High school football: Spartans happy to get a win

Micah Davis of Dover takes a handoff and tries to get past Sussex Central’s Jaun Amezcua Justiniani on Friday night. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

Nobody plans on starting a season 0-3.

But when it happens, said Lake Forest High football coach Freddie Johnson, you find out pretty quickly who the players are that you can count on.

So Johnson was pretty happy to see those players rewarded with a victory on Friday night.

The Spartans rolled to a 35-0 Henlopen South win over Seaford to raise their record to 1-3.

“It was kind of rough,” Johnson said about Lake’s winless start. “If you start out 0-3, kids today, they have a tendency to want to pack it in. And we did have a couple guys that kind of packed it in and gave up on us.

“But we did have some kids that, despite what’s going on, they’re going to try to work hard, listen to their coaches and try to improve.”

One of the Lake players who’s kept working hard is senior running back Kendal Smith. The Caesar Rodney High transfer scored three touchdowns for the Spartans against Seaford.

“He’s a very humble kid,” Johnson said about Smith. “He gets along well with everybody. I had talked to his coach about him and his coach had nothing but good things to say about him as well.”

Overall, Johnson said the effort was the most complete game his team has played this season. The Spartans didn’t turn the ball over until late on offense and posted their fourth shutout in their last 13 games on defense.

“They were excited to get a win,” said Johnson. “Seaford is a much improved team. All week long, we were just preparing them, ‘Hey, you know, Seaford’s 0-3, we’re 0-3. They’re going to come out fired up. We have to match their intensity. We can’t make the mistakes that we’ve been making over the past few weeks.’

“We were preaching to them how much we need to prepare and how we’ve hurt ourselves this year. We’re just trying to take it one play at a time and try to play mistake-free football.”

With three games remaining, Lake Forest still has its ‘Battle of the Bell’ rivalry game with Milford to look forward to in a couple weeks. This year’s game is being played on Thanksgiving Day at 10 a.m.

It’s believed to be the first time since about 1970 that the contest was played on Thanksgiving. Back then, fans were still taking the train that ran between Harrington and Milford — and where the bell trophy came from.

But Johnson also knows the Spartans can’t look past next Friday’s game at Delmar. Lake hasn’t beaten the Wildcats since 2015 and hasn’t won at Delmar since before 2008.

Playing during the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, Johnson said, makes it easy to just focus on the next game.

“I just tell them, ‘Hey, play this game like it’s your last game because, the way things are, it could be your last game,’” said Johnson. “‘Just go out and enjoy it.’”

Smyrna plays on big stage

Smyrna played before what will mostly likely be the largest crowd at a Delaware high school football game this year on Friday night in its 42-30 win over Salesianum.

The Wilmington all-boys Catholic school received a special permit from the Delaware Division of Public Health to exceed the 250-person outdoor gathering limit for the grand opening of Abessinio Stadium.

The stadium capacity is about 4,000. There were just over 1,000 in attendance on Friday night.

Abessinio Stadium, which sits on the same plot of land as Baynard Stadium did across 18th Street from Salesianum, cost $25 million. Rocco Abessinio, a 1959 Salesianum graduate, contributed $16 million to the project and the stadium bears his name.

The stadium opened with a pregame ceremony featuring various dignitaries such as Sen. Chris Coons, Gov. John Carney and Abessinio, who traveled from Florida for the opening.

“I want to give the entire Sallies community a tip of the hat,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy. “First of all, the stadium is beautiful. The facilities are beautiful. They obviously are always courteous and they did a phenomenal job with the proceedings before the game. That was excellent.”

New amenities at the stadium include new locker rooms, a three-floor building on the home side which houses offices for DNREC and ATI Physical Therapy, plus suites on the third floor.

Delmar coming along

Considering the youth of his team, Delmar coach Dave Hearn knew the Wildcats might not figure things out right away.

But Friday night was one of those games when the veteran coach saw a squad heading in the right direction.

Delmar outlasted the Henlopen North’s Milford, 20-13, to improve to 2-1 overall.

“We had to fight right to the last whistle,” said Hearn. “They had opportunities right at the end still. It was a full game we had to battle tooth and nail. That’s what we needed.

“Hopefully that will pay off in the last three games.”

On defense, Hearn said the Wildcats “played great defense all night” in limiting a Milford team that had scored 52 points in its first two games.

But Delmar also had to be tough on offense. Relying almost exclusively on its running game in the muddy conditions, the Wildcats used five or six ball carriers in the game.

“You like to have a few of those easy big plays but we didn’t have those,” said Hearn. “We had to grind it out. I thought our offensive line did a much better job of putting a hat on people. Our backs followed the blocking well. They did a nice job of blocking for each other, which is a big deal. They picked up some hard yards.”

Delmar is still only 1-0 in the Henlopen South after its season opener against Woodbridge was canceled due to COVID-19 reasons. The Wildcats close their schedule against Lake Forest, Indian River and Laurel.

Laurel, which is 3-0 in the South and closes the season against Woodbridge and Delmar, can still win the South title outright. But there’s also a a chance both Delmar could finish unbeaten in the division without having played each other.

The Henlopen Conference hasn’t decided how it would determine the South champion in that situation.

“All we can worry about is the next three (games),” said Hearn. “We’re not even trying to talk about any of that kind of stuff.”

Notes

While Sussex Central ran the ball well in its 34-0 win at Dover on Friday night, coach John Wells was also happy with the way quarterback Zimir Gardner threw the ball. Gardner was 6-of-10 for 74 yards, including a 28-yard completion to set up a touchdown. … In just four games, Smyrna quarterback Aidan Sanchez has now thrown for 1,391 yards with 16 TD passes and three interceptions. Six different receivers have caught scoring passes for the Eagles. … Two Henlopen Conference games have been moved from Friday next weekend. … Milford will host Smyrna on Thursday at 7 p.m. while Cape Henlopen hosts Caravel on Saturday at noon.