Middletown pounds three-time Division I state champion Smyrna 41-20 in season opener

Middletown’s Najair Smith is congratulated by his teammates after a first quarter touchdown against Smyrna. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

SMYRNA — The Smyrna High football team went through this last year.

Despite a loss in the season opener against Middletown, the Eagles came back and won the state championship, defeating the same Cavaliers in the final.

They can only hope this year follows the same script.

Middletown came into Smyrna and left with a 41-20 victory over the three-time defending state champions on Friday night as the high school football season kicked off around the state.

With numerous players seeing their first varsity start on Friday, Smyrna coach Mike Judy said he thinks the Eagles will be a different version of themselves later in the year with more experience under their belts.

“We’ll be a different football team because honestly I’m not sure how much worse we could look,” Judy said. “We’ll get them right at practice. We’re very green and have some guys playing for the first time but at the end of it I think it’s a game that makes those young guys better.

“A lot of those young guys we have in the program have only seen undefeated seasons or state championships,” Judy added. “They need to realize it’s hard to win a football game. So this is good, it shows them you got to work harder than you think for the outcome to be better.”

Najair Smith scored three rushing touchdowns to pace the Cavaliers. Middletown was also led by Drew Fry, who threw for a pair of touchdowns and rushed for another.

The Cavaliers went up 35-14 at halftime and held Smyrna scoreless in the third quarter to pull away.

Senior Stephen Whaley rushed for two scores to pace the Eagles. Sophomore Aidan Sanchez, making his first varsity start at quarterback, threw for one touchdown to fellow sophomore Devin Smith.

Middletown’s Najair Smith finds an open hole on his first touchdown run against Smyrna. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Middletown pounced on the Eagles right away when Ryan Fields forced a fumble on a handoff on Smyrna’s first play from scrimmage.
Smith then rushed 31 yards for a touchdown on the next play, just 21 seconds into the contest.

Smith scored again on the first play of Middletown’s next drive with a 75-yard touchdown.

“We spotted them 14 points right away,” Judy said. “They had 14 points before we even made a single tackle. That’s telling. It doesn’t take a genius to say we need to get better at tackling.”

Smyrna inched back when Sanchez completed his first pass of the game for 13 yards. The Eagles then switched to their earthquake formation for the rest of the drive as Whaley gained 45 yards on the drive, capped off by his touchdown from a yard out.

Later in the first half, Smyrna stopped the Cavaliers four times from inside the three-yard line for a turno-ver on downs. The next play was a safety though and Smith scored another rushing touchdown on the next Middletown drive.

Sanchez connected with Smith on a 27-yard touchdown to draw within 22-14 with 3:44 remaining in the second quarter but Middletown answered with two touchdowns before halftime.

Middletown QB Drew Fry tries to rush for a TD against Smyrna in the second quarter. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“There were way too many mistakes mentally of people not being where they were supposed to be,” Judy said. “That falls on me. I’ll take care of that this week and we’ll be ready for the next game.”

Judy said he managed this game a little differently than he would have if it were a playoff game. There were instances he wanted to test his new players instead of playing it safe.

One of those instances was when Middletown had a holding penalty on third down at the Smyrna two, but he declined it, setting up the fourth-and-short instead of third-and-long. The Eagles rewarded his faith with that goal-line stand.

“This was like a scrimmage almost because we only had one scrimmage on our schedule,” Judy said. “It’s hard to get scrimmages, it’s hard to get games. This was only the second live action that we had. Obviously it’s a young team when you look through the roster and we needed more before we got to this game. But hey, Middletown, they look good like we thought they would and we got a lot of work to do.”

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