Eagles begin season by crushing Dover 40-7

Smyrna’s Devin DeMoe breaks free from Dover defenders in the first quarter during Friday’s football season opener at Smyrna. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

SMYRNA — Considering there were no pre-season scrimmages this fall, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Smyrna High’s high-octane offense sputtered out of the gate on Friday night.

By halftime, the Eagles had scored just eight points and held only a one-point lead over Dover.

But Smyrna hit its stride in the second half, reeling off 32 unanswered points to put away a 40-7 victory over the Senators on the opening night of the delayed football season.

Senior quarterback Aidan Sanchez threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers as Smyrna posted its ninth straight Henlopen North victory.

A second-team All-Stater last season, Sanchez completed 28-of-41 passes for 464 yards with the four TDs and a pair of interceptions.

Junior running back Wayne Knight also made some big plays, scoring on an 80-yard run and adding four two-point conversions.

“It’s one of those things where it’s been about six months since we’ve seen a team in another color jersey and been able to hit them,” said Sanchez. “It was like a scrimmage but luckily we were able to get those jitters and nerves out in the second half and start putting up the numbers we should be putting up.”

“That was scrimmage football looks like — for both teams,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy. “I think they suffered from it like we suffered from it. We had a lot of mistakes. They had to settle in.”

Dover’s defense made some big plays, including pulling in three interceptions.

The contest was still scoreless in the first quarter when Smyrna tried to convert on a fourth-and-one at its own 38. Dover’s Aric Dudley, however, pulled down Knight in the backfield to give the Senators the ball.

Seven plays later, Dover quarterback Jordan Moran scored on a one-yard sneak and then booted the PAT to give the Senators a 7-0 advantage.

The Eagles took the lead for good later in the second quarter when Sanchez found receiver Devin Smith on a 17-yard scoring pass with 3:01 remaining. Knight’s two-point conversion run gave Smyrna its 8-7 halftime advantage.

Dover’s Elijah Sessoms prepares to tackle Smyrna’s Devin DeMoe as Dover’s Marquis Guy moves in to help in the first quarter during Friday’s football season opener at Smyrna.

The Senators had a chance to regain the lead on the first possession of the second half when it reached the Eagles’ 17. Moran attempted a 34-yard field goal that was long enough but wide left.

Then, on the next play from scrimmage, Knight burst through a big hole up the middle, got to the sidelines and sprinted the rest of the 80 yards for the TD.

Sanchez went on to throw a 43-yard scoring pass to Devin DeMoe, a 35-yarder to Dominick Galban and 22-yarder to Yamir Knight with 2:58 left in the game.

Friday was the opening night of the high school football season in Delaware after the schedule was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Teams are slated to play a seven-game regular season this fall.

The contest was played without any fans on the visiting side, no marching bands and only two family members per Smyrna student participant.

The Eagles have won five of their last six games with Dover after losing at least seven meetings in a row to the Senators.

Both coaches knew it would be difficult going into a season opener without having played any pre-season scrimmages. No teams in Delaware held scrimmages this year due in part to the pandemic.

“We lost a lot from last year so we’re young and inexperienced this year,” Dover coach Rudy Simonetti said during the week. “Normally, as a coach, you have a lot of questions that need answers. And you find those answers in your scrimmages.

“The thing is, we had no scrimmages this year so I’m going to find out a lot of the answers to my questions on Friday night against Smyrna. I’m sure they’re in the same boat. They’re going to have questions that need answers, too. … We have to adapt on the fly.”

It doesn’t get any easier for the Senators next Friday as they host Salesianum in their one non-conference game. Smyrna goes to Cape Henlopen next week to begin a stretch of four straight road games.