Polytech tops CR 7-6 for first football victory over Riders in school history

WOODSIDE — In the end, it didn’t matter whether the margin was one point or 100.

The only thing that mattered to Polytech High’s football players was that they beaten rival Caesar Rodney.

Finally.

The Panthers notched the program’s first victory over the Riders in the school’s 26-year history by a score of just 7-6 before a big crowd on Friday night.

Both teams scored first-quarter touchdowns and then turned the Henlopen Northern Division battle over to their defenses, who were more than up for the challenge.

The only difference between the two neighboring Kent County squads was a missed PAT after CR’s TD. The missed kick was caused by a low snap that threw off the timing of the kick.
But it all added up to a special win for the Panthers (1-0 North, 3-1 overall), who won just one game in their two previous seasons.

“I know I’ve only been in Delaware for a short time, but I’ve seen how the rivalry is,” said Polytech coach Kevin Smith. “I’m very proud to be a part of it. But it’s all about the defense and the special teams and the kids and our fans.

“We had a lot of alumni back tonight so it’s for the Polytech people that have been here and stuck by us.”

“It feels amazing,” said senior safety Zion Downing. “We put in a lot of hard work over the summer and a lot of hard work over the season. We came out here and did what we’re supposed to do.”

CR (0-1 North, 2-2) limited the Panthers to just 106 net yards and seven first downs in the contest. But, on Polytech’s fourth offensive play, quarterback Vincent Tascione found senior receiver Douglas Reed for a 47-yard touchdown pass.

Tascione’s younger brother, Caleb, then kicked the extra point.

The Riders answered right back with a 12-play, 62-yard scoring drive of their own. Senior quarterback Jared Wagenhoffer, who started his high school career at Polytech, scored CR’s touchdown on a one-yard sneak.

The PAT kick, though, went wide right.

All told, the Panthers’ defense limited the Riders to only 196 yards and nine first downs.

The Riders’ best chance to take the lead came in the third quarter when they drove 23 yards to the Polytech 22. But Joseph Delgado’s 38-yard field-goal attempt went wide left.

The Panthers forced CR into a pair of second-half fumbles and kept Wagenhoffer under pressure when he tried to pass. Punter Tucker Reed also came through with several big kicks.

For the Riders, it was their third game this season decided by a single point. They won the first two of those contests, however.

Downing admitted it felt “like forever” that Polytech had to cling to its one-point advantage.

“We come out here and say our job is to stop the offense — no matter what the score is,” said Downing. “That’s what we did tonight.”

“We played phenomenal — 11 hats to the ball,” said Reed, who also plays cornerback. “That’s true Polytech spirit right there. It was a long time but we grinded through it and got the ‘W.’”

Smith credited his defensive coaching staff for the effort. That group includes Tom Smith, Cliff Hatch, Aaron Kellam, Chuck Knight, Montrell Jones and Austin Rains.

“They did a great job,” said Kevin Smith. “They bailed me out tonight. They did a great job in the second half. There was a couple times when we didn’t help them with field position and they dug in. We owe a lot to the defense tonight.

“It does give us confidence,” he said about the victory. “The kids believe. There’s been times in the short time I’ve been here where we’ve had games like this and we sort of fell short. It’s nice to see them grow up and pull out these wins.”

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