Archmere rallies to defeat Woodbridge 31-22 in Division II football semifinal

Woodbridge running back Kenny Newton heads for the end zone for a touchdown in the first half against Archmere on Saturday. Special to the Delaware State News/Butch Comegys

CLAYMONT — There were certainly some plays the Woodbridge High football team wishes it could do over in its state semifinal football contest.

In the end, Woodbridge was left to rue its chances while Archmere Academy made the most of its.

The Auks scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to rally for a 31-22 victory on its home field Saturday. Top-seeded Archmere (8-0) will play second seed Howard (7-0) for the Division II state title next Saturday at a time and place to be determined.

Woodbridge lineman Or’mon Sanders shows the frustration on the bench during the closing seconds of Saturday’s D-2 semifinal loss to Archmere.

“You got to give them credit, they’re an extremely well-coached football team,” said Woodbridge coach Jed Bell. “We certainly had some unforced errors, putting the ball on the ground and giving up points that way and a lot of penalty yardage on little things like jumping offside and pass interference, things we hadn’t done all year. I don’t really think it’s a representation of who we are as a football team, but it happened and it certainly didn’t help our efforts. At the end of the day, they got it done and we didn’t.”

Woodbridge, the tournament’s fourth seed, suffered its first loss of the year and wrapped up its shortened season at 5-1 overall.

The Blue Raiders hit some big plays on Saturday, but had numerous little mistakes add up to cost them.

Woodbridge had two punts blocked, fumbled on a run which was picked up and returned for an Archmere touchdown, had some offside penalties lead to key first downs for the Auks and called a fair catch to start at its own four-yardline instead of letting the ball bounce into the end zone which flipped the field in Archmere’s favor.

Woodbridge was leading 22-20 in the fourth quarter when Scott Lucarelli tipped a Woodbridge punt attempt. It caused the ball to settle around the Woodbridge 40-yard line, where Brian Hartman brought it back to the two. Declan Pearson rushed in on the very next play with 7:52 left to give the Auks a lead they would not relinquish.

The Blue Raiders’ Jaden Bacon makes an acrobatic catch while covered tightly by Archmere’s Conor Udovich.

Archmere was led by quarterback Chris Albero, who did a little bit of everything. Albero was 6-of-12 on his passing attempts for 95 yards and a touchdown. The sophomore also rushed for 73 yards and kicked three field goals.

Woodbridge scored on an 82-yard run by Jaden Bacon and a 67-yard rush by Kenny Newton. Jordan Evans added a five-yard rushing touchdown for the Blue Raiders.

With only 11 seniors on its 43-player varsity roster, the Blue Raiders will return some serious talent next season.

“We’re a very young football team,” Bell said. “Hopefully we can bounce back strong next year and move forward.”

The Blue Raiders went through a lot this season. Like most teams, Woodbridge had to wait through the summer and early fall to see if sports would be approved by the DIAA during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then, hours before the first scheduled game, Woodbridge had to pause its season for two weeks due to positive cases of the virus on campus. That took two games off the schedule, but the Blue Raiders did enough to qualify for the playoffs, where it had a shot leading into the fourth quarter Saturday.

“It’s just been a crazy year,” Bell said. “Start to finish, we had a lot of unknowns. The fact that we had a season is a blessing in itself. We were here, we had a chance. Falling short hurts, it’s just a feeling we have to remember, put the work in during the offseason to get us back here next season.”