Gold stars aim to cap strong year Saturday night in 62nd Blue-Gold Football Game

NEWARK — Last fall was a pretty good one for downstate football teams.

For just the second time, Henlopen Conference squads swept both the Division I and II state titles.

Now downstate’s top senior players will try to cap off the year with one more victory in Saturday night’s 62nd annual Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game.

Pre-game ceremonies start at 5 p.m. with kickoff slated for 6 p.m. at Delaware Stadium in Newark.

The contest, which benefits programs for Delawareans with intellectual disABILITIES, has raised over $6 million in its history.

New Castle County’s Blue team has won two years in a row after snapping the Gold’s four-game winning streak. But this year’s Gold roster includes players from both state champions — Smyrna and Woodbridge — as well as Division I runnerup Middletown.

Jim Adkins (1) of Delmar with the Gold team during a workout at the University of Delaware in preparation for the 62nd Blue-Gold Football Game. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

There are a total of 12 Gold players who took part in state championship games last December. The Blue has just three.

The Gold also has the coaching staff from two-time defending Division I state champion Smyrna, led by head coach Mike Judy.

Gold head coach Mike Judy of Smyrna at Gold team practice at the University of Delaware. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

And while there’s no way Judy can duplicate the Eagles’ fast-paced, high-risk approach with only one week of practice, he still wants the Gold to be as aggressive as possible.

“We don’t have much time,” Judy said early in the week. “What you put in is going to be very small but we’re going to try to get really good at it.

“The thing is, we’ve got these next couple days to really evaluate some of these kids up-close and personal. And if we find out a kid can do something, we’re going to put it out there.”

Gold quarterback Nolan Henderson, from Smyrna, is no stranger to this offense, of course. The Delaware-signee is the state Offensive Player of the Year.

Henderson will have three All-State receivers to throw to in first-teamer Anthony DelPercio (Middletown) along with second-team picks Brion Murray (Milford) and Michael Credle (Glasgow).

The Gold also has Woodbridge’s Leah Styles, the state Co-Defensive Player of the Year, and Middletown’s Chris Weatherford, the state Lineman of the Year.

One staple of Smyrna’s approach is its willingness to regularly try onsides kicks. Judy said onsides kicks are legal in the Blue-Gold game.

Shymere Vessels of Woodbridge at Gold team practice at the University of Delaware. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“I don’t know if that’s what we’ll do but we’ll definitely be going for two, I can guarantee you that,” he said. “We’re going to let it all hang out and have fun. … We’re going to make sure that everybody has fun and that we do some things that are going to showcase some of the kids’ talents.

“There’s some hidden gems on this team that people don’t know about. And we’re going to make sure that people know about them. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Extra points

Wesley College has at least eight future Wolverines playing in today’s game. … Veteran coach Mark DelPercio, who stepped down as Middletown’s head coach in the offseason to pursue opportunities in Texas, will be a Gold assistant. … The other Gold assistant coaches are Eston Ennis (Laurel), Mike Marks (Smyrna) and Dan Wagner (Smyrna). … Blue QB Billy Sullivan of St. Mark’s was drafted as a pitcher by the Phillies on Wednesday. … The other state Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Concord linebacker Avery Roberts, won’t be in the game after graduating early. He already took part in spring practice at Nebraska.

Jerren Carter of Smyrna at Gold team practice. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

A number of awards were presented at the Blue-Gold All-Star banquet on Friday night. Among the winners were: Jeff & Denny Schwartz Band Award-Megan Shockley (A.I. du Pont); Bob Carpenter Memorial Award-Blue, Elizabeth Smith (Caravel), Gold, Lindsay Shallis (Sussex Tech); Outstanding Cheerleader-Blue, Victoria Spinelli (Padua), Gold, Kirstyn McNamara (Sussex Tech); Barb & Winnie Spence Hand-in-Hand Award-Blue, Molly Burke (Hodgson), Buddy: Brandon Pietlock; Megan Lynch (Concord) and Alexa Crowell (Brandywine), Buddy: Gia Marquez; Gold, Lindsay Shallis (Sussex Tech), Buddy: Avary Cannon.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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