Defending state champs Sussex Central opens North play at Smyrna

GEORGETOWN – Even after scoring a combined 80 points and rushing for over 500 yards in a pair of out-of-state wins, John Wells feels his team still has a lot to improve upon.

The Sussex Central High football squad had four different runners score a touchdown in a 34-18 Week 1 win over La Plata High, Md.

The Golden Knights followed up that performance with over 300 yards rushing and five touchdowns from four different runners in a 46-7 Week 2 win over Southern High, Md.

Still, while sitting at 2-0, Central coach Wells knows the schedule only gets tougher as Henlopen Conference Northern Division play opens at Smyrna High tonight. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

“We feel good about a lot of the things we’ve done, yet there are still a lot of things we have to get better at,” said Wells.

Smyrna sits at 0-2 on the year after suffering early-season losses at Middletown High, 17-6; and at Glenelg High, Md., 29-26.

The Golden Knights defeated Smyrna, 31-12, last season to hand the Eagles their first North loss since 2014.

But current records and past games mean very little to Wells.

Especially when it’s a road game against a Henlopen North program that’s just a couple years removed from winning three consecutive state titles.

“Make no mistake about it, Smyrna is one of the top five teams in the state, easily,” Wells said. “The Middletown game, I saw the film. They were in the red zone five times and they could easily score more than they did. That game could go either way, so I certainly respect those teams.

“We didn’t play those two teams (Middletown and Glenelg), but if we did who’s to say we wouldn’t be 0-2? So, that 0-2 means nothing to me, they’re the best 0-2 team I’ve seen in Delaware.”

Mikey Glanden, a junior, is in his first full season as the Golden Knights’ starting quarterback.

He gained some valuable varsity experience last year after seeing Week 1 playing time against Hodgson Vo-Tech and starting Week 2’s game against Queen Anne’s, Md.

“Last year, that was just a confidence-booster and a test to see if I was ready,” said Glanden. “It really helped me get ready for this year, especially sitting behind a great quarterback in Isaac Barnes the last two years and learning from him and coach Wells.”

Though junior running back Shihiem Williams has received the most carries out of the backfield, running the ball 18 times for 94 yards and a touchdown, it’s been fellow junior back P.J. Stratton who has led the team in yards with 207 and a touchdown on 17 carries.

Senior TyJhir Sheppard-Parker has scored a team-high three times on the ground, with 71 yards on 10 carries to go along with it.

Nine different players have carried the ball at least one time, with seven of those nine players scoring touchdowns.

“It feels good. It releases a lot of pressure off me, personally,” Glanden said of the backfield depth. “We have an outstanding offensive line and having a couple veteran backs who are coming back this year, it makes the run game go a lot smoother. It makes the whole process a lot easier.”

Glanden, Kasim Lewis, Dion Stephens and Jaden Savage each have one rushing touchdown to round out the team’s nine.

Javon Toppin leads receivers with four catches for 56 yards and a pair of touchdown grabs.

Glanden, in addition to his 75 yards on the ground, has completed six of his 15 pass attempts for 95 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

“The run game has been good, we’re pleased with it,” said Wells. “The passing game, not bad, but I think it can get a lot better.

“We’ve got a great group of backs and our line is back for the most part. The quarterbacks we have can throw the ball well, we’ve had leads and I think we’re capable of being unpredictable.”

As successful as the Knights have been offensively, Wells attributed some of the success to the fact they’ve been able to enjoy early leads in both of their road wins so far this season.

A stout defensive unit was crucial to Central’s title run a season ago, and so far this season it has been just as strong.

Senior linebacker Jermicka Jacobs (15 total tackles, 1.0 sack) and the senior defensive lineman Lewis (14 total tackles, 2.0 sacks) lead a stingy unit that has allowed just 12.5 points per game.

Senior Terrance Frisby is tied with Jacobs with a team-high 15 tackles.

The defense has registered seven takeaways, with four interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Junior K’Tai Twilley leads the team with a pair of interceptions and a forced fumble. Williams and Jevon Saffold have also picked off passes for Central.

Against La Plata, Central’s defense allowed opposing runners to accumulate just 55 yards on 24 carries (2.3 yards per carry) and surrendered just one touchdown and eight first downs against Southern.

The defensive unit hopes to continue its early season success on the road against the Eagles.

“We’re focused on just playing Sussex Central football and just going out there and playing defense like we do,” said Saffold. “They have a pretty talented running back, but we played talented running backs all last year. Our coaches are going to put together a great game plan for us and we’re just going to go out there and execute it.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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