Knight scores on kickoff and punt return as Eagles beat Sals 28-7

WILMINGTON — It’s expected when Will Knight has a big game.

But it was how he scored that was a surprise on Friday night.

Knight made his debut on special teams this season as he returned a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in Smyrna High’s 28-7 victory over Salesianum in a nonconference football contest. The Eagles improved to 7-2 on the season.

The star senior running back added an 82-yard rushing touchdown for good measure in the fourth quarter.

Knight had only returned one kickoff in his high school career, a 14-yard gain in last season’s state championship. It didn’t take him long to make an impact on special teams against Salesianum.

Knight caught the opening kickoff at right in front of his own end zone and broke free up the middle for a 99-yard touchdown.

“We treated this game like a playoff game hiding nothing,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy. “We showed everything we needed to do. Part of that is making sure the ball is in Will’s hand. I don’t think they expected him to be out there, they kicked to him and off he went.”

Knight did it again in the third quarter when the game was 12-7 in favor of Smyrna. This time he caught a punt inside the 10, broke a tackle and scampered down the left sideline for a 91-yard score.

“It was definitely a new experience so I had to practice it and try to perfect my craft before the game,” Knight said. “I feel like I did a solid job preparing for it. The special teams, I give them all the credit. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to go out and perform like I performed.”

Knight finished the game with 188 rushing yards on 22 carries to go along with his performance on special teams.

The Eagles also scored on a 17-yard screen pass from Isaiah Wilson to Emon Roberts which gave Smyrna a 12-0 lead before halftime after it failed on both two-point conversion attempts.

Smyrna’s defense made sure that lead held up. The Sals only score came on a 20-yard rush by Carson Salvo when Smyrna gave them a short field after a fumble on the Eagles’ 23-yard line.

Desmond Wilson led the defense with a pair of sacks while Diron Accoo and Akil Garrett Jr. each recorded an interception.

“Desmond is a quality All-State defensive lineman who quietly does his work.” Judy said “He had a great game.”

“The scoreboard reflected the way the defense played,” Judy added. “Sallies is a super talented team and is very capable of winning a state championship with the players they have. We did a great job with their push.”

The Smyrna defense forced Salesianum to punt nine times and forced one turnover on downs.

The Eagles also held Salesianum to only four conversions on third down on 16 the Sals’ 16 attempts.

“We put in a lot of work at practice,” Desmond Wilson said. “It was working at practice, grinding at practice because every practice means something.

We executed our plays. We stepped it up a lot. “Coaches were telling us it was a playoff game. We’re not laying down for anyone. We had to go out there, execute and win the game.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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