Golden Knights look to defend first Division I title

Members of the Sussex Central football team pass the state championship trophy around after beating Salesianum. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

GEORGETOWN — Sussex Central High’s last football loss was almost a year ago to the day.

On Sept. 8 of last season, the Golden Knights opened their campaign with a 26-6 road loss in the pouring rain at Hodgson Vo-Tech.

Twelve weeks later, Central capped its near-perfect season with a 33-7 Division I state championship victory over Salesianum School — the first state title in school history.

Coach John Wells has put that season behind him and has focused on this year, as the Golden Knights look to extend their current 12-game win streak this Friday.

“For us, being defending champs doesn’t change one thing I do in practice,” Wells said. “We’re going to coach the same way we always have. We’re going to coach tough, hard-nosed football players and go play tough football. Doesn’t matter what our record was last year.”

The Knights open the season with four consecutive road games: at La Plata, Md. on Friday; at Southern, Md. Sept. 13; at Smyrna on Sept. 20; and at Caesar Rodney Sept. 27.

Key pieces such as starting quarterback Isaac Barnes, starting safety and wideout Isaiah Barnes, running back and linebacker Zion Reed and defensive linemen Elijah Moorer and Malik Copes are gone due to graduation, but the Knights still return talent and depth across the board.

Junior Mikey Glanden will likely begin the season as the starting quarterback.

Fellow juniors Jeremiah Wilson and Samuel Jones are also listed at QB on Central’s roster.

Glanden received varsity experience last season when he filled in for the injured Barnes under center in Week 2 against Queen Anne’s, Md. The Knights shut down the Lions 31-3 in front of the home crowd that night.

Junior Shiheim Williams, senior Tyzhir Sheppard-Parker, senior Javon Toppin all return at running back. Senior Kasim Lewis and junior P.J. Stratton return at fullback.

Most of the offensive line is back from last year’s state title team, aside from one injury to the left tackle, so the front line is expected to be a strength heading into Week 1.

Defensively, the Knights surrendered just 5.8 points per game and registered seven shutouts a season ago.

The unit shut out the Dover Senators in the second half of Central’s come-from-behind 21-20 semifinal victory on Nov. 23, with many of those players returning for another go at it this season.

“At this point in time, I like where our defense is for Week 1,” said Wells. “Starting Week 2, it’s got to get better, based on one scrimmage and intrasquad stuff. It has potential to be a very good defense, it’s just they have to go get it.”

Isaiah Barnes will prove difficult to replace in the secondary, but the Knights have plenty of depth ready to step in and try to replace what was lost.

Both inside linebackers return and Jermicka Jacobs, who didn’t play last year, has been in the mix as well.

With both outside backers gone, Jerry Wilson and P.J. Stratton, and a few others, are among the players in the mix for those spots.

Williams, Sheppard-Parker, Jevon Saffold, Domonique Smith, Jaden Savage, Sean McGee and Chase Boyle, among others, provide the Knights with their secondary depth.

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