Dover not relaxing despite first-round tournament bye

“Dover hasn’t been this far since what, 2013?” said senior linebacker Derrick Madison (3). “It feels good. We’ve been trying to get to the playoffs every year. In the two years I’ve played, we’ve been 2-8 and 3-7. It’s not that good. So going 9-1 and getting the second seed feels great.” Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Usually, by now, the only thing Dover High’s football players are doing is handing in their equipment.

So to still be playing football this time of year is a pretty cool feeling for the Senators.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said third-year Dover coach Rudy Simonetti. “We’re just happy to be in the playoffs.”

But not only are the Senators (9-1) in the DIAA Division I state tournament for the first time since 2013, they also earned the No. 2 seed in the six-team bracket.

That means Dover has a first-round bye and won’t play until Nov. 23 when it hosts a Division I state semifinal game at 7:30 p.m.

Senators coach Rudy Simonetti, right, enjoyed telling his players on Sunday that they were seeded second, but he didn’t want any of them celebrating too long. Delaware State News file photo

The bye, however, didn’t stop the Senators from hitting the practice field on Tuesday afternoon. With his team riding a six-game winning streak, Simonetti wants to do everything he can to not lose any momentum this week.

“The advantages are that you get to rest a little bit and have an extra week to prepare for your opponent,” said Simonetti. “Any bumps and bruises you might have, you have an extra week to heal that.

“But the disadvantage would be we had a lot of momentum to end the regular season. That (the bye) could hinder that. But we will work our tails off this week to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Dover’s players have survived some tough times to get this far. Consider that the Senators’ nine victories this season match their win total for the last three years combined when they went just 9-21.

“Dover hasn’t been this far since what, 2013?” said senior linebacker Derrick Madison. “It feels good. We’ve been trying to get to the playoffs every year. In the two years I’ve played, we’ve been 2-8 and 3-7. It’s not that good. So going 9-1 and getting the second seed feels great.

Derrick Madison of the tournament-bound Senators rushes for yardage. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“But it’s a whole different ballgame in the playoffs. No more messing around. We’ve got to take it day by day and game by game. We’ve got to get conditioned better and get used to this weather. It’s going to be real cold.”

In Friday’s Division I state quarterfinals, third-seeded Sussex Central (9-1) hosts No. 6 Appoquinimink (6-4) while No. 4 Middletown (8-2) hosts No. 5 Salesianum (8-2). Both games start at 7:30 p.m.

If the seeds hold, Dover will host Central with top-seeded Hodgson (10-0) hosting Middletown in the semifinals. And not only did the Golden Knights hand the Senators their only loss, 21-0, on Sept. 28 but they shut them out.

Dover has averaged 48.7 points in its other nine contests.

Of course, since the Senators will be matched up against the lowest-remaining seed, they could also face either Middletown or Sallies. Simonetti is trying to keep an open mind.

“We work on many things for all the opponents we see in our league,” he said. “I think this week will be no different than that. We’re got some things on the defensive side of the ball that we’re going to prepare for.

“We just do what we do — keep it consistent.”

Dover has reached the Division I state finals only three times in its history. The last time came in 2001 when the Senators fell to Newark, 28-24.

For now, though, they are only focused on trying to win one football game, just like they’ve been trying to do for the past 10 weeks.

While Simonetti enjoyed telling his players on Sunday that they were seeded second, he didn’t want any of them celebrating too long.

“Twitter was pretty active,” he said. “But I also told them, whatever we’ve done in the regular season is in the past. This is a new season. If we lose here, we’re eliminated. Our focus is on that opponent coming up next Friday night.”

“The only thing in our mind right now is winning this game,” said Madison. “If we don’t win this, that’s it.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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