Senators roll past rival Riders: Peace scores 5 TDs in 41-2 rout as 9-1 Dover earns tourney berth

Dover’s Javon Peace rushes for a second quarter touchdown against Caesar Rodney Friday night. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Dover High was playing well enough to lead Caesar Rodney by 12 points at halftime.

But, especially after ending the first half by being stopped on back-to-back plays from the one, the Senators weren’t exactly dominating the Riders, either.

With Vonnie Peace in the backfield, though, Dover is always just a play away from breaking things open.

Peace left nothing to chance, scoring three of his five touchdowns in the second half as the Senators pulled away to a 41-2 victory over CR in the regular season-ending rivalry football game on a drizzly Friday night.

The junior running back ran for 337 yards on just 18 carries as Dover (5-1 Henlopen North, 9-1 overall) sewed up the program’s first DIAA Division I state tournament berth since 2013. The Senators still have a shot at a first-round bye when the tourney pairings come out on Sunday.

“I feel like we came out sluggish, came out too slow,” said Peace. “Everybody wasn’t all in. But once we got that (halftime) speech, we just turned it up after that.

“They (the coaches) were just saying, if we want to compete in the playoffs, we can’t play down, we can’t play to the competition. … We’ve got to excel. We capable of doing way better than this.”

Riders QB James Love gets swarmed by Dover defenders.

“We had a little heart-to-heart at halftime,” said coach Rudy Simonetti. “I said last week, throw the records out the window. CR came ready to play. We just had to play better.

“But we did. We corrected some things at the half and we got it going a little bit.”

The goal-line stand to end the first half gave some life to the Riders (2-4 North, 5-5 overall), who trailed only 14-2 at intermission.

On just the third play of the second half, however, Peace sprinted away on a 71-yard TD run that gave Dover a more-comfortable 20-2 advantage.

In the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Michael Carrington found senior tight end Christopher Dabney wide open for a 23-yard scoring pass before Peace capped off his big night with touchdown runs of 38 and 68 yards.

“They’re good, they’re explosive,” CR coach Dan Candeloro said about the Senators. “He (Peace) is a heck of a back. And then you throw (QB Jordan) Magee in there, who do you stop? Then there’s four or five others that are just as good.

Dover’s Javon Peace rushes for a second quarter touchdown against CR.

“They can score from anywhere at any time.”

“His acceleration through the hole is just unreal,” Simonetti said about Peace. “He’s a special player — a special young man, too.”

Dover, which now leads the all-time series, 33-30-4, was also pretty good on defense. The Senators allowed only 119 yards and six first downs — with 61 of those yards and three first downs coming on CR’s first drive of the night.

The Riders’ only points came on a first-quarter safety when Dover snapped the ball out of the end zone. It was just the second time since 2001 that CR failed to scored a TD against the Senators.

“I thought we played as one,” said Dover junior defensive tackle Shamir Nelson, who had several tackles for loss. “We came out a little slow but we picked it up gradually. … It feels good to be 9-1.”

Senators quarterback Jordan Magee rushes against the Riders in the second quarter.

While finishing .500 isn’t what the Riders wanted after going to the state tourney a year ago, it also gives CR back-to-back non-losing seasons for the first time since 2013. Candeloro had to play a lot of young players on Friday because of injuries.

“That’s no excuse,” he said. “In the Henlopen North, we just beat each other up every week. It was just a battle. But that doesn’t take anything away from Dover.”

Last fall, CR went from 1-9 to 7-3. The Senators made a similar jump this season, going from 2-8 to 9-1 — the program’s first nine-win regular season since 2001.

But they want to accomplish more than that. That’s why Simonetti wants his players looking ahead, not behind them at what they just accomplished.

“It’ll take a lot of mental focus,” said Peace. “A lot of reps, a lot of practice, a lot of film — a lot of everything. We can’t take anybody for granted. We’ve just got to keep it going.”

“We’re just happy to be in it and have this opportunity,” Simonetti said about the state tournament.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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