CR’s turnaround season ends with loss at Hodgson

Bailey DeAtley of Caesar Rodney is brought down by the Hodgson defense in the 1st half Saturday. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

GLASGOW — Everything appeared to be lining up perfectly in Caesar Rodney High School’s return to the DIAA Division I state football tournament for the first time since 2013.

The Riders’ defense forced four turnovers, including a pair to end Hodgson Vo-Tech Academy’s first two possessions of the game.

Unfortunately for No. 6-seed Caesar Rodney, it was unable to move the football with much success on offense as the third-seeded Silver Eagles powered their way to a 13-0 triumph over the Riders in the quarterfinals of the state tournament on a gray-colored Saturday afternoon.

Despite the early exit, this year was still an amazing journey for a CR team that went just 1-9 last year and had won only five games over the previous three seasons combined.

CR quarterback Jared Wagenhoffer keeps the ball and sprints around right end past HodgsonÕs Tashan Fitzgerald. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

“We knew we had an uphill climb coming into the playoffs, but the leaves are falling and it’s cold and we were still playing, so we were happy,” said Caesar Rodney coach Dan Candeloro, whose team finished 7-4 in a turnaround season.

Riders’ senior quarterback Jared Wagenhoffer, who completed 3 of 10 passes for 46 yards and also rushed for 26 yards, agreed that this season has been quite a ride.

“On a positive side, to go from 1-9 to 7-3 and making the state tournament, that’s a great feeling,” he said. “We definitely accomplished something this year and we’re proud of that.

“We had a good, hard week of practice and we came out to execute, but Hodgson’s a great team and they definitely got the job done.”

Despite shooting itself in the foot with turnovers, Hodgson (9-2) rolled to 321 total yards and will face Smyrna in next week’s semifinal round on Friday or Saturday.

Sophomore Darius Hale rushed for 180 yards on 35 carries and freshman quarterback Curt Henry completed 11 of 19 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for a TD for the Silver Eagles.

Hodgson coach Frank Moffett Jr. played for CR when he was in high school, graduating in 1981, so Saturday’s game was kind of personal to him.

Rider quarterback Jared Wagenhoffer scrambles in the backfield while checking for an open receiver in DIAA tournament game against Hodgson Saturday. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

“It was a battle, but when you look back on it the 10-game season is over,” Moffett said. “It’s playoff time. It’s 14 teams that are playing football, and right now I’m a firm believer in if you’re playing now then you deserve to be there and you have a good team.

“We looked at Caesar Rodney as a team we scrimmaged in early August and in looking at film we saw a really good football team that got a lot better. It was what I expected in a playoff atmosphere. I expected a hard-fought battle and that’s what we got.”

The Riders won the toss and chose to receive the opening kickoff. They proceeded to drive down to Hodgson’s 28-yard line in nine plays, but the series fizzled out when Wagenhoffer was dropped in the backfield on a fourth-and-seven play.

Hodgson showed its’ offensive hand early, giving the ball to Hale seven times on its first possession and driving to CR’s 35 before the Riders’ junior linebacker Jordan Allen intercepted a pass from Henry.

The Silver Eagles next possession short-circuited on just one play when Hale fumbled and CR junior Dashaun Gray recovered near midfield.
Once again, Hodgson emerged from it unscathed.

“We lived through turnovers and that’s the time facing adversity that we talk about. We went through it and we prevailed,” Moffett said. “Our defense played outstanding. I thought my offense had things going, but you get a turnover here, a penalty there, and those are things we have to go back and look at and minimize those.”

Caesar Rodney’s Tyrone Suarez tips away a long pass intended for Vaughn Wood of Hodgson.. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

Hodgson embarked on a 10-play, 73-yard scoring drive on its first possession of the second quarter. The series was highlighted when Henry connected with senior Raymond Mapp for a 46-yard pass play that took the ball to CR’s 14.

Five plays later, the Silver Eagles opened the scoring when Henry took a sneak into the end zone from 1-yard out. Josue Avila-Lopez’s point-after kick was good and Hodgson took a 7-0 lead with 5:47 left until halftime.

Meanwhile, Caesar Rodney’s offense could not get any traction going, either through the air or on the ground. The Riders were limited to just 105 total yards, including 66 rushing.

“It was just hard to move the ball against them,” said Allen, who rushed for 31 yards on 10 carries. “I wish we’d have at least gotten a touchdown and gained a little more yards on offense and did a little bit better on defense, even though we did pretty well.

“Sometimes you just have to be better.”

The Riders were unable to move the ball into Hodgson territory from the second quarter until their final possession in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, the Silver Eagles were finally able to ice the victory when Henry found junior wide receiver Daniel Douglas in the right corner of the end zone for an 11-yard TD on fourth-and-10 with 2:29 remaining.

CR assistant football coach Brian Bossard going over strategy during a timeout Saturday. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

CR managed to push its way to Hodgson’s 41 on its’ final possession, but Wagenhoffer was stopped after a 5-yard gain on a fourth-and-11 play with 1:08 to play.

Candeloro could only tip his hat to Hodgson following the contest.

“They’re a great team,” he said, of the Silver Eagles. “They’ve been great for years. They’ve got a lot of history and just because they used to be in D-II doesn’t mean they’re not a great team.

“They’ve got great athletes, they’re big and strong. And man, their defense is tough.”

While the loss definitely stung the Riders immediately following the game, in the long run, they will be able to look back at this season and realize they were a part of something special.

“This program really needed this,” Allen said. “Something like this (making the state tournament) really brought the program back up.

“But I wish we were going to be playing football on Thanksgiving … that would have really been nice.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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