1998 FOOTBALL SEASON REVIEW
The Cardinals produced another banner year on the gridiron with a 6-2 record during the 1998 season, and established or tied 23 team records, mostly on offense. Led by the record-breaking figures of receiver Matt Perceval `00 and running backs Tom Themistocles `99 and John Pascucci `99, Wesleyan had these three individuals along with offensive guard Nick Lodato `01 receive bids to the NESCAC all-star team in 1998.
While Perceval, a three-time all-NESCAC pick, was the league's selection for wide receiver and return specialist, Themistocles at running back and Lodato on the line, Pascucci was named all-conference as a defensive back, a position he assumed midway through the year and excelled at along with his first-string duties in the offensive backfield. An all-NESCAC choice as a running back in 1997, Pascucci became the first player in the conference to be named an all-star on opposite sides of the ball in consecutive years. The year began in auspicious fashion at Middlebury when QB Jake Fay `00 connected with Perceval for six first-half TDs en route to a 55-28 win. Finishing the game with 12 catches for 231 yards and seven TDs, Perceval set an NCAA Division III record for TD catches and was named ECAC and NESCAC offensive player of the week as well as Coca-Cola Gold Helmet weekly award winner as the top small college performer in New England. Fay, who set a team record for TD passes in a game with seven, finished the game with the strongest showing of his career, completing 19 of 38 passes for 364 yards. Fay is Wesleyan's career TD pass leader with 38 and needs just 333 yards to become the all-time leader for passing yards. He already holds the seasonal mark for passing yards (1,906), set in 1997.
After defeating Hamilton, Colby and Bates, the last with Fay on the bench but ably subbed for by Kevin Cornish `02, who earned NESCAC rookie of the week honors by competing 17 of 26 passes for 276 yards and three TDs, Wesleyan met Little Three rival Amherst. Unfortunately Wesleyan saw its unblemished record marred by a 34-28 overtime loss in the first overtime game played in the NESCAC since the NCAA instituted the tie-breaking procedure in 1996.
Rebounding to beat Bowdoin behind the Coca-Cola Gold Helmet award-winning effort of Pascucci, who intercepted three passes to tie a team record, the Cardinals then fell to undefeated Williams before rolling past Trinity in the season finale.
Notable team records set in 1998 included points in a season (289, 36.1 points a game), passing yards in a season (1,993), TD passes in a season (19) and total offense in a season (3,386, 423.1 yards a game). On the national level, Wesleyan ranked 27th in scoring, 31st in total offense and 37th in passing yards among NCAA Division III colleges. On the individual level, Themistocles broke the seasonal rushing yards record with 871 while rushing over 100 yards in six of the eight games, including a string of five in a row to end the year. His per-game average of 108.9 yards ranked 37th in Division III. Perceval was nationally ranked in four categories with 10.5 points a game (23rd), 6.0 catches per game (30th), 107.5 receiving yards per game (15th) and 158.6 all-purpose yards per game (27th). His 860 receiving yards and 14 TD catches for the season both were team records. Fay was ranked 27th nationally for total offense (241.9 yards a game) and 46th for passing efficiency (134.6 rating). Pascucci established individual career records for points (190), total TDs (31), and rushing TDs (27) while Themistocles tied the team mark for seasonal rushing TDs with 14.
Additional seasonal honors befalling Wesleyan players were first-team all-ECAC for Perceval, second-team all-ECAC for defensive lineman Ray Dolphin `01 and first-team New England Football Writer Association Div. II-III all-star for Pascucci. Lodato and Henry Wasserman `99, the starting tight end, were both named academic all-NESCAC and District I CoSIDA/GTE academic all-Americans.
As a team, Wesleyan finished the year ranked 7th among the 30 eligible teams in the ECAC New England Division III poll.