A wild one: Dover tops Smyrna 46-38 as Peace scores on 99-yard fumble return, Judy ejected

Dover’s Javon Peace rushes against Smyrna’s Braden Young in the first quarter at Smyrna. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

SMYRNA — In an evening with wild plays happening all over the place, there was only one play anybody wanted to talk about on Friday night.

And it likely determined the game.

A 99-yard fumble recovery by Javon Peace sparked Dover High to a 46-38 victory at Smyrna High in a Henlopen Conference Northern Division contest. Peace also caught a touchdown and ran for two more.

Peace’s recovery came with 11:38 left in the second quarter and left the whole Smyrna stadium in a state of confusion, which soon turned to outright anger.

The play came on a Smyrna rush from the Dover 1-yard line. The Eagles were in their earthquake formation before Stephen Whaley took a direct snap and ran right up the gut where he was met by a wall of linemen from both teams.

Smyrna head coach Mike Judy is held back from going after an official against Dover Friday night at Smyrna. Judy was ejected from the game.

After a few seconds of movement, several players stopped moving. But no whistle had gone and Peace emerged from the mass of bodies with the football and sprinted 99 yards the other way.

“I saw him stick the ball out and snatched it,” Peace said. “I didn’t hear a whistle so I kept going. Speed kills, that’s all I got to say.”

The score made it a 22-0 Dover lead in the second quarter. The play stood despite protests from the Smyrna sideline.

Then on Smyrna’s next drive, the Eagles had an incomplete pass in the end zone where they wanted a pass interference call. No call came and Smyrna coach Mike Judy went down the field to argue and eventually was ejected after two personal fouls.

“I hate that it came to that with my behavior,” Judy said when reached by phone after the game. “It’s tough when your kids are fighting like that and things are out of your control. It should have never happened and I apologize.

Smyrna’s QB Aidan Sanchez throws a pass against Dover.

“I think it was just a culmination of being fed up and things getting out of control. I don’t dislike anybody, it wasn’t personal. Outside of my family and friends there’s no one I care more for than my kids. It’s hard to stand idle in that moment and I couldn’t do it tonight.”

Judy said he was still upset about the fumble recovery.

“It wasn’t that particular moment,” he said. “I got to do a better job of controlling it when I get put in that situation.”

Judy’s ejection left offensive coordinator Mike Marks and defensive coordinator Dan Wagner in charge.

The two oversaw a second half where Smyrna cut it to one possession multiple times but did not have an answer for Peace and Dover quarterback Jordan Magee. Magee tossed three total touchdowns — one to Peace, one to Raekwon Jackson and another to James Ashley.

Dover’s Javon Peace rushes against Smyrna during Friday night’s game.

Smyrna played the entire second half without offensive lineman Saleem Wormley and linebacker Debo Williams after the pair suffered injuries. Both were All-State players a year ago.

The loss left Smyrna with a bitter taste in its mouth.

“I’m embarrassed and it’s going to sound like sour grapes,” Marks said. “I’m embarrassed with how that thing was officiated. They can fine me, I don’t know what you do at the high school level but that was an embarrassment.

“They admitted that to me on the sidelines, ‘This got way out of hand and it’s our fault.’ They had a bunch of kids who completely and totally left it out on the field and they dictated the outcome of this game. I hate to say it like that, but the play on the goalline where forward momentum is stopped for three or four seconds is a flat-out embarrassment. … I promise you this has nothing to do with Dover because they’re an extremely talented football team and they deserved to win but I hate to see it get taken from our kids like that.”

“I’ve been barking up this tree for literally three years and no one will let me say it, it’s an embarrassment,” Marks added. “I’ve coached around the country and tonight is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. … I don’t know what other outlet to use. I’m sorry but somebody has got to say it, it’s a travesty.”

Smyrna rallied in the second half sparked by a touchdown by Stephen Whaley before Anthony Buscemi kicked an onside kick the Eagles recovered. Buscemi had to kick two onsides actually after the first was recovered by Smyrna but a referee had blown the whistle prior to the play being over, leading to an accidental whistle call.

Whaley finished with two touchdown runs while Aidan Sanchez threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.

“The kids took every punch that everybody threw at them and kept going,” Wagner said. “That’s the fight we’re trying to foster and get our kids to have every week. It’s tough when you’re down and things aren’t bouncing your way, but they fought back and we’re proud of the effort. … Some of these kids it’s their first varsity experience and we had to have kids in at the end who play JV on Mondays. I do think this will help the rest of this year and hopefully be a building block for next.”

For Dover though, it didn’t matter how it won. The Senators improved to 6-1 overall and took a large step toward cementing their first playoff berth since 2013.

“It’s what I call a program win,” said Dover coach Rudy Simonetti. “Obviously Smyrna is the standard in the state the last few years, obviously three-time defending state champions. So when you get a win on their homefield, it’s huge.”

“It was a heck of a comeback from Smyrna especially with some of their kids out,” Simonetti added. “Our kids had to dig deep. It’s a special group of kids we have. I think we were good enough to just overcome everything but we do have to fix up our mistakes.”

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