Smyrna healthy after physical win, eyes Colonials

21dsn Smyrna vs Mt Pleasant Football 008 by .

Smyrna QB Nolan Henderson missed only a few plays after sustaining a knee injury in last week’s playoff win. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

SMYRNA — The longer Nolan Henderson lay on the field, the more Smyrna High’s football fans started to worry.

The Eagles’ standout quarterback was trying to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-short in the Eagles’ Division I state tournament game with Mount Pleasant on Friday night.

But Henderson was hit short of the sticks and then lay there, face down.

“He was hurting.” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy. “We don’t want anyone to get injured. But when it’s a key ingredient to what we do …

“We’ve talked about it so many times, if he didn’t get back in the game, I knew what was going to happen next. Luckily we didn’t have to do it.”

After being helped off the field, Henderson did come out of the game but only for a few plays. He eventually shook off what was a left knee injury and led Smyrna to a 56-32 victory over Green Knights.

But there’s no question it was a physical contest.

A number of players had to be helped off the field during the three-hour-long game.

The good news for the third-seeded Eagles (10-1) as they get ready to play at No. 2 William Penn (9-1) in the DIAA Division I semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m. is the fact that Henderson and his teammates seem to have bounced back physically from their tourney opener.

On Tuesday the junior QB was running around just fine at practice.

“It was extremely physical — unreal,” Judy said about the Mount Pleasant game. “Any team that goes 7-3 in Flight A is going to be a good team. And they were a darn good team.”

Turkey anyone?  

For as long as Smyrna’s players can remember, ‘turkey dinner’ has been something of a rallying cry for the team.

The idea was always to still playing during Thanksgiving week.

“Since my freshman year, they always talked about ‘play 11 and then have turkey dinner with the team,’” said senior lineman Jeff Campbell.

“The whole season, he (Judy) always used turkey dinner as our goal,” said senior receiver Donte Ritchie. “We finally made that. I’m happy.”

The team will indeed have a team dinner on Friday after an afternoon practice, complete with turkey subs.

Turn out the lights

Saturday’s game at William Penn’s Bill Cole Stadium will offer something a little different for Smyrna — a day game played on real grass.

The contest will be the Eagles’ first afternoon game of the season. It will also be just their fourth game played on grass.

Judy was planning daytime practices this week to allow his players to adjust. He was also considering holding some practice sessions on a nearby grass field.

He wasn’t too worried, though.

“In the Sallies game, it didn’t slow us down a bit,” said Judy, referring to Smyrna’s 76-56 loss at Salesianum early in the season.

“We say, we’re a pretty fast team and William Penn is a pretty fast team. If we have to play on grass, we’ll both be a little bit slow. These kids surprise me. For being 15, 16 years old, they just don’t care. That’s just how they are.”

Smyrna notes

•Ritchie had a big game in the Eagles’ win over Mount Pleasant. The senior finished with six catches for 129 yards and four touchdowns.

•Teammate Charlie Taylor added 92 yards and a TD on four receptions.

•Along with returning an interception eight yards for a TD, Smyrna junior defensive back Jake Kaiser also recovered an onsides kick.

•When running back William Knight ran 75 yards for a touchdown in last Friday’s victory, it was his seventh scoring play of more than 50 yards
this season.

Extra points

Woodbridge, which faces St. Georges in the Division II semifinals, is one of only two schools in the 14-team Henlopen Conference that has never played in a football state championship game. Polytech is the other. … Delaware 105.9-FM and Delaware1059.com will broadcast the Woodbridge-St. Georges game. … The Ticket 1290-AM is planning to air the Smyrna-William Penn game … When Middeletown plays Salesianum in the first Division I semifinal on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Baynard Stadium, it will be the eighth time the two programs have met in the last five years. The Sals have won the last four meetings. … Between them, Sallies and Middletown have combined to win 14 state titles in football.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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