SALISBURY -- Through nine games, freshman Daron Wimbish had led Salisbury State in rushing, all-purpose yards and scoring, and ranked second in total offense. He also was its third-leading receiver and a prolific kickoff returner, but he wasn't in uniform yesterday for his team's biggest game.
Wimbish didn't dress because of a violation of team rules, costing the Sea Gulls a valuable commodity -- and perhaps a chance for victory in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III Southwest Region championship.
Mac James, a 5-foot-4, 169-pound sophomore, started in place of Wimbish and ran for 64 yards, but the Sea Gulls couldn't generate enough offense or stop the short passing game of Albright (Pa.) College and were beaten, 20-10.
James was making his fifth start. Last week, he set career highs with 105 yards rushing and four touchdowns in a 49-15 romp over Sue Bennett.
In that game, Wimbish ran for 104 yards, giving him 676 to go with eight touchdowns.
Coach Joe Rotellini wouldn't elaborate on Wimbish's situation, and he wouldn't blame the defeat on his absence.
"We had the stuff there offensively. We just had problems with our protection and we had way too many holding penalties," he said.
The Sea Gulls' only touchdown came with 1:48 left, when David Doy hooked up with Freddy Grant on a 48-yard pass.
"With our starting tailback out, that put a lot of pressure on our passing game," said Doy, who was 20 of 39 for 246 yards and two interceptions in his senior finale. "And you have to give their defense credit."
This was Salisbury's sixth postseason appearance, but the first since 1986, when it reached the NCAA championship game. Albright (8-3) had an even longer wait, last appearing in 1976.
The Sea Gulls went 62 yards in 10 plays for their only points of the first half, a 25-yard field goal by George Mayer with 5:41 left in the opening quarter. Albright was stopped on Salisbury's 4 with 1:06 remaining before halftime and had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Dennis Unger.
Salisbury (7-3) had kept alive a second-quarter drive by snapping the ball to Jeff Pontius on an apparent punt from the Sea Gulls' 44. Pontius, a senior free safety, broke a tackle by Sydney Bull and picked up 8 yards and the first down. Doy scrambled for 14 yards and threw to Grant for 18, but two holding penalties stalled the drive.
Albright, playing without record-setting freshman receiver Eric Nemec (concussion), took the lead on a 1-yard plunge by sophomore quarterback Bryan Snyder with 7:07 left in the third quarter.
Jason Eberts' second interception set up a 25-yard field goal by Unger early in the fourth quarter, and defensive end Jim Kernan recovered a fumble in the end zone with 2:44 left to give Albright a 20-3 bulge.
Snyder was 26 of 44 for 224 yards, with eight of his completions going to sophomore tight end Ben Reph. The loss of Nemec, whose 71 catches are the most ever by an NCAA Division III rookie, forced the Lions to look elsewhere.
They've done that before, though. Nemec got his chance because preseason All-American Ryan Ditze was sidelined in the third game with a broken hand.
"They hadn't run that [short-passing offense] as much during the year," Rotellini said. "They felt like we would pressure them and they went with a three-step [drop] and that negated our blitzes. We kept changing coverages."
Grant had eight receptions for 155 yards, and Doy ran for 45 yards. Albright's Chad Eisenhower gained 82 yards on 29 carries.