Dover defeats rival Caesar Rodney for 3rd straight year 27-17

DOVER — This football season was particularly rough on both Caesar Rodney and Dover High.

And it showed on Friday night when both the Riders and Senators were missing their share of key players.

But Dover’s players at least got to leave the season with a smile on their faces after dispatching rival CR, 27-17, to close the year.

The Senators (2-4 Henlopen North, 3-7 overall) overcame an early 10-0 deficit to beat the Riders (1-5 North, 1-9) for the third straight season.

“After this one right here, we’ll forget about all that,” Dover senior running back Jerry Warren said about the Senators’ losing season.

CR’s Najee Whitted gets tackled by Dover’s Robert Mason (7) and Naquan Peace (64).

CR’s Najee Whitted gets tackled by Dover’s Robert Mason (7) and Naquan Peace (64). (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“It wasn’t a good season but it was a good way to end the season,” agreed senior John Rodel Castro.

After trailing 17-13 at halftime, Dover took the lead for good early in the third quarter.

The Senators stopped a fake punt to get the ball at the Riders’ 20. On the next play from scrimmage, Dover quarterback Jordan Magee bolted up the middle for a 20-yard touchdown run that gave the Senators a 20-17 advantage with 7:57 left in the third quarter.

Two possessions later, a CR fumble at its own 16 gave Dover the ball in great position again. And Magee (12 carries-68 yards) scored again, this time on a two-yard run to stretch the Senators’ lead to 27-17 with 4:44 remaining in the third period.

“We started off slow,” said Senator first-year coach Rudy Simonetti. “We did a lot to shoot ourselves in the foot. But I loved how we responded in the second half.

“CR is well coached. Coach Candy is a class act. This is the best rivalry in the state and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it.”

The Riders, who were down to their fourth-string QB as well as using a new center, had trouble holding onto the ball all night. They ended up turning it over three times in the second half while diving on a number of other loose balls.

CR wasn’t able to throw the ball with any consistency on the windy night, frequently snapping the ball directly to senior running back Najee Whitted (22 carries-97 yards).

“We had some adversity this week,” said CR coach Dan Candeloro. “Props to their defense. They stepped up and played. They’re athletic, they’re fast and they’re strong. We had a pretty good first half and then they wore us down.”

In the first half, though, it was the Riders who took advantage of some Dover mistakes.

A first-quarter fumble gave CR the ball at the the Senators’ eight. Two plays later, Whitted scored on a one-yard run.

The Riders then made it 10-0 when sophomore Joseph Delgado kicked a 33-yard field goal early in the second quarter.

The Senators came to life after that, however, with freshman Javon Peace (7 carries-21 yards) scoring on runs of six and 10 yards as Dover rallied to take a 13-10 advantage with 2:41 left before halftime.

But that was enough time for the Riders to retake the lead. Whitted finished off a short, 45-yard drive with a 10-yard scoring run to give CR its 17-13 advantage with only 39.4 seconds left in the second quarter.

Despite a tough season, Candeloro wasn’t surprised that the Riders came ready to play.

“We talked about it all week,” he said. “There are a lot of people that aren’t strapping up the helmet this week. But these guys stuck it out. It says a lot about their character and a lot about them as men.

“It’s a shame the seniors have to go out this way but what they learned will carry on through life. That’s what football is — it’s life lessons.”

Warren ran for a team-high 78 yards on 20 carries while Castro added 68 yards on eight carries for Dover.

Considering some of the young talent returning for the Senators, the seniors think there will be better seasons to come.

“This one is going to set the tone for next year,” Warren said about Friday’s win. “We still have a young team. A lot of freshmen stepped up. Definitely, over the summertime, they need to get in the weight room — they need to get better, stronger, faster.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of these seniors,” said Simonetti. “I’ve been preaching all year long that they have a chance to really shape the future of our program.

“It starts in the weight room. I just told the kids, that’s where you win state titles and go to the playoffs. We have a lot of work to do in the offseason. It’s just good to go out on a winning note.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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