High School Notebook: Henlopen finds way to fill football slates

Coach Shaun Strickland and his Milford football team will play a schedule split between Henlopen North and South teams this fall. (Delaware State News file photo)

Unusual times call for unusual solutions.

That applies to high school football scheduling, too.

The Henlopen Conference has come up with a somewhat unique solution to fill out its members’ grid schedules.

With Delaware schools playing seven regular-season football games under the plan that was agreed to last week, Henlopen Southern Division squads were going to have to fill two non-conference dates on their schedules.

That’s because the South currently has only six football-playing members. The North, on the other hand, has eight.

So the Henlopen athletic directors came up with a plan so that all 14 teams only have to fill one non-conference date each.

Milford QB Shawn Saxon and the Buccaneers played in the Henlopen North last fall. (Delaware State News file photo)

The North’s two smallest schools — Polytech and Milford — will split their league schedules between the two divisions. Each will play three North opponents and three South opponents.

So Polytech will face Sussex Tech, Caesar Rodney and Dover from the North and Indian River, Laurel and Seaford from the South.

Milford is taking on North teams Smyrna, Sussex Central and Cape Henlopen and South squads Woodbridge, Delmar and Lake Forest.

The situation could be a little complicated if either Milford or Polytech challenges for a division title but the Henlopen ADs have some solutions in mind.

Considering that just a few weeks ago it looked like there would be no high school football played this fall, Milford coach Shaun Strickland said he’s fine with the solution.

“People were talking about (state) tournaments and things, and that’s great,” said Strickland. “But I think this year is just a year where we want guys to get film, get exposure and be able to go out there, play well and make it competitive.

“We’re already worried about so many things to make sure guys remain healthy. We want it to be competitive and we want our kids to be safe. … Our guys just want to get out and play. They’re just excited we’re going to have a season.”

There’s still going to be issues with football teams completing their schedules, though.

For starters, not every school board in the state has signed off on playing fall sports yet. As it stands now, the schools sin the bigger Blue Hen Conference figure to have their schedules filled with league games.

And Maryland public schools aren’t playing football this fall.

Both Dover and Sussex Central are going to play their non-conference game against Salesianum. CR is going to face Delmar, since both had the same open date. Cape Henlopen is taking on Caravel,

In the South, Lake Forest has scheduled St. Mark’s, Indian River is playing First State Military, while Woodbridge and Laurel will both take on Caravel.

The remaining schools are either still looking for a seventh game or just haven’t posted it online yet.

Because of the way fall sports unfolded due to the coronavirus pandemic, some football programs have as few as just two games on their schedules right now.

“It’s going to be different,” said Strickland. “Options are limited. It’s going to be interesting.”

The Henlopen Conference athletic directors have kept meeting throughout the pandemic to come up with solutions in the ever-evolving landscape. Caesar Rodney’s Bob Beron said he’s proud of the way the group has stayed on top of things.

“All the Henlopen schools have been great to work with,” he said. “All the ADs are very, very flexible in trying to make scheduling work. All of us Henlopen ADs literally have been working all summer long to get have things ready to roll so that when something does roll out, we’re all on the same page.

“Our teams will be ready to hit the field by just constantly preparing over these last couple months. It’s really helped us to get ready, not just for football season, but for fall sports all together.”

Notes

With the other fall sports — boys’ soccer, cross country, field hockey and volleyball — the Henlopen is scheduling so that the same two schools play each other in all four sports on the same day. Among other things, it should help with the paperwork that’s going to be required while following health guidelines. … Delmar’s four-time defending state-champion field hockey program has only one non-Henlopen team scheduled — Caravel — but does have one more open date. … First State Military currently has six games on its football schedule. … Traditional state power Salesianum is one of the schools having trouble filling its football schedule. The Sals currently have only Dover and Sussex Central listed on their schedule.