Salesianum pulls away to hand inexperienced Smyrna 35-16 defeat

Smyrna head coach Mike Judy

SMYRNA — Smyrna High saw a glimpse into its future Friday night.

But the current inexperience reared its head in the fourth quarter.

Salesianum scored three touchdowns in the final 8:56 to deal the Eagles a 35-16 loss in nonconference football action. Smyrna dropped
to 2-6.

The Eagles were playing without All-State linebacker Debo Williams and No. 1 running back Stephen Whaley. Yet they led 16-14 entering
the fourth quarter.

“I wish we could’ve stolen one from Sallies but they are a better team right now,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy. “They deserved to
win. We just came up short in some big moments.”

The game changed when Smyrna forced a punt early in the fourth quarter. The ball bounced once before it grazed off a Smyrna player and Salesianum was able to dive on the loose ball.

Andrew Watkins then scored from 10 yards out on the next play to give the Sals the lead for a good. Smyrna also fumbled on the next drive which Salesianum’s Matthew Scott scooped up and took 40 yards for a touchdown.

With Whaley out the Eagles turned to freshman Wayne Knight to be their featured running back.

Knight carried the ball 23 times for 158 yards and a touchdown. He is the younger brother of 2018 Smyrna graduate Will Knight — a current player at Old Dominion and a two-time Delaware High School Offensive Player of the Year.

“Wayne gave us a great spark and great energy,” Judy said. “He made some big plays early. Sallies adjusted in the second half and did a good job on him. He did have some untimely errors but that’s very reminiscent of his older brother’s first game. The future is very bright for him.”

With Williams out, the Eagles were relying on 11 defensive players who did not start on varsity a year ago. Williams missed his second straight game since he got hurt late in the second quarter two weeks ago against Dover.

The defense improved its performance from last Friday when it allowed 61 points in a defeat at Sussex Tech.

“The thing I was most worried about was fighting for 48 minutes,” Judy said. “I didn’t think they did that at all last week. That was the main focus of playing this game and we fought. I’m really proud of them for that.”

“We had those injuries there two weeks ago which led to plugging in some inexperienced guys,” Judy added about the defense. “They got a game under their belt with Sussex Tech, which wasn’t a great outcome but then they had another week to practice, get coached up and get those reps. They got better as the game went on.”

Salesianum took a 14-0 lead before Smyrna responded in the second quarter.

Devin Smith scored the first touchdown when he caught a pass from Aidan Sanchez, made a few defenders miss and took it 43 yards for a touchdown. Knight then ran in the two-point conversion.

Knight put the Eagles ahead with a 5-yard run followed by another two-point conversion with 4:09 left in the second quarter. Smyrna’s defense held and forced a field goal attempt that the Sals missed and the Eagles led 16-14 at halftime.

Neither team scored in the third quarter as a heavy rainstorm moved through the area. The rain tapered off to start the fourth but Smyrna still botched the punt return after forcing a stop on the Sals’ first possession of the fourth.

Still, Judy was pleased with what he saw after the performance at Sussex Tech, especially from his senior class.

“They righted some wrong for me tonight,” Judy said. “Rule number one is you don’t go out on your back. If you die, you better die face-first in the muck. That’s what I tell them and they fought hard in that matter tonight. I want them to finish the season in that matter and have the best memories they can.”

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