ Classic as a senior at Acton-Boxborough, Hughes scored two touchdowns in his first college varsity game against Bowdoin as a freshman. “That gave me a lot of confidence going into last season,” said the Boxborough resident, who has added 30 pounds since high school. “But this year has been even more special. Our field was packed for homecoming against Amherst,” with a crowd of more than 7,000 fans, he said. “I've never seen that many alumni at a home game.”
Two of his teammates at Acton-Boxborough now play for NESCAC opponents, Ethan Dukes at Hamilton College and Pat Gilligan at Bates College.
“I had a chance to chat with Ethan at the postgame tailgate. He threw a touchdown pass to me in high school,” Hughes said. “I also saw Pat briefly and we had a chance to shake hands.
“I think we’d all agree that we had great coaching in high school from Bill Maver and his staff who helped make it possible for us to get to the next level.”
D’Arcy, who was succeeded as Concord-Carlisle’s quarterback by George, was a two-time league all-star in high school and also earned a berth in the Shriners game. “I hurt my shoulder in my last high school game,” recalled D’Arcy, who while at Concord-Carlisle would throw passes to Zach Driscoll, who is having a record-breaking senior season at NESCAC rival Middlebury.
“It’s been challenging to make the move’’ to receiver, D’Arcy said, “especially after missing most of my sophomore year with a hamstring injury, so I take a lot of pride in what I’ve been able to accomplish, especially my blocking.’’
Zach Driscoll “is a good friend and we work out together in the offseason,’’ D’Arcy said. “Peter George was two years behind me at Concord-Carlisle, and had stayed with me when he made his recruiting visit to Wesleyan.”
Other Concord-Carlisle alums playing for NESCAC football teams are Ryan Ruiz (Colby) and Jibrail Coy (Bowdoin).
Whalen said George, who also plays varsity lacrosse for Wesleyan, is continuing to develop as a dropback quarterback and has been a productive special teams player, and Curley has flourished since moving from the defensive line.
“Jim is our only senior on the offensive line and a leader who should get all-conference recognition,” said Whalen, who added that Bartlett, a graduate of Xaverian Brothers High, is coming back from knee surgery and should compete for more playing time next season.
George was a Dual County all-star in football and lacrosse; the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Curley, who is the PA announcer at Wesleyan’s ice hockey games, was a two-time Independent School League all-star pick in football; and the 6-foot, 230-pound Bartlett was Xaverian’s Unsung Hero and an All-Catholic Conference selection.Continued...