Senator defense eyes continued improvement

Eric Samuels makes a sack against Cape Henlopen

DOVER — Eric Samuels has made a lot of tackles from his defensive line position over the years.

But there’s one thing the Dover High senior loves more than that.

“Getting sacks,” Samuels said. “It feels good, doing whatever I can to help my team win.”

Samuels and the rest of the Dover defense are coming off a shutout last week at Cape Henlopen High.

The Senators are looking to extend their winning streak to three games when they travel to Milford tonight for a 7 p.m. Henlopen Conference Northern Division contest. Dover enters at 2-2 overall despite dropping its first two games.

After giving up a combined 83 points in the first two weeks of the year, Dover has only allowed seven points the past two games.

Rather than dwell on those two losses, to Hodgson and Salesianum, the Senators have used them as fuel to improve.

“It humbled us and showed us we’re not invincible,” said senior defensive back Jalen Hill. “It means we’re going to work even harder to get where we need to be.”

“I feel like the defense is buying into what we’ve got to do,” Samuels said. “We took two tough losses at the beginning of the season but we fought back off that and now we’re on a roll. Those games fixed our focus, everyone realized we had to work together and become a team more.”

Samuels and Hill play vastly different positions but they’re both vital to the Senator defense.

Both are in the top-five on the team in total tackles. Samuels has 26 on the years while Hill has recorded 25.

Dover coach Rudy Simonetti named Hill the defensive captain at the beginning of the season, meaning there is a lot on the senior’s plate.

“He’s almost like the quarterback of the secondary,” Simonetti said. “He’s got to make all the calls and all the checks depending on the formation that the opponent throws at us. It’s not easy for him because it’s pass-first but if they run the ball he comes up like a flying missile. Jalen is a tough, physical kid and he’ll hit you.”

“They trust me to be the captain so I have to make sure everyone is lined up in the right position,” Hill said. “We have to be on-point every time, 100 percent of the time.”

Defensive back is such a unique position in Delaware high school football, says Hill, mainly because how often teams run the ball. But Hill adds that selling out for the run isn’t always the best option.

“Delaware is really a running state so it can be easy to get sucked into the run and get hit with a pass deep,” Hill said. “You always got to make sure you’re keeping a clear head and you’re prepared, watching film so you know what’s going on and try to pick up tendencies that the quarterbacks and receivers have.”

Samuels is one of Dover’s primary pass rushers. He was a second team All-Henlopen North selection a year ago.

Samuels leads a pass rush in seniors Shamir Nelson, Sam Arkuwoille, Javonte Wayman and Tysean Nelson which also includes junior J.J. Kilby.

“I think the best pass coverage is your pass rush up front,” Simonetti said. “If we get our opponent into an obvious passing down, we like our chances with Eric up front.”

Samuels added he’s tried to take a more vocal role this season.

“This year I’ve tried to be more of a leader,” Samuels said. “I want to help out everyone around me and make sure everyone is getting better.”

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