First State Military football thrilled with winning ways

CLAYTON — First State Military’s varsity football team didn’t win a game last fall.

Actually, the Bulldogs didn’t even really come close most of the time.

Aside from one three-point setback, FSMA lost its other eight contests by a combined margin of 320 points.

So when the Bulldogs toppled Red Lion Christian, 14-12, in its season opener — beating a team they lost to by 36 points the year before — you better believe they were a happy bunch of players.

“I had me in tears actually,” said junior lineman Jalen Adger-Thomas. “We were dancing, we were having fun, screaming, hollering. … .

“It was something that most of us last year didn’t think could have been possible. Looking back last year and seeing what the score was and realizing how much we’ve improved as a team, it feels very good.”

“It’s just a feeling in your chest,” said senior linebacker Nick Chafardon. “It makes you feel good, it makes you want to keep going. … It was a good bus-ride home.”

But the Bulldogs weren’t done yet.

A week after posting the program’s first varsity victory, FSMA came back and downed Seaford, 21-14, last Friday, marking a 41-point improvement from last year’s 34-0 loss to Seaford.

Now today, the Bulldogs (2-0) will see if they can keep this improbable streak going when they host Conrad (1-1) at 4 p.m. at Kent County’s Kesselring Turf Field, just outside of Dover. All they did last year was fall to the Red Wolves, 52-6.

In some ways, FSMA’s turnaround isn’t completely shocking.

With only one senior in the program, the Bulldogs had planned to play a second season as a junior varsity team last fall. But FSMA is a member of the Diamond State Conference and the league needed another football-playing member to have its champion earn an automatic DIAA Division II state tournament berth.

So the Bulldogs did what they could, finished 0-9, got shut out four times and scored just 76 points all year.

“We knew that we were going to take our lumps,” said coach Blair Newman, the former Caesar Rodney High standout. “We were very inexperienced both in age and football knowledge. So it was, ‘Hey, just learn the game. … Remember what this feels like to go 0-9. In the future we can use that as motivation to work hard and move forward.’”

Between varsity and JV, FSMA has 43 players in the program this season. That includes its first true senior class of 10 players.

Senior Treyvon McCray is one of the Bulldogs’ top offensive players with nine catches for 155 yards and four touchdowns. Junior quarterback Jared Deppish has completed 19-of-31 passes for 213 yards and four TDs while junior Enyle Ingram has run for a team-high 167 yards on 34 carries.

On defense, senior defensive tackle has a team-high 13 tackles — including three for losses — while Chafardon has 12 tackles.

“It’s a different atmosphere on the field this year,” said Chafardon, a Smyrna resident. “Last year was a lot of individuals just trying to do what’s best for them. This year everybody’s trying to do what’s best for the team.”

“Last year was tough, I’m not going to lie,” said Adger-Thomas, who’s also from Smyrna. “I know the players that play for this school have a lot of potential. It’s getting them to unlock that potential is what we used to struggle with a lot.

“But now we’re sick and tired of all these people coming in and punching us in the mouth. We tell ourselves that winning the day is key. Playing together is key — playing as a team and representing our school — not ourselves.”

Of course, winning a couple games is one thing. Having a winning record while playing nine teams they lost to last season is another thing for the Bulldogs.

Still, owning a winning record, even if it’s just for a while, is a pretty good feeling for a group of players that’s only known losing.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Newman. “Winning is awesome. It’s the culmination of working hard and practicing hard and believing in the system and believing in the culture that we’re trying to build. It was great for the kids having that first win under their belts.”

“My message to them was it’s the first win for the program — the first win for the school. Don’t make it your last. We want to continue to be humble and hungry.”

Extra points

Smyrna has a rare open date this weekend after Irvington, N.J., who the Eagles played last year for the first time, had to change its schedule. The Eagles (0-2) return to action next Friday when they open their Henlopen North slate at Cape Henlopen. … Radio station 105.9-FM is broadcasting the Wilm. Friends at Woodbridge game tonight. … Dover (2-0), which plays at Concord (0-2) on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., hasn’t been 3-0 since 2010 when it started the season with four straight wins.

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