Packed house on tap: Smyrna hosts Sallies Friday night in title rematch

Smyrna head coach Mike Judy and his Eagles celebrate their 32-26 overtime win over Salesianum for the 2015 Division I state football championship. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Smyrna head coach Mike Judy and his Eagles celebrate their 32-26 overtime win over Salesianum for the 2015 Division I state football championship. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

SMYRNA — The game Delaware high school football fans have been waiting for is finally here.

Sure, it’s just Week Three, but chances are tonight will be the biggest crowd to witness a game ever at Smyrna High.

It is a rematch of the Division I state championship game between Smyrna and Salesianum, a game people have been looking forward to since last December. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m.

“We can’t wait,” said Smyrna senior quarterback Nolan Henderson. “We’re very excited.”

Smyrna’s Will Knight scores the winning touchdown in overtime against Salesianum in last year’s state championship game. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Smyrna’s Will Knight scores the winning touchdown in overtime against Salesianum in last year’s state championship game. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Smyrna and Salesianum had a pair of epic encounters in 2015.

The first was a wild, 76-56 Salesianum win during the regular season at Baynard Stadium. The Eagles got their chance at a rematch in the state championship at Delaware Stadium, upsetting the Sals 32-26 in overtime on a defensive stop on fourth-and-goal from the one.

Smyrna is expecting such a large crowd it is bringing in some extra bleachers to its 6,000-seat stadium and the gates will open at 5:30 p.m., 30 minutes earlier than usual.

Both teams enter the contest at 2-0. Smyrna has a pair of blowout wins — 56-0 over Delcastle and 64-16 over Appoquinimink, while Salesianum defeated Father Judge (Pa.), 16-13 in its opener and shut out Caesar Rodney 24-0 last week.

Some of the central figures from last year are back, especially on the Smyrna side. Henderson is still at quarterback, and Will Knight — who scored the game-winning touchdown in the state championship — returns, as does linebacker Eli Hutchinson. It was Hutchinson’s tackle that stuffed Salesianum’s Colby Reeder in the backfield on the final play of last year’s state title game.

Linebacker Eli Hutchinson (38) tackles Salesianum’s Colby Reeder short of the goal line to end the Division I title game. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Linebacker Eli Hutchinson (38) tackles Salesianum’s Colby Reeder short of the goal line to end the Division I title game. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Salesianum still boasts its vaunted offensive line and returns Zach Gwynn at quarterback. Gwynn made his first varsity start in the state championship after Sallies’ No. 1 QB Garrett Cannon broke his ankle in the state semifinals. Gwynn ended up contributing three touchdowns in the title game.

Reeder graduated and now plays for the University of Delaware, where he will be teammates with Henderson in 2017. Reeder put on a dazzling display in the regular season game last year, rushing for more than 400 yards and scoring seven touchdowns as both teams lit up the Baynard Stadium scoreboard.

“I would fully expect it to be even more than a playoff atmosphere game,” Smyrna coach Mike Judy said before the season. “I fully expect Sallies to be just as good as they were, if not better this year. I know they lost a great player in Colby Reeder but coach (Bill) DiNardo and his wily veteran ways will always have those guys prepared and ready to go.”

Smyrna does bring maybe the most important new face to this budding rivalry in junior running back Leddie Brown.

Brown transferred to Smyrna after two years at the now defunct Eastern Christian Academy. He gives the Eagles another weapon to pair with Knight, whether they both line up in the backfield or if one moves to the slot.

Brown has seven touchdowns in his first two games for the Eagles.

“He adds size, speed and energy,” Henderson said. “It’s amazing what he can do and it’s fun to be on his team.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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