Senators battle to the end

Dover’s Tyrese Sanabria goes around left end for a short gain before being stopped by Duece Rzucidlo of Salesianum. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — With an inexperienced squad coupled with a pair of tough opponents, Rudy Simonetti knew it might be difficult for Dover High to win either of its first two games.

It was.

But the Senators also came away from their 21-9 loss to Salesianum on Friday night still feeling like they had the makings of a good football team.

After digging itself an 18-point halftime hole, Dover (0-2) out-scored the Sals, 6-0, in the second half before falling short in its home opener.

“I feel like we played better (in the second half) but there’s always room to improve,” said senior linebacker/fullback Qualeak Bumbrey. “That’s our mistake when we come out too soft. We’ve just got to put more points on the board.

Dover’s Qualeak Bumbrey takes a handoff from Jordan Moran with Deuce Rzucidlo of Sallies breaking through for a stop. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“Sallies, they’re a downhill team. They’re big strong boys. They listen to their coach — they’re all technique. I give the most respect to them. They play as a team.”

Dover, which beat Sallies in the 1988 Division I state championship game, hasn’t had much success against the Sals since. The Senators are now 0-7 against Sallies since 2009.

“We played a full four quarters tonight,” said Simonetti. “We still have mistakes to work out and that’s a good football team over there obviously. I was really proud of our fight tonight. … We battled to the end.”

James Yelbert and Jack Simond of Sallies closes in on Dover quarterback Joran Moran on a keeper in the first quarter. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

The Senators actually led 3-0 in the first quarter after Jordan Moran hit a 25-yard field goal. Dover recovered a Sallies’ punt at its 32 and reached the Sals’ nine before settling for the three points.

But on the ensuing kickoff, Sallies (1-1) opened a big hole for returner Mashon Tiller and he sprinted 95 yards for a touchdown that gave the Sals the lead for good.

Sallies’ advantage eventually grew to 21-3 when tailback Cooper Brown scored on a pair of short runs after Dover turnovers. The scoring drives covered only 30 and 25 yards.

The Senators had a chance to get back in the game in the third quarter when a high punt snap by the Sals ended up in the end zone. Dover’s Kareem Kaba recovered the ball for a touchdown that pulled the Senators within 21-9 with 3:25 still remaining in the third quarter.

But Dover never got any closer.

The Senators were limited to 127 yards of offense. Moran completed 17-of-33 passes for 99 yards with a pair of interceptions.

Including last week’s loss to Smyrna, Dover has scored only 16 points so far this season.

“I saw a lot of good from our offense tonight,” said Simonetti. “Jordan was aggressive — which we wanted him to be. We’ve just got to work out some things. Every day is a learning process.”

Dover is the first of three Henlopen North teams on the schedule for the Sals, who threatened a lawsuit at one point if they couldn’t fill their seven-game slate. Sallies still has to face Smyrna and Sussex Central.

The Senators face only Henlopen North teams the rest of the way, starting with a game at Sussex Tech next Friday night.

“Like my coach said, we feel like we can go 5-2 — flip the script,” said Bumbrey.

“Like I said at the beginning of the season, we’re young an inexperienced,” said Simonetti. “Every game is a learning experience for us.

“I’m obviously not happy with the score. Now we’ve got to put together a full four quarters and get the ‘W.’ … We’re working really hard and we’ve improved.”