Golden Knights aim to go deeper in Division I playoffs this year

Isaac Barnes, above, leads Central’s offense under center his brother while Isaiah Barnes leads the charge defensively at safety. Delaware State News file photos

GEORGETOWN — Sussex Central High’s football program has accumulated a 15-7 record with a pair of DIAA Division I state tournament appearances over the past two seasons.

Both of those seasons ended with a one-and-done after first-round tourney losses to William Penn. That included a tough 12-7 loss to the Colonials a season ago.

Senior brothers Isaac and Isaiah Barnes would like to change that trend for the Golden Knights, who open the season on Saturday with a 10:30 a.m. game at Hodgson.

Isaac Barnes leads Central’s offense under center while Isaiah Barnes leads the charge defensively at safety.

Golden Knights running back Zion Reed.

“My ultimate goal is for our team, as a whole, to get better every week and for us to be playing the best ball we’ve ever played by the end of the season,” Isaac Barnes said.

As the starting quarterback and a mainstay on the defense as well, Isaac Barnes recognizes his the need for the Knights to be a more-disciplined squad to begin the season.

“We’re cutting down on the talking against other teams, we have to stay more disciplined this year,” he said. “We can’t have as many penalties as we had last year – that really killed us. Everyone’s positive and we’re just focused on getting better every day.”

Behind Barnes, Central has a crowded backfield with a handful of players, led by senior RB Zion Reed, who could see ample playing time.

The depth will allow coach John Wells to keep his running backs coming out of the backfield with fresh legs.

“There’s quite a bit of depth back there,” he said. “We’re very high on the backfield and it also gives us versatility to be able to keep guys fresh.

Sussex Central coach John Wells.

“Whether it’s substitution or rotation or it’s one-way players, I think the backfield affords us flexibility. I don’t think there’s a drop-off from one to the other, so for us I think it’s about what’s the greatest value to the team.”

Reed will enter the season as one of the team’s four captains, alongside the Barnes brothers and two-way junior starter Domonique Smith (TE/CB).

Along with Reed, Central currently has seven juniors listed at running back on the team’s official roster: Deshaun Bratten, Kasim Lewis, Jaden Savage, TyJhir Sheppard-Parker, Noah Simmons, Javon Toppin and Shihiem Williams.

Freshman Jeremiah Wilson and sophomores Terence Johnson, Skyler McVicker, Jymeir Moore, Phillip Stratton and K’Tai Tilley have also been listed as running backs for Central.

“There’s a lot of depth in our backfield,” Isaac Barnes said. “Compared to last year, it’s great. We have speed, size, we have it all.”

Barnes’ go-to target in the passing game will likely be his brother Isaiah at receiver.

Defensively, the team’s depth is primarily located in the secondary.

“Depth is the great thing with our secondary, it’s Isaiah, it’s Dom, it’s Jaden Savage, Javon Saffold, Shihiem Williams, TyJhir Sheppard, so we’ve got some nice depth there also,” Wells said.

“I’d like to be a little thicker in the linebacking corps, but we’re playing some sophomores and juniors there. We’re young in a lot of spots.”

With a handful of tough teams in the Henlopen North, Wells knows his players have their work cut out for them.

“We have lofty goals, the kids know that when they come in here,” said Wells. “We’ve been blessed with good athletes but it’s a tough conference.”

After Hodgson, the Knights have an out-of-state home game against Queen Anne’s, Md. and a road game at Caravel before opening in North schedule against Dover on Sept. 28.

“It’s going to be a dog fight every week, but we want to compete in the conference, we want to be in the mix,” Wells said.
“I just want to win, that’s it,” said Barnes.

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