Smyrna community toasts school’s second straight football title

Over the last two seasons, coach Mike Judy’s Smyrna Eagles are 24-1 with a pair of state titles. They made it two in a row with a 36-14 win over Middletown on Saturday. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

NEWARK — Everything about the moment was still just as big.

Indeed, Smyrna High football coach Mike Judy felt like there might have been even more fans in Delaware Stadium than there were the year before.
The atmosphere alone made last Saturday’s DIAA Division I state championship game, between Smyrna and Middletown, feel like something special.

“Championship game or not, that’s the game you want to play in,” said Judy. “You turn around, and the huge stands are packed with your team colors. And you look across the way and their huge stands are almost packed with your opposition’s colors.

“You talk about getting kids juiced up about playing a game. … they walk out into that stadium and the crowd roars. It’s definitely a diffierent feel.”

What happens in a game like that will be remembered for a long time, too.

Certainly, this year’s Smyrna football squad earned its own place in the town’s history by outdueling the rival Cavaliers, 36-14, to capture its second straight Division I state crown last Saturday.

The hard-earned victory capped off a perfect 12-0 season for the Eagles and stretched their winning streak to 22 straight games since last September.

Just like in 2015, when Smyrna earned the program’s first state championship, the Eagles stormed through their season in dominating fashion.

Smyrna won its 12 games by an average margin of 36.7 points per contest. The Eagles’ 22-14 comeback win at Sussex Central on Oct. 22 marked the only time they failed to win by double digits.

Smyrna also became the first Henlopen Conference school to win back-to-back state championships in Division I football.

Smyrna fans cheer during the Division l state finals against Middletown at Delaware Stadium. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

More than numbers, though, Judy said it’s the reaction of the community that makes winning a football state crown so satisfying.

“You feel like you celebrated with the entire town,” said Judy. “You felt like everybody was there. It was sweet.

“The best part is people convey how happy they are and how proud they are of the kids. We do something that we love to do. People outside the program, you don’t realize how invested they are. They are in tears about it. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Of course, at the heart of a state-championship season is usually a talented group of seniors.

Smyrna celebrates a TD in the Division l state finals. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Smyrna had only nine seniors on this year’s squad but they all played key roles in one way or another. That group will get to graduate with some pretty special memories of their last high school season.

“I’m really proud of this team,” said Judy. “And most importantly, I’m really proud of these seniors. They really stepped up to the occasion to take over that leadership role.

“Going into this one, we’d already gotten over the hump and won one before,” added the third-year head coach. “This time our team was just really focused on competing — and not in that ‘shock-the-world’ mentality. We felt like we were in a good spot and it was time to handle our business.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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