Defending champion Smyrna pounds Sallies in title rematch 60-26

Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran

SMYRNA — Considering everything it meant, it would be difficult for any Smyrna High football team to surpass the Eagles’ Division I championship victory over Salesianum last December.
After all, in an overtime thriller played before a big crowd, the win gave Smyrna its first football state crown.

But what the Eagles did in their rematch with the Sals on Friday night might just take its own place in Smyrna grid history.

Playing before an overflow crowd of red-clad Eagles’ fans, Smyrna ran away from Sallies right from the start, steamrolling the Sals, 60-26, in the much-anticipated early-season showdown.

Newcomer Leddie Brown returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and the Eagles (3-0) never looked back, eventually sprinting out to an unheard-of 52-6 lead over Sallies (2-1) in the Wilmington all-boys Catholic school’s first appearance in Charles V. Williams Stadium.

Smyrna coach Mike Judy, whose team has now won 13 games in a row, had to admit it was a pretty special night for the town.

“I’m really proud of our team and happy for our guys that they can experience something like this,” he said. “It’s the special thing about high school football that you just don’t get anywhere else. The town shuts down and they come out and support you.”

“We’d be lying if we said we weren’t looking forward or excited about this one,” said quarterback Nolan Henderson, who threw five touchdown passes in the first half. “Every week we had to take it one game at a time. When it finally came, we were ready.

“We felt like we haven’t gotten as much respect as we think we deserve. Not only did we want to send a message to the state but to everyone.”

Brown, the transfer from Eastern Christian Academy, scored the Eagles’ first three TDs.  The junior running back bolted up the middle with the opening kickoff, broke a few tackles and went 93 yards for the touchdown.

“I’ve been thinking about that since I woke up this morning,” said Brown. “I was going to take the first kickoff for a touchdown. I had great blocking and I just did the rest.

“I felt great. I just wanted to bring my team up, bring the energy up, the crowd and everything.”

“That just added more energy than we already had,” said Henderson. “We were ready after that.”

While Sallies quickly answered with a 42-yard scoring run of its own, the Eagles were just getting started.

Smyrna reeled off the next 44 points to open up a gaping 52-6 advantage just before halftime.

With the clocking running down and the Eagles facing a fourth-and-15, Henderson calmly launched a 41-yard touchdown pass to Eamon Roberts with only 10 seconds left before intermission. Henderson hit the sophomore receiver in stride, a step ahead of a Sallies defender.

Smyrna, though, led ‘only’ 52-13 at halftime after the Sals’ Michael Drake returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a TD on the final play of the second quarter.
The Eagles’ defense helped out in the scoring spree, too.

Defensive end Jamier Smith scooped up a fumble and returned it 13 yards to the Sallies’ five to set up one touchdown before Jake Kaiser’s fumble recovery at the Sals’ 41 led to the Eagles’ final TD of the second quarter.

With much of the second half played with a running clock, Smyrna only added one touchdown after halftime. It was an impressive one, though, with junior Will Knight somehow keeping his balance on what looked like a short gain before sprinting away on a 65-yard scoring run in the third quarter.

Knight ran for 116 yards on just seven carries while scoring two TDs and five two-point conversions. Henderson completed 12-of-17 passes for 276 yards with the five touchdowns.

Brown caught three passes for 64 yards and two TDs while adding 40 more yards on two carries. Then there was Roberts, who contributed 115 yards and his two touchdowns on five receptions.

All in all, it was another in what has become a typical night for the Eagles. They just don’t usually do it against a program with storied history of Salesianum.

While Smyrna did score 56 points against the Sals in last year’s 76-56 regular-season loss, there’s no telling when the last time a Sallies squad surrendered 60 points in a game.

“The 76-56 loss is always in the back of the coaches’ minds,” said Judy. “But it’s different teams – both Sallies and us. I knew they would do some similar things but we were ready for some changes they would make.

“We thought they would come out and play us like they did in the championship game, where they played really solid defense. I think, when we look back at the film, I just think our kids made plays when it was time to make a play.”


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