Golden Knights rip Appo 36-7 for first Division I playoff win in 10 years

Appoquinimink’s Kamal Yellowdy is brought down by Sussex Central’s Elijah Moorer during Friday night’s Division I state tournament game. Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder

GEORGETOWN — Sussex Central High’s football program hadn’t picked up a Division I state tournament victory in 10 years.

Until Friday night, that is.

The third-seeded Golden Knights defeated No. 6 Appoquinimink, 36-7, in the opening round of the tournament, rushing for over 200 yards and forcing three turnovers to pick up the team’s first playoff win since Nov. 22, 2008.

Since that last win – a 20-0 shutout over William Penn in the ’08 second round – the Golden Knights earned five playoff berths but went one-and-done each time.

The win sets the Golden Knights (10-1) up with a semifinal round match-up at No. 2 Dover (9-1) next Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

Central’s Phillip Stratton catches a toss from QB Isaac Barnes for a touchdown.

“It feels amazing,” said senior Isaiah Barnes. “We knew what we planned to do, which was to come out here playing hard defense and using our weapons to do what we do.”

“Not winning a playoff game for a while, these seniors didn’t want to go out like that,” said Sussex Central coach John Wells. “This was their last game at home, so the battle cry for these guys was that it’s their last time playing at home, in front of the home crowd, in the castle. They wanted to go out with a win, they’re never going to play on this field again.”

In the 29-point victory, the Central defensive unit – which had allowed just 4.1 points per game during the regular season – picked off three passes, including a 22-yard interception touchdown run back by senior Zion Reed, and forced three turnovers on downs.

“I’m just so proud looking at that scoreboard right now, because we just did our thing out there. We have to get ready for next week and step it up,” said senior defensive lineman Elijah Moorer, who spent most of his night in Appo’s backfield making plays.

Sussex Central’s Zion Reed moves the ball for yardage during Friday’s tournament victory.

Offensively, the Golden Knights ran for 211 yards on 27 carries, with six different players carrying the football out of the backfield.

“We have small, big, fast, quick. Some guys will run over you, some will run around you, we have everybody. We just have a bunch of backs in the backfield who are versatile,” Isaiah Barnes said.

Sophomore Phil Stratton’s 58 yards on three carries led the way for Central runners.

Senior starting quarterback Isaac Barnes tossed for 33 yards and a touchdown on 5-of-8 passing.

After orchestrating a 10-play drive to open the game, Central’s first possession stalled inside Jaguars’ territory and the Golden Knights were forced to punt the ball away.

A quick three-and-out set the Golden Knights up at their own 22 and it took just three plays for the Sussex Central offense to put point on the board.

Sussex Central QB #11 Isaac Barnes throws the ball over Appo’s # 17 Matthew Marsh.

Shihiem Williams ran for an 18-yard touchdown at the 3:47 mark of the first quarter. The extra point put the Knights ahead, 7-0.
One play from scrimmage later, and it was a two-touchdown lead for Central.

Senior Zion Reed picked off an Appo pass attempt and returned it 22 yards to pay dirt at the 3:35 mark of the quarter.

“I was looking at the quarterback and his eyes,” Reed explained. “I was just going where the quarterback was going, and he threw it right to me, I had to take it back.”

Stratton’s 51-yard touchdown run, and the successful two-point try, at the 5:36 mark of the first half put the Golden Knights ahead 22-0 at the halftime break.

The first three drives of the second half ended with punts – two for Appo and one for Central – before Isaac Barnes orchestrated a 55-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 19-yard touchdown pass to junior Javon Toppin.

The extra point made it a 29-0 ball game with 2:43 remaining in the third quarter.

Isaiah Barnes’ interception with 36 seconds remaining in the quarter set Central’s offense up in great field position.

Central cashed in with a 52-yard touchdown scamper by Kasim Lewis on the first play of the fourth quarter. The extra point put the finishing touches on the Golden Knights’ scoring for the night.

The Jaguars scored on a 28-yard strike through the air, ruining the Golden Knights’ bid for an eighth shutout on the year. It marked the first touchdown the defense had allowed since Oct. 12 against Smyrna.

Senior defensive back Jahlier Pettyjohn also picked off a pass for the Golden Knights’ defensive unit.

With a rematch of the team’s 21-0 Week 4 win over Dover, the Golden Knights know they have a tough task ahead of them next Friday night.

“We’re just going to condition more, maybe mix some things up on defense and, really, just go out there and play our ball,” Moorer said of the match-up.

“The win means a lot, but we’re not done,” Barnes added. “We all have one goal. We all watch film and we keep getting hungrier as each week goes by.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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