Hodgson punches ticket to D-I final with 41-7 win over Sussex Central

Sussex Central’s P.J. Stratton makes a Hodgson defender miss on his way to the end zone in the third quarter on Saturday. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

NEWARK — After last season’s heartbreaking playoff defeat, Hodgson Vo-Tech High couldn’t wait to take care of some ‘unfinished business’ in the postseason.

With a 41-7 victory over defending champion Sussex Central High Saturday afternoon, quarterback C.J. Henry and the top-seeded Silver Eagles will get the opportunity for redemption when they face second-seeded Middletown High in next Saturday’s 1 p.m. DIAA Division I football state championship at Delaware Stadium.

“Last year when we lost that game, that was heartbreaking … that was real pain,” Henry said of a 20-18 defeat to Salesianum that ruined Hodgson’s bid for a perfect season. “We just stuck by that motto of ‘unfinished business,’ and we just came out here and played like it. We’ve been waiting for this moment and we’re going to take advantage of it.”

This marks Hodgson’s first trip to the title game as a Division I team. The Silver Eagles (11-0) won consecutive D-II titles in 2013 and ’14 before making the move up to D-I prior to the 2017 season.

They’ve won three total titles and earned a pair of runner-up finishes under coach Frank Moffett.

Fourth-seeded Sussex Central (9-3), the defending D-I champion making its fourth straight tourney appearance, had defeated fifth-seeded Concord High 21-17 in last weekend’s quarterfinals.

With Hodgson in the championship, the Henlopen Conference’s four-year streak of D-I titles will come to an end.

“Sussex Central is a good team, but with this group of young men we have, we set the tone really from the playoffs a year ago,” said Moffett. “We said our theme was ‘unfinished business, no excuses’ this year, and we rode that wave.”

Central’s TyJhir Sheppard-Parker looks for running room on one of his seven carries Saturday afternoon.

Henry tossed for 202 yards and two touchdowns on his 8-for-10 passing, while adding another 14 yards on the ground.

Sophomore running back Josh Ames gained 84 yards and scored two touchdowns on 14 carries; senior running back Darius Hale had 48 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.

The defensive unit picked off three passes, including one that was returned for a 31-yard score in the first half.

Sussex Central’s lone score came on a bruising two-yard run from junior running back P.J. Stratton in the third quarter.

Central’s junior quarterback Mikey Glanden tossed for 54 yards on his seven completions. He also scrambled for 17 yards.

Stratton led the team in rushing, accumulating 81 yards to go with his one touchdown on nine carries; TyJhir Sheppard-Parker racked up 45 yards on seven carries.

Hodgson had a quick start, forcing a Central punt and driving 99 yards down the field on just six plays. Hale capped the drive with a three-yard score and the successful extra point put the Silver Eagles ahead 7-0 at the 7:14 mark.

Another quick Central punt set Hodgson’s offense up near midfield and Henry drove the team 49 yards for a seven-play scoring drive. Ames’ three-yard run made it a 14-0 game.

Hodgson doubled that early lead when, over the span of 12 seconds, Ames ran for a four-yard touchdown and junior defensive back Ny’Ghee Lolley picked off a pass and returned it 31 yards for a score on the first play of Central’s ensuing possession.

Henry’s 59-yard touchdown strike to Lolley put the Silver Eagles ahead 35-0 at the halftime break.

Hodgson’s defense forced four punts, one turnover on downs and a pair of interceptions on Central’s seven first half possessions.
Henry’s second touchdown toss, from 28 yards out to senior wideout Elizjah Lewis, capped Hodgson’s scoring.

Stratton’s two-yard run for the Golden Knights came on the ensuing possession.

“I think we just played a great team game,” said Henry. “We were hitting in all phases of the game — special teams, offense and defense — and we were just working together and having each other’s backs … that’s what got us this win.”

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