From the sports editor: Legendary Seaford coach Dickerson was the real deal

The story goes that Ron Dickerson’s nickname was first uttered at a Seaford High football practice in about 1970.

Dickerson was an assistant to head coach Ben Sirman at the time.

It seems that the Blue Jays’ defense wasn’t making the offense work hard enough in practice. So Dickerson was sent over to get them going.

Ron Dickerson

All-State tackle Layton Drayton is credited with calling out, “Get that captain over there,” recalls Sirman. “Get Captain Dick over there. And it stuck.”

Indeed, most of the people who gather this evening to remember Ron Dickerson will probably refer to him as Captain Dick.

The long-time Seaford High football coach and Delaware Sports Hall of Famer died on Saturday at the age of 74 after battling Parkinson’s Disease.

A visitation will be held tonight at Seaford’s Cranston Funeral Home from 5-8 p.m. A celebration of life ceremony is then planned for Saturday at the Nanticoke Senior Center at 3 p.m.

There will undoubtedly be a lot of great stories told about a man who coached Seaford’s football program to 191 wins and a pair of state titles between 1973 and ‘01.

Not to be forgotten, Dickerson also won two state crowns and posted a record of 102-26 in seven seasons as the Jays’ baseball coach.

Ron was just the kid brother of Sirman’s friend, Wayne Dickerson, when the two men first met. Ron was six years younger but the two men ended up becoming close friends for five decades after Sirman hired Dickerson as an assistant coach in 1969.

The two men are both Laurel High grads.

“What made him a good coach was that he loved the game,” said Sirman. “He loved coaching, he loved kids. And it was contagious, his enthusiasm.”

Sirman remembers Dickerson starting a summer weight room program for Seaford — and never making any extra money to run it.

“He didn’t care about the money,” said Sirman. “He cared about the kids.”

Former Seaford baseball standout Mike Neill never played football for Dickerson. But he knew him as a youngster through his friendship with Dickerson’s sons Craig and Marc (even they usually called their dad ‘Cap.’)

Neill was well aware of Captain Dick’s stature in the community.

“His will and desire is what made us all want to be better,” said Neill. “Trust me, growing up and going to the football games and watching those guys, it was like ‘Friday Night Lights’ before there were Friday Night Lights.

“We were a small town with a lot of different personalities. He was able to coach each and every one of us and get the best of our abilities.”

Neill was only a sophomore on the Jays’ 1986 baseball state championship team and he struggled for much of the season. But the future U.S. Olympics hero said Dickerson just kept encouraging him.

“You’re going to help us by the end of the year,” Dickerson told him.

Finally, in the state semifinals against Sussex Central, Neill tripled in the tying run before Delino DeShields drove him in with the winning run of a 2-1 victory.

“When it was all said and done, he kind of looked over at me and said, ‘Told you so,’” said Neill. “There was one thing that Captain did for me is that he gave me confidence before I really had it in myself.”

Dickerson’s glory days with the Jays were in the 1980s. He led Seaford to three straight football state title games from 1981-83.

The Jays’ sandwiched two championship-game wins — 20-13 victory over William Penn (Division I) in 1981 and 40-12 win over Archmere (Division II) in 1983 — around a 21-12 loss to the Auks in 1982.

Around the same time, Dickerson was coaching Seaford’s baseball program to state titles in 1983 and ‘86.

Sirman said that ‘81 football season was as good as any of them.

The Jays went undefeated that fall. William Penn was the largest Division I public school in the state at the time while Seaford was the smallest of the big schools.

“I think that was the highlight and probably the best team that we had,” Sirman said about the ‘81 squad. “We had a lot of pride. I don’t know if we cared who it (their opponent) was. We felt we could do it and we did it.”

Seaford’s field at Bob Dowd Stadium is now named in Dickerson’s honor.

Like most coaches, Dickerson wasn’t a big fan of losing.

He even coached Seaford’s wrestling program one season and led the Jays to a winning record.

“He was very competitive,” said Sirman. “Captain didn’t like to lose, he wanted to win. He was all about preparation. Game planning was very important to Captain — putting things together, having kids ready. Teamwork. That’s what made him good — his devotion, his sincerity.

“There was nothing fake about Captain. You know, kids recognize phoniness. Captain wasn’t phony. He was the real deal.”

Odds & ends

• Caesar Rodney High grad Tara Daddio, a senior on the Salisbury field hockey team, is second on the squad with 13 points (5 goals, 3 assists). The Sea Gulls are ranked No. 3 in the country in Division III.

• A handful of former local football standouts are in the pool of prospects for the XFL Football draft. Among that group are Wesley College’s Joe Callahan (quarterback) and Greg Taylor (safety) along with Delaware’s Vinny Papale (receiver) and Joe Fortunato (long snapper). Taylor is a Sussex Central High grad.

• Former Delmar High standout Alex Ellis was waived by the Philadelphia Eagles again last week. He’s currently injured.

Maureen Faulkner was recently hired as the head coach of Delaware Tech’s women’s basketball team. The former Padua standout has previously coached at Padua, Wilmington Friends and Delaware Military.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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