Smyrna has to hold its ground vs. Sallies

Now a senior defensive lineman for the Eagles, Masen Wilson and his Smyrna teammates will get their own chance at knocking off Sallies tonight. Delaware State News file photo

SMYRNA — Masen Wilson was in the Delaware Stadium stands that afternoon.

An eighth-grader at the time, his big brother, Larsen, and his Smyrna High football teammates were trying to win a Division I state title on Dec. 5, 2015.

And, like every other Eagles’ fan, he can still see linebacker Elijah Hutchinson bursting through the line to drop Salesianum’s Colby Reeder for the stop that gave Smyrna its first state crown with a dramatic 32-26 OT victory.

“I just remember seeing everybody all happy and celebrating,” said Masen.

Now a senior defensive lineman for the Eagles, Wilson and his Smyrna teammates will get their own chance at knocking off Sallies tonight.

While there’s not a state crown on the line, hosting the unbeaten Sals (3-0) at 7 p.m. is a pretty big game for the Eagles (1-2) as they try to get back into state title contention.

If Smyrna is going to beat Sallies, it’s probably going to need a big game from its revamped defensive front. Wilson, Hugo Harp and Walter Dorcelus are all seniors who are playing new roles for the Eagles this fall.

Because the group is so new playing together, defensive coordinator Dan Wagner said it’s been fun to watch how far they’ve come just in three games.

“They had so much to learn coming in that the progress is 100 percent daily,” said Wagner. “What’s the phrase? We don’t try to eat the elephant all in one bite. We’re trying to take small bites so any technique progress that we can see each day is a win.”

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Wilson was a linebacker until switching to defensive end/tackle this season. He said it’s been an adjustment.

“After a couple games this season I’m starting to feel more comfortable on the ‘D’ line,” said Wilson. “When you’re at linebacker, you kind of see everything in front of you. But, when you’re on the ‘D’ line, you just see one person in front of you and you’ve got to fight through and get to the ball.”

Harp is a 5-foot-10, 220-poud nose guard who transferred from Dover. He was also a two-time wrestling state champion at 220 pounds for the Senators.

His wrestling skills come in handy on the football field.

“I just love being in the trenches,” said Harp. “I love being face-to-face, (in) one-on-one action. I love it.

“I’d say we catch on kind of quick,” he said about the defensive line. “The chemistry just comes along with it. … A lot of us, we got over that nervousness in like the first two weeks. I can see the progression in the team.”

As for Dorcelus, he’s moved up to a starting role at defensive end this season after being a backup last season.

At 5-foot-11, 205, he’s not as big as some of Smyrna’s other linemen. But he’s holding his own.

“I feel I need to be more confident in my play,” said Dorcelus. “I can see the progression (of the line) over time. We’re definitely going to get better.

“I like the chemistry — how we understand each other, how each other plays.”

Tonight’s contest may be as big a test as the Eagles’ defensive front faces all season.

Sallies is averaging 40.3 points per game. Like is often the case, the Sals try to keep the ball on the ground, keeping the opposing offense on the sidelines and eating up precious minutes.

“If you can’t get them off the field, you don’t really have a shot,” said Wagner.

A year ago, Sallies downed Smyrna, 35-16, on its way to the Division I state finals. The Eagles had beaten the Sals three years in a row.

“I think we’ve got to stop the run and make them pass the ball a lot more, for sure,” said Dorcelus.

“We’ve got to be focused on every play,” said Harp. “What I see in Sallies, they learn from their mistakes and they will definitely take advantage of our mistakes. We can’t mess up.”

Masen Wilson is the youngest of four Wilson brothers who have all played football at Smyrna. He knows this is a big game for the Eagles.

“It’s a little bit more than just a game,” said Wilson. “I think if we can just stop the run, I think we’ll be in a good position to win. We can’t let them chew the clock.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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