CR upsets Central 24-21 for first winning season since 2013

CR’s defense brings down Sussex Central’s Ja’Ron Curtis during the first quarter at CR. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

CAMDEN — When Jordan Allen first took the pitch, Caesar Rodney High was backed up on its own 11-yard line.

The last thing the junior running back was thinking about was a big play.

“Honestly, I didn’t think it’d be a touchdown,” Allen admitted. “I just thought it was like seven yards. But when it happened, it was pretty cool. It was crazy.”

CR’s Emmanuel Kennedy finds rushes against Sussex Central during the second quarter at CR. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Allen got to the sidelines, turned the corner and suddenly found himself sprinting 89 yards down the field for a game-changing touchdown that ended up giving the Riders their 24-21 upset of Sussex Central on Friday night.

Allen’s long touchdown run, coupled with a two-point conversion run from quarterback Jared Wagenhoffer, put CR ahead 24-14 with 1:27 left in the third quarter.

The Riders (3-2 Henlopen North, 6-3 overall) needed those points when the Golden Knights (4-2, 7-2) tried to rally in the closing minutes. Fittingly enough, it was Allen who intercepted a long desperation Central pass at the CR 17 with 12.7 seconds left to seal the upset.

CR’s Kevin Robinson rushes against Sussex Central during the first quarter at CR. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

A moment later, the Riders were happily celebrating the football program’s biggest victory in four years. In guaranteeing CR’s first winning season since 2013, the Riders also kept themselves strongly in the running for their first state tournament berth since that same season.

CR still has to beat rival Dover on Thursday night to earn an at-large berth in the DIAA Division I state tourney.

All Riders’ coach Dan Candeloro knows is that, after watching the program go a combined 5-25 over the last three years, CR has something big to play for in its season finale.

“I go back to when I was playing,” said the third-year head coach. “They (the coaches he played for) all said, it’s kind of neat to be playing for something when the leaves are falling. I told the kids that before the game.

“I don’t know where this will go but you’ve put yourself in a good spot now. That (Central) is a great team. We’re just happy to come out of that thing (with a win).”

Sussex Central’s Zion Reed rushes during the first quarter at CR. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

In a back-and-forth contest that featured three lead changes, CR took the lead for good with a gritty 16-play, 75-yard drive to start the third quarter. Twice Wagenhoffer ran for tough first downs on fourth-and-shorts.

The senior QB then ran the ball three straight times from the two before finally bulling his way into the end zone on a one-yard run. The TD gave the Riders a 16-14 lead with 4:56 remaining in the third quarter.

In the first quarter, Wagenhoffer (10-for-10, 79 yards) escaped from pressure, rolled to his right and fired a four-yard TD pass to tight end Bailey DeAtley.

“He’s maturing, he’s got good coaching and he’s a gamer,” Candeloro said about Wagenhoffer. “He’ll take the ball whenever you ask him to, that’s for sure.”

“It started Monday in practice,” Wagenhoffer said about the win. “We worked all week. We knew that Sussex Central is a heck of a team. We knew we had to come out here and play football.”

After Allen’s long touchdown run gave CR its 10-point lead, the Golden Knights got back within three on a touchdown with only 3:29 left in the contest.

Quarterback Isaac Barnes found receiver Isaiah Barnes behind the Riders’ secondary for a 27-yard scoring pass. Kade Bullock’s PAT kick pulled Central within 24-21.

Sussex Central’s Isaac Barnes rushes during the second quarter at CR. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

CR’s offense was able to pick up one first down and force the Knights to use all their timeouts before punting it back to Central with just 45.3 seconds left. The Knights moved the ball 22 yards to their own 42 before Allen’s interception ended the threat.

The Riders also got interceptions from James Holmes and Tyrone Suarez in the contest. Evan McCleary added a 26-yard field goal for CR.

Central, which is still in line for a Division I at-large tournament berth, got short touchdown runs from Ja’Ron Curtis (14 carries-98 yards) and Zion Reed.
More than anything, Wagenhoffer said the thing that’s gotten the Riders turned around this year is heart.

“Everybody has heart on this team,” he said. “It’ not just one guy. We work all week and the results show.”

“We’ve got one more game so we’ve got to make the most of it,” said Allen. “There’s been a lot of not very good years for us. So a win like this against a team that good, that’s really big for us.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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