Eagles earn first win of the season

Smyrna QB Aidan Sanchez runs around the end with a keeper as Cape’s Isaiah Fillyau gives chase.
(Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

LEWES — After an unplanned Week 3 bye due to scheduling difficulties, the Smyrna High football program put up six first-half touchdowns in the team’s 53-0 shutout of Cape Henlopen Friday night.

After an 0-2 start to the season, the shutout victory handed Smyrna (1-2) its first win of the season.

“It’s a really important win to us. Last year we started 0-2, but we had a Week 3 game. So, this week, talk about leaving some uncertainty out there in the universe,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy.

“We didn’t get a chance to redeem ourselves last week, but the kids worked extra hard and the coaches really did a great job with them and we came out strong.”

The 53-point shutout marks Smyrna’s fourth straight victory over Cape, dating back to Nov. 6, 2015, with the Eagles scoring 50+ points in each of those four contests.

“Overall it was a really tough game, it was played with a lot of heart on both sides and that’s what you want,” Judy said. “We talked about keeping our conference win streak alive — it was 18-0 over the last few years heading into the season. It’s now 19-0.”

Smyrna’s Stephen Whaley runs for a touchdown. (Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

The current 19-game conference win streak dates back to Oct. 3, 2015.

Sophomore starting quarterback Aidan Sanchez tossed four first-half touchdowns, with senior running back Stephen Whaley catching two of them and running for two more.

“It’s definitely a confidence-booster, coming off an 0-2 start and putting up 53,” Sanchez said of the team’s performance. “We’re feeling good, feeling confident. It just feels great, especially getting into a groove with a new group.”

“Aidan, he had an outstanding performance tonight,” Whaley said of his quarterback.

“He’s done a good job stepping in this year, we still have a little bit of work to do, but he’s going to be a good quarterback for the rest of his high school career.”

With just four returning starters from last year’s Div. I state champion roster, the Eagles have a completely different team but a similar mentality.

“When you return four starters from last year’s squad, you have a lot of guys who were role players who are able to step up this year,” Judy said. “It’s a process to get to a championship-caliber performance, and we’re taking the steps, but we have a long way to go.”

#3 of Smyrna’s Gavin Sembly grabs for a pass. (Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

“We’re not the same group as last year,” said Sanchez. “We don’t have the same guys, we’re not the same team, but we’ll definitely make a run for it.”

After sophomore Devin Smith ran the opening kick-off all the way down to Cape’s 40-yard line, it took just four plays for Smyrna’s offense to put points on the board.

Sanchez hit Whaley for an 18-yard touchdown strike and the successful two-point try put the Eagles ahead 8-0 just 1:10 into the game.

Smyrna would take over less than four minutes later, following a missed Vikings field goal attempt, and Sanchez extended the lead to 16-0 with an 80-yard touchdown toss to senior wideout Emon Roberts at the 7:13 mark of the opening quarter.

“I just saw one-on-one coverage, so I just did what I was coached to do,” Roberts said. “I don’t even really know how to explain it — it was just there. Coach made a good call, Aidan made a good read, and I just caught it and saw open space.”

Smyrna’s defense forced a Cape Henlopen punt on their second offensive possession, taking over at their own 31-yard line.

Sanchez drove the offense 69 yards down the field on a four-play drive, capped by a 52-yard rushing touchdown from Whaley at the 2:41 mark of the quarter. The two-point try extended Smyrna’s lead to 24-0.

On the second play of the second quarter, Whaley ran for his second rushing touchdown of the night from 17 yards out on fourth down and one.

Smyrna’s defense, which forced four turnovers and a pair of punts on the night, forced a Cape fumble that senior defensive lineman Demetrius Buckner recovered at the 10:23 mark of the half.

It took just one play for Eagle offense to cash in as Sanchez hit Whaley in stride on a 21-yard touchdown strike. The successful two-point try put Smyrna’s lead to 40-0.

Sanchez’s fourth passing touchdown of the night, this time to senior receiver Ron Jackson from seven yards out, capped the first-half scoring.

Ahead 46-0 at the halftime break, a running clock in the second half would limit Smyrna to just three offensive possessions in the third and fourth quarters.

Freshman running back Wayne Knight ran for a 19-yard score with 1:54 to play in the third quarter to cap the scoring for Smyrna. The successful extra point put Smyrna ahead 53-0 to begin the final quarter.

Freshman quarterback Joseph Nick Richardson led two offensive drives in the fourth quarter.

“It feels good to get the win,” Whaley said. “Our quarterback made good reads, our line was blocking, we all did our role.”

“The first two games, we put ourselves in a deficit that no matter what you did you were always going to be fighting an uphill battle. When you’re young, experience-wise, like we are, that’s not the place you want your kids,” Judy said.

“We did it to ourselves, so we just really focused on stopping the self-inflicted wounds, starting fast and just doing whatever you have to do for your brother to your right and to your left to get the job done, and they did that.”

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