Last Saturday, the Richmond Spiders football team, led by Tyler Dressler, a 2017 Covington High School graduate, defeated the William & Mary Tribe (W&M) for The Capital Cup by the final score of 20-17.
The win for the Spiders ended their season with not only a four game win streak, but a winning record at 6-5, and also gave the Spiders the lead in the rivalry between the two schools at 64-63-5.
The game itself last weekend was also Dressler’s final collegiate football game.
When speaking with Dressler last week, I had asked him how he wanted the weekend to play out and to sum it up, he wanted his school to win & take the lead in the rivalry of the Spiders and W&M, check. Dressler also wanted to knock W&M out of the playoff hunt, check. He also wanted to cement his legacy, check (we’ll get more into that).
“I couldn’t be more happier than the way I went out. A lot of teams go out on a loss. Not many teams can say they ended on a win. I’m really happy. We didn’t make the playoffs, that was the season objective, but to beat William & Mary and knock them out (playoffs) and took the balance in our favor, it was a pretty good way to go”, said Dressler on the win over W&M.
The biggest play of the game came with just over one minute remaining, W&M had the ball on the Spiders 45 yard line and were facing a fourth-and-one. With only one timeout left, W&M had no choice to go for it on fourth down. Dressler’s teammate Aidan Murray blitzed through the offensive line and sacked W&M quarterback, Darius Wilson to turn the ball over on downs for W&M.
A few plays later, Spiders quarterback, Joe Mancuso, took one final knee to run the clock out and cement a victory for his team.
“It was huge (the sack by Murray). The pressure was built up, we actually had a pressure called in that situation and I actually botched the play, I messed it up. I was supposed to blitz off of the edge, but I saw the ball go the other way, so I hesitated and that hesitation, if they would have have ran the ball to the field side, it may have been trouble. Thankfully, the quarterback stepped up in the pocket, I thought it was going to be where the quarterback rolls out to the field. He (the QB) got tripped up a little bit and Aidan Murray finished the tackle off. I was really happy for him”, said Dressler on W&M’s fourth down play at the end of the game.
Dressler added on the excitement following the game, “We were absolutely thrilled. Everybody was really happy. It was bittersweet, some tears shed, a lot of hugs going around because people new it was the last game with me and some of the other fifth and six year seniors. It was rough, but we still won the football game, so everybody was really thrilled. There was a lot of jumping around in the locker room. It was just a great environment to be a part of.”
Going back to the top of the story, one thing Dressler mentioned to me last week was how he wanted to cement his legacy. In the Spiders victory over W&M in The Capital Cup, Dressler was named the Most Valuable Performer (MVP) of the game.
“I don’t know if I deserved it. I think Tristian Wheeler deserved it, he had 14 tackles. It was a huge honor though. It was really special for Coach (Justin) Wood (defensive coordinator/linebackers coach) because he’s coached two MVP’s in the game now. I was happy to give the plaque to my dad, he was really happy, and to just see my family over in the stands after the game, they were really satisfied the way everything ended up working out”, said Dressler on being named MVP of the Capital Cup. Dressler finished the game with 11 tackles.
The Capital Cup MVP award, was first introduced in 2009, which was won by University of Richmond alum, Eric Ward (QB). Dressler, a linebacker, became only the third defensive player to win the MVP award in The Capital Cup game. All three defensive players that have won the award, were linebackers.
Dressler mentioned his teammate, defensive end, Tristian Wheeler, a redshirt sophomore, who had a game-high 14 tackles in the win over W&M, also led the CAA conference in tackles with 114. With Wheeler only being a sophomore, his ceiling is very high on what he can accomplish in the coming seasons.
“This kid has been phenomenal since the day he walked in. I remember sitting down with him right when he came in as a freshman and kind of going over the playbook and I was like wow this kid is sharp. He picked up on our defense quick. He has the natural ability, but the biggest thing going for him is his work ethic. The sky is the limit for him. He has all the accolades, he has everything he needs. I see NFL potential in his future. I’ll be keeping up with him and I’ll talk to him on a weekly basis. We all promised each other that we’ll stay in touch”, said Dressler on Wheeler.
With the Spiders ending their season on a high note with winning four games in a row, after previously losing five games in a row, the defense really picked it up during the teams winning streak at the end of the season with holding their opponents to under 110 rushing yards in seven of their final eight games.
“I’m extremely proud of these guys. Whatever happened on the other side of the ball, it doesn’t matter in our prospective. We always want the football game on us (the defense). Consistently throughout each and every single week, we have showed up and performed at a very high level. I’m really proud of those guys and everything they’ve done. And even not on a game basis, but even coming to practice every single day. We put our hard hat on and go to work. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, it doesn’t matter if it’s raining outside, it doesn’t matter the conditions, what adversity is going on, or even what the people on the outside are saying. This defense can persevere through anything and I am so happy to be a part of it and had an opportunity to play with these guys”, said Dressler on the teams defense.
While the Spiders did not make the playoffs, many would consider that a winning season, a Capital Cup victory and an MVP award would be considered a consolation prize. Dressler had a different take on what the consolation prize was.
“I think the biggest part, was the historical factor (of the game). After every Sunday, we have a scouting report on the next team and our coach (Running backs coach, David Corley, a W&M alum and former QB), had a bunch of people from the 2008 national championship team take a video of themselves and show what the Capital Cup meant. So that really put into prospective for us, that this game is bigger than us. This game is for the entire Richmond community. This game is a part of a big historical factor that a lot of people care about. To be able to play for them and then to play for our team and just play for so much more than just ourselves, I think that is more of the consolation prize”, said Dressler on his take on what the consolation prize was.
With the game against W&M being Dressler’s finale collegiate football game, there were a swarm of emotions not only before the game, but after as well.
“Before the game, it was definitely running through my head. I wanted to finish on a high note. I wanted to finish with one more chance to prove my point, to prove what type of linebacker I am, to prove the type of leader I am. That was kind of going through my head before the game. Once the final seconds started ticking down and I knew it was over, automatically tears came up in my eyes. I saw my linebackers coach, who me and him have been so much together and he gave me a hug. I cried on his shoulder for a little bit. It couldn’t be much more poetic than that. It was definitely emotional. I don’t think it’s fully hit me yet that I’m done with college football. I think it’ll hit me over Christmas break or when I get back in the spring and I see some of my former teammates practicing or working out and just knowing I’m not a part of it anymore”, said Dressler on the emotions before and after the game.
The Spiders started out the season winning their first two games. The team then had a collapse against Villanova in which they had a double digit lead with five minutes left before losing the game in regulation. The following week against Virginia Tech, the team lost their starting quarterback on the first offensive play of the game to a broken throwing (right) index finger and were without him for four weeks. The team had some unfortunate setbacks during the season and with the way they ended on a four game winning streak, it begs the question of “what if”.
“I sat down with my roommate, Clayton McConnell, and we said this is a season of what ifs. We hate to say it, but it’s probably true. What if we get a stop against Villanova with five minutes left while up two touchdowns, where in the playoffs. What if Joe Mancuso doesn’t break his finger and we have our starting quarterback there when we started the losing streak. There’s a lot of situations like that and it hurts to say because we were so close. I knew at the beginning of the season there was a fine line in making the playoffs or not. You do everything in your power and it comes so close but you fall a little short, it’s pretty rough. Especially for myself and the seniors. Some of the seniors that are six years, got to be a part of the playoff experience. Throughout my career, I never got the opportunity. If I could change one thing throughout my career, it would be something that got us into the playoffs”, said Dressler on the what
Dressler on how he would best describe this past season in a few words. “For me personally, I have no regrets. I was upset my career was over, but I can go home happy saying I left everything out on that field. There was not a moment in this season or in my career where I ever backed down. I gave it literally everything that I possibly had. That’s one of the biggest things for me personally, no regrets and I did everything I possibly could to put us in the best position to win football games.”
On Tuesday, it was announced that Dressler, for the third time in his collegiate career, was named to the First Team All-Conference.
Editor’s Note: I want to thank Tyler’s dad, Steven Dressler, for sending in photos of Tyler’s games throughout the season. As well as to Tyler, for giving me the time to speak with him each Monday and Tuesday’s during the season.