From the sports editor: Hens excited about date with Bison

Blue Hens QB Pat Kehoe is sacked during Delaware’s 38-10 loss at North Dakota State last season. Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — If there was such a thing as an FCS football elevator, Delaware and North Dakota State might have bumped into each other nine years ago.

Only the Blue Hens would have been going down and the Bison heading up.

The fact is, since falling to Eastern Washington in the 2010 national championship game, Delaware has been back to the FCS NCAA playoffs just once — last year.

North Dakota State, on the other hand, has won seven of the eight national title games played since then.

All of which brings us to Saturday and the Bison’s much-anticipated trip to Newark for a 1 p.m. clash with the Blue Hens.

North Dakota State, it should come as no surprise, is ranked No. 1 in the country. Delaware is No. 18.

And while the Hens have hosted No. 1 teams on three other occasions in their own proud history, they may never have had an FCS program like this come to town.

In the last eight seasons, the Bison own a stunning 112-8 record. That includes a 38-10 victory over Delaware in Fargo last year in which North Dakota State led 28-0 after just 13 minutes.

The Hens, though, would like to think they have a chance on Saturday. For one thing, they won’t have to worry about the noise of playing indoors at the Fargo Dome.

Delaware coach Danny Rocco is taking a very measured approach to the contest.

“I think it starts with us,” he said on Monday. “I think you have to begin focusing on what we need to do, what our mindset needs to be, what our expectations and beliefs need to be. Our expectations and our preparation are the two things, on the front end, that are most significant. They get the ball rolling.

“The thing that makes them so good is their execution,” Rocco said about the Bison. “They execute at an extraordinarily high level. And when you have good players executing at an extraordinarily high level, you do things that are uncommon, rare, extraordinary.”

If you’re looking for reasons to believe in an upset, remember in 2017, top-ranked James Madison beat Delaware only 20-10 in Newark. While the Hens weren’t quite good enough that day, JMU did reach the national title game that season — where it lost to the Bison only 17-13.

“Moreso than hope, you’re looking for a path to success,” said Rocco. “I think that our players, our fanbase and our community are going to embrace this game. We’re really excited.”

A big crowd is expected on Saturday, which should also include a lot of green-and-gold-clad Bison fans.(There probably won’t be any Carson Wentz sightings since the former North Dakota star and his Philadelphia Eagles’ teammates are in Atlanta this weekend).

But this is one of the few times that the Bison have ventured this far East. They haven’t played anywhere near the East Coast since going to Georgia Southern in 2006.

Now it’s up to Delaware to determine whether it’s a memorable afternoon or not.

“We want to be homefield dominant,” said junior linebacker Sal Mauro. “Any team that comes in here, we want them to feel the 60 minutes and know, when they leave, they got it handed to them.

“I’ve been talking to a lot of people about the game. I know alumni are going to be here. … It should be exciting.”

‘Special’ schools honored

Three downstate schools were among the five honored by Special Olympics Delaware for their commitment to inclusion.

Milford’s Benjamin Banneker Elementary and Lulu Ross Elementary along with Caesar Rodney High, McKean and Middletown were all named winners of National Banner Unified Champion Schools.

Each school met 10 standards of excellence focusing on Unified sports, inclusive youth leadership and whole-school engagement.

Only 173 schools received the distinction nationwide for the 2018-19 school year.

Along with five national honorees, six other schools were named Delaware Banner Schools for this past school year: Major George S. Welch Elementary, West Seaford Elementary, F.N. Postlethwait Middle School, P.S. DuPont Middle School, Cape Henlopen High and Dover High.

Also, CR High was one of only 34 schools in the country named to the ESPN Honor Roll for Unified Champion Schools.

Dover hosting tennis event

Dover Indoor is holding a unique tennis tournament on Sept. 29 to help kick off the indoor season.

The event is an adult/child doubles tourney with an adult family member paired up with a child under the age of 18. There will be at least two different skill-level brackets.

The cost is $20 per team with registration, by calling 302-943-0278, taken until Sept. 25. Some of the proceeds will go toward a scholarship fund for a high school senior.

Carrie Lord, a 14-year-old Caesar Rodney High student, is one of the people behind the idea for the event.

“A lot of people at the Indoor had been saying that it would be fun to play in a tournament with their parents,” said Lord. “And we thought it would be a great way to kick off the season and kick off the scholarship.”

Odds & ends

• Don’t forget you can nominate and vote for your favorite high school athlete with the State News’ new Athlete of the Week feature.

The nominating period will start at 2 p.m. on Friday and end at noon on Monday. A voting period will then follow from 5 p.m. Monday through 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Go to https://delawarestatenews.secondstreetapp.com/Athlete-of-the-Week-2/gallery/ to nominate and/or vote.

• Delmar High grad Alex Ellis was elevated from the Eagles’ practice roster to the active roster just before Philadelphia’s season-opening win over Washington last Sunday. Unfortunately, they then waived the veteran tight end on Monday.

Ellis did get the chance to play for the same NFL team as his grandfather.

• After missing West Virginia’s first two games with an injury, former Smyrna High running back Leddie Brown returned to practice this week.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.
Facebook Comment