Healthy, experienced Dover looks to improve

Dover running back Javon Peace. Delaware State News file photo

DOVER — Rudy Simonetti didn’t want to use so many young players last season.

But injuries didn’t leave the Dover High football coach with much of a choice.

Now he hopes the silver lining is that he’s got a good nucleus of experienced players to build around this year.

“Injuries forced us to be a little bit younger than I thought we were going to be last year,” said Simonetti. “I think the advantage for this year is, we’re healthy, number one. And also, that experience that our young guys gained last year will help us out a lot this year.”

Dover quarterback Jordan Magee. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

The Senators, who open the season on Saturday at Archmere at 2 p.m., do have some talented individuals as they try to bounce back from last year’s 2-8 campaign.

Third-year starting quarterback Jordan Magee (Sr., 6-3, 215) has verbally committed to Temple (as a defensive back) while two-way lineman Bradly Anywanu (Sr., 6-3, 295) is headed for Delaware. And big-play running back Javon Peace (Jr., 5-10, 185), a first-team all-Henlopen North pick as a sophomore, could end up being a scholarship-level recruit.

There’s no question that having Magee sidelined at the start of last season hurt Dover early on.

“It’s a huge difference,” Simonetti said about having Magee healthy. “It’s always a good thing when you have your starting quarterback playing those first two games – as opposed to last year. You can see it already.

“He knows the offense extremely well and he’s become a leader on the field for our young guys.”

Among the other top returning players for the Senators this fall are LB/TE-Derrick Madison (Sr., 5-11, 205), LB/RB-Dave Exum (Sr., 5-10, 200), WR/DB-Gabe Evans (Jr., 5-11, 195), OL/LB-Elijah Lemon-Dejesus (Sr., 5-11, 200), OL/DL-Tkai Perry (Jr., 5-10, 230), DB/WR-Kylen Thomas (Sr., 6-1, 175) and DL/OL-Sam Arkuwoille (Jr., 6-2, 200).

Offense usually wasn’t a problem for Dover last season. The Senators scored 20 points or more in all but two of their 10 games.

But, defensively, Dover gave up at least 27 points in nine games, including four contests where it surrendered 42 points or more. Simonetti has added defensive coordinator to his coaching duties this season.

“One thing I liked about us last Saturday (in a scrimmage) on defense is we pursued to the football very, very well,” said Simonetti. “I think we’re more athletic than last year up front.

Dover football coach Rudy Simonetti. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“We continue to work on our tackling. But the key thing for me was seeing a lot of blue jerseys around the football. That goes a long way. I think we have a very explosive offense this year. I think really the sky’s the limit for us there.”

Simonetti does have some newcomers he thinks will make an impact right away, including DB/RB-Akil Garrett (Jr., 5-7, 165), LB/OL-Tysean Nelson (Jr., 5-10, 205) and DE/TE-Eric Samuels (Jr., 6-4, 210).

Dover hasn’t had a winning season since 2013, which is also the last time it made the DIAA Division I state tournament. But Simonetti said he likes the attitude he’s seen from his players – especially during summer-league 7-on-7 sessions.

“We had a busy summer where we did a lot of 7-on-7 work,” he said. “It was really a good chance for us to gauge our mental toughness. We had a successful summer.

“We were down in a couple games, too, but I liked how the kids didn’t quit and they came back in a lot of those games to win them. I think that’s important for our overall team confidence.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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