Rivals Dover, CR clash Thursday night: Host Riders can make D-I tourney with win

Javon Peace of Dover. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — No matter what happens tonight, Caesar Rodney High’s football team has already made a remarkable turnaround.

After winning a total of just five games over the last three seasons — including only one victory a year ago — the Riders already own six wins this fall.

But if CR can beat rival Dover tonight, that would really make this a storybook season.

A victory over the Senators (1-4 Henlopen North, 2-7 overall) would not only give the Riders’ senior class its first victory over Dover, it would put CR (3-2, 6-3) in the

CR quarterback Jared Wagenhoffer. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DIAA Division I state tournament for the first time since 2013.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Camden. The contest is one of three Henlopen Conference contests on tap for tonight because schools are closed for Veterans Day on Friday.

“Going into this one it’s not, ‘Hey, let’s end the season on a good note,’” said Riders’ coach Dan Candeloro. “‘Let’s end the season on a great note.’

“The message was, ‘If you want to go (to the state tourney), you’ve got to win. Period. If you don’t win, you’re out. So practice like this is our first playoff game.’ … We’re one and done now. Dover’s in a spot where they can spoil a lot of things.”

Indeed, despite its two-win season, Dover has won the last three meetings with CR. A fourth-straight victory would give the Senators their longest winning streak in the series since taking five in a row between 1969-73.

CR head coach Dan Candeloro has seen the Riders turn things around this fall. Delaware Sate News/Marc Clery

Dover leads the all-time rivalry, 33-29-4.

The Riders say they know better than to judge the Senators simply on their record.

“Whether they’re a 9-0 team or an 0-9 team, it’s still going to be a battle,” said CR senior quarterback Jared Wagenhoffer. “So, we definitely have to go out there and fight and we’ve got to prepare.”

“I think if you go 1-9 and you beat Dover, they say you have a good season,” said Riders’ senior linebacker Josh Windsor. “It’s a big rivalry, we care about it. This is our Super Bowl.”

Dover head football coach Rudy Simonetti. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

CR goes into tonight’s game riding a four-game winning streak. Since a 7-6 loss to Polytech on Sept. 29, the Riders have scored an average of 29.8 points per game.

They’ve also allowed seven points or less in four of their nine games.

The Senators have proven they can score, too. Led by sophomore running back Javon Peace and junior quarterback Jordan Magee, Dover has tallied at least 20 points in eight of nine games this year while averaging 26.1 points per contest.

“They’ve got a lot of skill,” Candeloro said about the Senators. “And they’ve only grown during the season — just like we have.

“Javon Peace is a great ballplayer. If he gets out in space, he’s dangerous. He makes good reads. The quarterback is a great player, the line is big and physical. Defensively, they’re big up front. They do some good things. It’s a dangerous team with a lot of incentive.”

The Dover Senators rush out onto the field to open their 2017 season with Archmere Academy. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

For the Riders, this season has clearly been more fun than the last couple.

That’s certainly the case for senior defensive lineman Jeremiah Brown, who only transferred to CR this fall. This is his first season playing organized football.

But even Brown can tell the Riders have some momentum now.

“You can feel the energy,” he said. “You don’t want to say it’s like magic — it sounds too cliche. But, yeah, it’s almost like magic. It’s something special.”
Now CR’s players want to see if they can stretch their season out to include at least one more game.

“This time last year we were still a very young team,” said Windsor. “We were still learning how to work together. I think being together for so long now has really helped us.

CR’s Julian Trammell. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“It’s really hard to think about. If you win this game, you’re in (the state tournament). That’s the mentality we have. We’ve been in the playoffs since week six — we’ve got to win every game. We can’t afford to lose.

“This is a big game for us but we’re going to just treat it like another game.”

Extra points

• The other downstate games being played tonight are Sussex Central at Indian River and Laurel at Seaford. Both contests start at 7 p.m.

• Delaware Radio 105.9-FM is broadcasting Friday night’s Woodbridge-at-Delmar Henlopen South showdown. The Lake Forest-Milford ‘Battle of the Bell’ can be heard on ESPN 930-AM and 102.1-FM (www.espn930.com).

• The DIAA Division I and II state tournament brackets will be determined on Sunday and will be available on www.delawarestatenews.net when they’re released.

• After scoring a combined 128 points in its first seven games, Lake Forest has totaled 100 points in just its last two contests.

• Delmar goes into its South showdown with Woodbridge having lost its last two meetings with the Raiders.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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