Smyrna downs Tech, takes control of Henlopen North

18dsn Smyrna vs ST Football 002SMYRNA — With each Nolan Henderson pass, each Will Knight touchdown and each defensive stop, the Henlopen Conference Northern Division football race became clearer and clearer.

The Smyrna High Eagles are in the driver’s seat.

Henderson threw four touchdowns, Knight rushed for a pair and the Eagles cruised to a 42-0 victory over defending conference champions Sussex Tech on Saturday night in what was a meeting of the only two teams who were unbeaten in the Henlopen North.

“It’s huge not just for the program but for the Smyrna-Clayton community,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy. “This town has a winning tradition dating way back in football and in wrestling. Football hasn’t been toeing the line like we should. I feel like we’re doing them justice now by playing our hearts out.”

This was a far cry from last year’s contest when the Eagles were humbled 51-14 by Sussex Tech. The Ravens went on to finish the season undefeated in Henlopen North play and finished the year with a berth in the state semifinals.

That result was fresh in Smyrna’s mind on Saturday. The coaches had hung a picture from last season’s game in the Eagle locker room this week.

“I give a shout out to the coaches,” said senior defensive back Rodney Ruff. “That motivated us. We had to prove a point.”

“It feels good to get redemption,” Henderson, a junior, said.

Smyrna’s offense was its usual self behind its spread attack.18dsn Smyrna vs ST Football 001

The Smyrna defense is what pleased Judy the most. The Eagles held firm twice on fourth and goal situations to prevent Sussex Tech from scoring and Jake Kaiser recovered a fumble late in the fourth quarter to preserve the shutout.

Not only did the Eagles give up 51 points to Tech in last year’s matchup, but they are still just three weeks removed from allowing 76 to Salesianum in a 76-56 loss. But Saturday showed that while Smyrna is known for its offense, it can play some defense against a team who had won its last nine games against Henlopen North competition.

“I don’t like when people say spread teams are soft,” Judy said. “We’re pretty far from a soft team in all facets of our game. That gave us fuel for the fire all week long.”

“We were flying to the ball,” Ruff said. “This year we really had to prove a point. I think we proved a point to the whole Henlopen North.”

“Our defense did amazing today,” Henderson said. “They made some big plays with fourth down stops at the goal-line and they showed up tonight.”

Henderson spread the wealth on his passes. Charlie Taylor caught five passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns, Brandon Bishop had four receptions for 119 yards and a score while Donte Ritchie recorded 92 yards on three catches with one touchdown.

Henderson finished with 393 yards on 18-of-29 attempts.

Knight shook off an early injury to rack up 165 yards rushing. He sat out three plays on Smyrna’s second drive after he hurt his thigh when a helmet banged into it on a tackle.18dsn Smyrna vs ST Football 003

He had to come out of the game for a few plays here and there for treatment, but while he seemed in pain on the sidelines it did not affect his play on the field.

“He’s a super tough kid and you almost have to pry the truth out of him at times,” Judy said. “Hopefully it’s just a bruise, he came back out and still put up good yardage.”

The Eagles still have Henlopen North foes Sussex Central, Caesar Rodney, Cape Henlopen and Polytech remaining on their schedule.

“Those games are just as big as this game,” Henderson said.

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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