NEWARK- It was the most intriguing matchup of the season, at Delaware Stadium, on Saturday afternoon as undefeated Smyrna High School (11-0) took on undefeated Middletown High School (11-0) in the DIAA Division I State Football Championship. And this matchup did not disappoint, as this game was close before Smyrna pulled away in the fourth for their second straight championship, 36-14.
Junior tailback, Will Knight, absolutely dominated the game scoring four touchdowns on 35 carries, totaling 241 yards. Fellow junior, Leddie Brown, also scored a late touchdown while compiling 126 yards on 26 carries.
“I truthfully give it all to my o-line, they worked as hard as possible to be perfect and that’s we strive for is to be perfect,” Will Knight said of his offensive line’s help for his big day. “He’s a really good running back,” Smyrna head coach, Mike Judy, said of Knight, “you get that kid the ball in his hands and he can do stuff for you.”
Smyrna has made a name for themselves the past two years as being a high-flying, no pun intended, air-raid offense, but Saturday they only threw the ball with senior quarterback, Nolan Henderson, nine times. Something Henderson says doesn’t bother him, “I don’t care if I throw the ball once as long as we come out with the win. We knew we had to rely on the run and that our offensive line was going to get a push, so I’m fine with it.” The senior quarterback will have to get used to Delaware Stadium as he has committed to stay home and play at the University of Delaware next season.
The scoring opened up with Will Knight capping an eleven-play drive with an eight-yard touchdown run with 2:23 left in the first quarter. The Eagles aren’t like conventional teams and always go for a two-point conversion, which they failed to convert, making the score 6-0.
They are also unconventional because they do not kick the ball deep on kick-offs. They instead onside kick or squib every time they kick-off. After their first quarter score, they once again elected to onside kick, and the Cavaliers were ready. Middletown ran the onside kick all the way to the one-yard line, where on the next play Kedrick Whitehead plunged into the end-zone to give Middletown their only lead of the day, 7-6.
Will Knight struck again early in the second quarter after another ground and pound drive from the Eagles. This time from 21 yards out, Knight gave the Eagles a 12-7 lead.
The very next possession Middletown’s quarterback, Drew Fry, was picked off by Jacob Soroko, setting up Smyrna at the Middletown 28-yard line. Knight scored his third touchdown of the day from four yards out to bring the score to 20-7 which it stayed until halftime.
The third quarter belonged to Middletown. The Cavalier defense stepped up and held Smyrna out of the end-zone the entire quarter. The Cavalier offense started to churn as well as they owned the only touchdown of the quarter with a two-yard run by Kedrick Whitehead, to bring the score to 20-14 entering the fourth quarter.
However, things started to snowball on the Cavaliers midway through the fourth quarter. Will Knight scored a back-breaking 46-yard touchdown with 7:51 remaining in the game to bring the Eagle lead to 28-14. The Eagles would then recover a fumble on the ensuing kick-off, and Leddie Brown would scamper 17 yards for the Eagles’ final score of the day, bringing us to our final of 36-14.
The underlying MVP of the game for Smyrna was their defense, who controlled the Middletown offense for the most part and came up with some huge stops. “I thought the defense played phenomenally,” coach Judy said, “Dan Wagner, our DC (defensive coordinator), and all our defensive coaches did a great job getting them prepared and they really rose up to the occasion.”
“It feels good,” said Knight after the victory, “we put our blood, sweat, and tears into this, and I feel that we deserve this. I’m just really proud of my team because they left it all on the field.”