Caesar Rodney hopes heavy road schedule paves way to playoffs

Senior fullback Kevin Robinson (5-11, 190) is a returning All-Henlopen North player and one of the keys to the Riders’ success. Delaware State News file photo

CAMDEN — Caesar Rodney High’s football players can see the future right outside their school.

Well, at least, the Riders can see the new artificial turf field that’s being installed in their stadium.

The first football game on the surface could be a pretty big deal — the Riders are slated to host Henlopen Northern Division rival Cape Henlopen on Oct. 12, fittingly, for Homecoming.

That night seems a long way off right now, though, as CR first has to get through five straight road games to start the season. That grueling stretch opens with a 7 p.m. contest on Friday at Appoquinimink.

With his program coming off its first DIAA Division I tournament appearance since 2013, coach Dan Candeloro doesn’t think playing eight out of 10 games on the road this season will distract his players.

“We’re going to be the ‘road warriors,’” said Riders head coach Dan Candeloro. “We’ve known for a year and a half so we’ve been preparing for it.” Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“We’re going to be the ‘road warriors,’” said Candeloro. “We’ve known for a year and a half so we’ve been preparing for it. That’s why all our scrimmages were away. We’re coming in early on Saturday because we’ve got some Saturday games.

“We’re trying to get into a (preseason) schedule that’s different than Friday-night games every week.”

“It’s going to be a struggle but we’ve got to fight through adversity,” said senior defensive end/tight end Will Burke. “It’s still the same field. We’ve just got to focus more on the road than at home.

“Seeing them get turf, it was great news to me. When we get on that (new) field, I really hope we have a good record. And I think we can do it and keep pushing forward.”

The Riders play three Saturday road games this fall with current starting times of 10:30 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.

That being said, CR could be a contender again in the Henlopen Conference Northern Division. While the Riders graduated some talented skill players in players like Julian Trammell (West Chester) and quarterback Jared Wagenhoffer (Wesley), they do return four players who made All-Henlopen North a year ago.

That group of core players includes DE-Burke (Sr., 6-3, 230), DT-Jerimiah Brown (Sr., 6-2, 265), FB-Kevin Robinson (Sr., 5-11, 190) and P-Joe Delgado (Sr., 6-2, 170).

Last year’s success also seemed to bring out more players for this season. CR has about 115 players in the program this year compared to around 85 last year.

Senior James Love, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior, is expected to be the Riders’ starting quarterback this fall. Also a lacrosse player, Love ran the junior varsity’s offense last fall. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Candeloro is excited about some of the up-and-coming talent in the freshman class.

After Wagenhoffer took most of the snaps the last two seasons, senior James Love, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior, is expected to be the Riders’ starting QB this fall. Also a lacrosse player, Love ran the junior varsity’s offense last fall.

“He’s stepped up,” said Candeloro. “He had a great offseason. We’re not throwing it down the field 100 times so he’s just got to manage the game. He’s smart. He can do everything we’re asking him to do.”

Among the returning players for CR this fall are HB/LB-Manny Kennedy (Jr., 5-11, 185), HB/LB–Zion Rodgers (Sr., 5-10, 175), HB/CB–Jordan Allen (Sr., 5-11, 185), OT–Dylan Smith (Jr., 6-1, 215), OG/DL–Kevin Hudson (So., 6-0, 250), C–Jon Gillick (Jr., 6-0, 240), OT–Josh Wood (Sr., 6-1, 200), DT–Deshaun Gray (Sr., 6-1, 245) and LB–Jackson Rall (Sr., 6-3, 200).

On the list of newcomers expected to make an impact are WR–Donovan Barnshaw (Jr., 6-1, 175), OG–Wyatt Buckson (Jr., 6-0, 200), OG–Josh Grossman (Jr., 6-2, 200), HB-Scottie Flowers (Sr., 5-9, 155), DE–Patrick Jelliffe (Jr., 6-3, 235), S–Donovan Barnshaw (Jr., 6-1, 175), LB–Ira Graham (So., 5-11, 175), DT–Charles Robinson (Jr., 6-1, 270) and DE–Wesley Keeler (So., 6-2, 230).

Of course the last thing Candeloro wants his players to think is that they just have to show up and they’ll automatically be a state tourney team again.

“You’ve got to earn it,” he said. “We’ve upped the tempo of practice, the offseason was great. We had 50 or 60 kids every day (for workouts) and we’re kind of pleased with where they are weight-wise. We had to get stronger and a whole lot of them did it.

“Even through the renovation phases (of the stadium) we found ways to get it done. And winning brings out a lot more.”

“I’m very excited,” said Robinson, who ran for 532 yards and scored five touchdowns last fall. “We’ve got good guys coming back. We lost a lot of seniors so we’re kind of young but I know we can do it. I know we can win.

“It got everybody onboard,” he said about last season’s success. “Everyone was like, ‘Let’s go out here and win games.’ The seniors really brought the energy. If everyone is bought in, you can get more out of everybody.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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