Opening win huge boost as CR football team seeks improvement

CR co-captain Bailey DeAtley (32). (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

CAMDEN — By the time they stopped him, Appoquinimink High’s ballcarrier was perhaps just inches from the goal line.

Even middle linebacker Josh Windsor, who was in the pile of Caesar Rodney High defenders, didn’t know what the referees would call.

“It was close,” said the senior. “I got up and I wasn’t sure. I had to look around to see the fans’ reactions to find out.

“There was a second of uncertainty. After that, it felt really good.”

The officials ruled that the Riders had indeed stopped the Jaguars’ runner on a two-point conversion try to give the Riders a heart-stopping 21-20, double-overtime victory in their season opener last Friday night.

It was one small stop in football terms but it was one giant leap for CR.

The hard-fought win marked the first time that the Riders have won a season opener since 2012. It’s also the first time that CR has owned a winning record at any point in a season since 2013.

For a proud program desperately trying to get back to being a winner, the victory was at least a sign that things can be different.

The Riders (1-0) will try to make it two in a row when they host St. Georges (0-1) today at 7 p.m.

“It was something that we had talked about all summer, all preseason, about ‘Hey, we’ve got to start off on a positive note,’ ” said third-year coach Dan Candeloro. “I think we did that.
“We talked to the team about baby steps. We’re not even close to arriving where we want to be. We’ve got a lot of hard work to do. We just want to hopefully get better every week.”

CR co-captain Josh Windsor (35). (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

The one thing Candeloro likes about his squad is the number of leaders on the roster.

The two seniors who emerged as captains are Windsor and tight end Bailey DeAtley. The two were voted to the job by their teammates on the day before the opener.

“We didn’t pick captains until Thursday night last week because we just have a great bunch,” said Candeloro. “I was contemplating not even having captains — just picking weekly captains. It’s just been a good group and a good atmosphere to be around.

“Josh and Bailey are just two good, hard-working kids. They’ve put in the time, they’ve put in the work.”

This year’s seniors know it’s been a pretty rough stretch for the program.

CR’s varsity has gone just 5-25 since their freshman year.

But DeAtley, who was a first-team All-Henlopen Conference Northern Division tight end last fall, said the Riders have never lost hope that things will get better.

“We haven’t been winning and we kind of felt down,” said DeAtley. “But the program feels good this year.

“We had a really good fall camp,” he added. “I feel like we could do a lot better than last year. We kind of pushed it to a new max and became the team that came out on Friday night and won.”

CR head coach Dan Candeloro (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Usually a linebacker, the 5-foot-11, 150-pound DeAtley was lined up at defensive tackle alongside Jeremiah Brown on that dramatic two-point conversion stop against Appo. Linebacker Jackson Rall was also a key defender on the play.

“The guy spun me around and I turned around and I saw the ball,” DeAtley recalled. “It was either we win or we lose in that moment. I had butterflies. But knowing that we stopped him, it kind of just went away. It was exciting.”

The Riders, of course, haven’t had enough good moments like that lately.

“Last year, we went through a lot of bad games,” said Windsor. “It was rough every Friday night just going out there and losing like that.

“So it just felt really good to get a win and try to turn this program around. It’s a great program and we want to get it back to where it was.”

Considering how things have been for CR lately, this group of Riders always has something to prove.

They’ve lost two in a row to tonight’s opponent, St. Georges, which is coached by Cape Henlopen grad J.D. Maull.

On the other hand, there are also a lot of things that can be accomplished. After going just 1-9 last season, a victory tonight would already match the program’s win total for 2015 and for 2014.

“It’s our first home game of the season,” said Windsor. “We want to prove to the fans and to the whole community that we’re a different team — this is a whole new CR football team.

“I love our heart. I love how every day we just come out and practice hard. We may not be the biggest team in the state but we’re going to go out there every week and we’re going to play teams that think they’re better than us. Our heart is going to help us every play, every inch.”

Extra points

Radio station Delaware 105.9-FM will broadcast tonight’s Dover at Woodbridge game. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. … Milford games can be heard on ESPN 930-AM, 102.1-FM and www.espn930.com. … Smyrna’s opponent tonight, Franklin, Md., won its opener 52-0 but then lost its second game 36-0 to national power DeMatha of Washington, D.C. … In Woodbridge’s current 14-game winning streak, the Raiders own two wins over Division I programs. They’ll get a chance at a third one when they host Dover tonight. … The Senators, on the other hand, are trying to get to .500 for the first time since 2015. … Indian River is trying to start a season 2-0 for the first time since winning the Division II state title in 2011.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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