From the sports editor: UD-DSU series still under construction

NEWARK — Rod Milstead clearly still longs for the chance he can never get.

The former standout offensive lineman, like many other ex-Delaware State football players, are sure they could have beaten Delaware in the 1980s and early 90s.

The Hornets just never got the chance.

But, as DSU’s second-year head coach, Milstead also lives in the present. And he knows the Hornets still have a lot of work to do before they can talk about evening things up with the Blue Hens.

Delaware’s 31-13 win over DelState on Thursday evening leaves the Hens 9-0 against the Hornets since the state’s only two FCS Division I programs first started playing in 2007.

“It’s tough,” Milstead said after the game. “This series is lopsided. It’s 9-0 for the University of Delaware and I take my hat off to them. … They did a better job with their opportunities than we did (on Thursday).

“But, even if we had won, the series would still be in their favor. We have a long way to go to build our program. But that’s the reason why I’m back here.

“I just wish we’d have played this series when I was a player back in the 80s because the script would have been written a little bit different,” he added.

After a decade, the Route One Rivalry remains an enigma.

Most people agree that it’s a series that should be played. And the two schools signed a new contract over the summer, extending the series through 2030, so it’s not going anywhere.

But it won’t become a true rivalry until DelState actually beats the Hens.

There are some reasons to think that the series can tighten up. The Hornets’ 6-3, second-quarter lead on Thursday was its first-ever advantage over Delaware.

Also, as part of the new contract, the matchups in 2024 and ‘25 will both be played in Dover.

Then there’s the fact that, according to Milstead, next year’s Route One Rivalry matchup will be played as the regular-season finale.

Imagine the added tension if one or both of the teams needed a victory to get into the NCAA Division I playoffs?

Third-year Delaware coach Danny Rocco seems excited about the series. He pointed out that UD has as many as 30 in-state players on its roster while DSU has about 18.

“You’re really looking at a pretty significant number of Delawareans — high school players who played their football here in the state of Delaware and competed out here tonight,” said Rocco. “There was probably a little more chirping going out there than I like in a game. But a lot of these guys really knew each other from high school.

“I thought it was all really special to come together here tonight.”

Rocco liked the fact that there were two in-state teams on the field as UD was debuting its renovations to the home stands at 70-year-old Delaware Stadium. Of course, those improvements, like the Route One Rivalry, largely just benefit the Hens.

The Hornets will move on to other things and worry about Delaware again when they see the Hens next fall.

“Our team is young,” said Milstead. “They’re still growing. It’s going to take a while for this program to get to where it needs to go. And we knew that going into this football game.”

Several local NFLers cut

As expected, Saturday’s NFL roster cutdown day wasn’t a happy day for several players with local ties.

Among the local players who didn’t make the 53-man rosters on their respective teams were Ravens’ QB Joe Callahan (Wesley), Eagles’ tight end Alex Ellis (Delmar), Giants’ defensive back Tenny Adewusi (Delaware), Ravens’ tight end Charles Scarff (Delaware), Bills’ receiver David Sills (Red Lion) and Eagles’ running back Wendall Smallwood (Red Lion).

There was no word yet on Bears’ receiver Joe Walker (Delaware), who was considered a longshot to make the team.

Former Delaware and Salesianum standout linebacker Troy Reeder, on the other hand, defied some predictions by making the Rams’ roster as a free agent. With his dad, one-time UD fullback Dan Reeder, also playing in the pros, that makes Troy a second-generation NFL player.

Gono going strong

In Atlanta, things seem to be looking good for former Wesley College offensive lineman Matt Gono.

The Falcons signed him as a free agent last year based on his athletic ability. Gono was inactive all season but now is developing into the player Atlanta thought he could be.

There’s even talk of Gono being the Falcons’ starting right tackle.

“His strength is rare,” head coach Dan Quinn was quoted on thefalcoholic.com. “And his quickness for a 330 pounder is rare… So now, can we get the football there and in his case, we got the football there.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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