NCWC football prepares to defend airspace


Sports Writer

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Anthony Janezic is back where he belongs on the football field.

N.C. Wesleyan football coach Jeff Filkovski spent much of the past week scouring film from the team’s opening-week loss at Mount Union, trying to find positives and standouts at positions still up for grabs.

Safety is one position where Filkovski feels confident, and that’s because the Bishops have a pair of seniors acting as the last line of defense. Janezic, a senior, finds himself back at the strong safety position -- alongside free safety Jaylon Johnson -- for the first time in three years.

And the two will be ever important in the Bishops home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday against Shenandoah.

“They throw the ball a bunch,” Filkovski said. “The defensive backs are a position group that will have to step up this week.”

Shenandoah quarterback Hayden Bauserman attempted 56 passes last week in an air attack that involved 10 different receivers. Bauserman and completed 32 of those passes with four touchdowns.

But this doesn’t worry the Bishops defensive backs. NCWC (0-1) is confident it can handle a pass-happy offense. It can draw on last season’s win against Shenandoah (1-0), when the Hornets completed 30 of 43 passes. The Bishops allowed a few big gains, but didn’t let Bauserman take over the game.

Janezic finished with six tackles in the win, including a tackle for loss.

“We know what they’re capable of from our game last year,” Janezic said. “If we get after them, go after them with our pass rush, we can be in a position to make plays in the secondary. If we can break things down for them offensively, we’re in a good position.”

Janezic, 5-foot-11, played strong safety as a Bishops freshman. But the next two seasons were spent as an outside linebacker. Coaches liked his sideline-to-sideline speed, and figured if he added a few more pounds he would be a strong addition at linebacker.

He added almost 20 pounds of weight to around 210, and was effective in run stopping, but was never fully comfortable. He entered this offseason working with the linebackers as recently as the spring, before being asked to return to safety.

He cut weight to a manageable 190, and his back to playing with speed that will be valuable against teams with a bunch of offensive weapons..

“I play best when I’m coming downhill,” Janezic said. “I’m feeling really comfortable and confident. Playing safety is natural for me, the movements and reactions are natural. I love playing in space because it gives me a chance to make plays.”

Janezic’s return to the secondary isn’t the only change for the reliable senior.

The Bishops coaching staff is trusting Janezic with a lot of responsibilities this season. He showed off most in a practice this week. His coverage ability was on display when he found himself in a dead sprint, shadowing a receiver on a go route. Moments later, he was lined up on the 35-yard line preparing to cover a kick.

“I really do it all,” he said. “I love the opportunity to make plays in a number of situations, whether it’s kick coverage, punt coverage, or at safety. We were not effective last week and didn’t seem mentally there.

“I think we will turn it around and get back on track under the lights on Saturday.”