Former Wantagh High School football player Jacques Lavache will travel to Alliance, Ohio on Saturday as part of the Muhlenberg College football team that secured a quarterfinals berth in the NCAA Division III championships.
In the first game of the tournament, the Mules, 9-1, rolled past the Delaware Valley University Aggies 20-13. In last Saturday’s second round, Muhlenberg crushed the Randolph Macon Yellow Jackets 35-6.
Lavache, 18, was the standout defensive lineman at Wantagh whose fearsome quarterback sacks, especially sacks for lost yardage contributed significantly to his team’s successes. He has burnished his reputation since coming to Muhlenberg, where his two sacks for 14 yards on Nov. 20 helped the Mules past Moravian College 53-7and a tie for first place in their division.
It was the first time in four years that Muhlenberg made it to the NCAA tournament, according to Head Coach Nate Milne.
Milne has deployed Lavache primarily on nickel pass-down plays, building on his experience at Wantagh. Milne said he expects to use Lavache in the coming years as he gains in experience — and bulk.
“He has a great frame,” Milne said of the 6 ft. 1 in., 215 lb. Lavache, who has gained more than 20 pounds since signing with Muhlenberg. “He’s super-quick off the edge,” Milne added. He said he expects Lavache to add more muscle mass as he continues to train. “It’s not easy for an 18-year-old to take on a 22-year-old,” he said. “But he’s playing longer, with more practice time, more reps,” he said
“He’s also a great student,” Milne said. “He’s done very well academically, too. Kids come to Muhlenberg because in addition to having a nationally ranked [football] program, they can get a great education.”
Lest Lavache feel any inclination to homesickness, the Mules have attracted a number of stand-out Nassau County athletes, including Brendon Allen of Valley Stream; Malcolm Charles of Far Rockaway; and Kenny Mulkeen, a former Kellenberg player, of Rockville Centre.
“We see a lot of great players coming out of Long Island,” Milne said.
Delaware was ranked 13th in the American Football Coaches Association rankings; the Mules are ranked 25th.
Last Saturday’s post-season meeting saw the Mules dominate the Yellow Jackets, allowing just a single touchdown on one 50-yard, 10-play drive. This week, they take on the defending champion Mount Union College Purple Raiders, who advanced to the quarterfinals on a 51-35 win against Center College.
This NCAA tournament bid is Muhlenberg’s eighth since 2002. In their last tournament outing in 2014, the Mules fell in the first round 36-35 to Widener University on a last-second field goal.
Muhlenberg’s win against Moravian the year helped the Mules to a tie for first place with Johns Hopkins University in the Centennial Conference. Hopkins received an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament and trounced the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the first round 49-0.
Mount Union was undefeated in regular season play, and the heavily favored Purple Raiders have claimed the national title 13 times since 1993. The victor in Saturday’s contest will take on Mary Hardin-Baylor or St. John’s University (Minnesota) for the championship.