Knight’s late TD lifts Eagles by Knights 34-28

Smyrna sophomore Yamir Knight takes a handoff for a 1st quarter gain against Sussex Central Friday night. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

GEORGETOWN — As Wayne Knight plowed through the thick fog and the Sussex Central High defensive line simultaneously, the Smyrna High sideline let out an exuberant shout of celebration.

It was ugly at times and stressful throughout, but the Eagles were still pleased to earn this hard-fought victory.

“It boosts our confidence for us to be in a dogfight like this,” said Smyrna senior wide receiver Jermaine Earl. “This is a really good win that I think we can look back on and be happy about.”

Knight’s five-yard rushing touchdown broke a tie with 42 seconds left and gave Smyrna a 34-28 win at Sussex Central on Friday night in a Henlopen Conference Northern Division contest. The Eagles improved to 3-0 overall and in the Henlopen North.

Smyrna had to rally from a 28-20 deficit in the final eight minutes. A nine-play, 69-yard drive tied things up with 5:10 remaining after Knight capped the drive off with a 14-yard rushing touchdown and Yamir Knight followed with the two-point conversion.

Patrick Henry of Sussex Central wraps up Smyrna’s Yamir Knight to prevent him from breaking into the open.

Sussex Central responded with a 64-yard kickoff return from Phillip Stratton to put the Smyrna defense under immediate pressure.

But the Eagles found a way off the field. Senior linebacker Erik Larson led a charge of Eagles to stop Stratton a yard short on fourth-and-two to force a turnover on downs.

“It’s a team effort,” Larson said. “We work so hard in practice on defense and we got the best coaches and the coaches don’t give up on us. We went out there and made a play. I was reading our keys, it was a pitch and I just made a hit.”

With less than two minutes before overtime, Smyrna started its final drive with three consecutive runs by Wayne Knight.

Then it was Earl’s turn to make a play. He leapt for a catch on a seven-yard hitch route before spinning off his defender to create some separation.

By the time Earl was tackled, he had turned his short pass into a 67-yard reception and place the Eagles on the Sussex Central five-yard line. Knight scored on the next play for the lead.

“As we’re taught here, the ball is yours when it goes in the air,” Earl said. “I just went up aggressively, grabbed the ball and I felt him on my inside hip so I turned outside and there was nothing but green grass. Everything was in slow motion. In the game, it’s a lot of build-up and hype just waiting for that one play to happen and God put me in position to make that play.”

Eagle quarterback Aidan Sanchez keeps the ball and looks for running room in the second quarter.

The Smyrna defense then forced back-to-back intentional grounding penalties to help seal the victory in the waning seconds.
Aidan Sanchez threw for a pair of touchdowns to lead the Eagle offense — one to Devin Smith and one to Yamir Knight. Wayne Knight threw for a touchdown of his own, to Earl on a trick play, to go along with his two rushing touchdowns.
Sussex Central was led by Stratton’s three rushing touchdowns and one from Dion Stephens.

“The plan didn’t go the way we planned but Central never lets you execute your plan the way you want to,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy. “That’s because those guys are good coaches and they have good kids. When they set out to do something, they’re pretty darn good at doing it. They always make you work to score, they always establish the run and if they establish the run it’s going to be a long night. But I hope the kids understand that sometimes you got to win ugly and it’s still a win.”