Judy ‘honored’ to be coaching in championship game

NEW CASTLE — It still hasn’t sunk in for Mike Judy.

Here he is in his second year as a football head coach and his team is playing for the state championship.

On top of all that, he’s coaching against one of the coaches he looks up to — Salesianum School’s Bill DiNardo and his seven state titles.

But Judy, Smyrna High’s coach, wouldn’t change a thing. He’s trying to enjoy the moment as much as possible this week.29dsn Smyrna vs WP Football 015 by .

“It’s an absolute honor to coach against Bill DiNardo in the state championship game,” Judy said on Monday. “I wouldn’t want it any other way. Coach DiNardo is an absolute legend.

“It’s surreal,” Judy added. “I just don’t think my mind has honed in on the fact that this is the big one. It really is an honor. My team earned this spot and I’m honored to be a part of that.”

Third-seeded Smyrna (11-1) will try to topple top-seeded Salesianum (10-1) this Saturday for the Division I state championship at 1 p.m. at Delaware Stadium in Newark.

This is the first time Smyrna has played for the Division I title. The Eagles have only appeared in one championship game all-time, the first Division II contest in 1975 when they fell to Glasgow.

By contrast, this will be the sixth time since 2005 Salesianum is in the Division I final. DiNardo has won four state titles with Salesianum and three with Middletown.

He said it’s exciting for Delaware high school football to see a new face playing for the championship.

“It’s cool,” DiNardo said. “I know there’s a great deal of hoopla that goes with them. I know the whole town is excited and, coming from Middletown I know what that’s like. Literally the whole town came out to watch us play and I expect the same thing with them.

“It’s good to see a program like theirs where it’s really been built up over the last three years.”

Like most people outside of Kent County, DiNardo didn’t know much about Judy when he was tabbed to take over the Smyrna program before last season.

Judy and his staff turned around a team that went 2-8 in 2013 to 5-5 last season, followed by this year’s berth in the state title game.

DiNardo got an up close and personal look at the Eagles in the third week of the season when the Sals defeated Smyrna 76-56 in a wild, high-scoring affair.

“I’ve learned a lot about him over the past year and more when we played them,” DiNardo said. “He and his staff have really created a monster there and they are a good football team.”

Judy did have experience as a head coach before — he was in charge of the Smyrna boys’ lacrosse program and won the Henlopen Conference Coach of the Year in 2013 before he accepted the football job.

He did spend seven seasons as an assistant football coach at Smyrna, which also helped shape his image.

“You have to be yourself,” Judy said. “You can’t try to fake it. Kids are very observant and they’ll know who you are. If you try to act different from who you are then they’re not going to trust you. You can’t preach something that you don’t believe in.”

DiNardo agrees that earning the trust and belief from players is the first step toward being a successful coach.

“You need to put together a good plan and make sure your kids believe in that plan,” DiNardo said. “I think a good coach gets his kids to play the very best they can play.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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