Sophomore running back Peace emerges as big weapon for Senators

Dover’s Javon Peace has scored 12 touchdowns this season, including 10 on the ground. He’s run for 739 yards on 71 carries with 16 catches for 181 yards. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

DOVER — Javon Peace remembers the first time he saw Will Knight put on a show.

Peace was only an eighth-grader while Knight was a sophomore running back for Smyrna High’s football team.

Knight, as is often the case, seemed unstoppable that night, scoring five touchdowns against Dover on the Senators’ home field.

“I was like, ‘Man, I want to be just like that,’” admitted Peace, now a sophomore running back for Dover. “When he posts (highlight) videos, I comment with emojis or something like that.

“He’s great,” said Peace. “I admire him a lot.”

No one is saying that Peace is in the same class as Knight, now a senior who may end up accumulating more yards and points than any player in Delaware high school football history.

But, for a youngster, Peace isn’t bad.

And tonight, Peace will get to share the field with Knight when Dover (0-2 North, 1-5 overall) hosts Smyrna (3-0 North, 4-2 overall) at 7 p.m. in a Henlopen Conference Northern Division matchup.

Senators’ coach Rudy Simonetti thinks the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Peace is turning into a pretty special player in his own right.

Like last Friday, Peace scored three TDs in a 36-21 loss at Sussex Tech.

One touchdown came on an 85-yard screen pass from quarterback Jordan Magee while another came on an 82-yard kickoff return.

“I think he’s kind of exceeded our expectations at running back,” said Simonetti. “He’s been a pleasant surprise as far as the things he’s been able to do as a sophomore.

“It’s good to have that homerun threat. He reminds me of Barry Sanders out there with some of the moves that he does. He’s an explosive player — and a different type of explosive player that what we’ve had here in the past. We’re happy to have him.

“He has that ability to turn nothing into something,” Simonetti added. “From any point on the field he can score.”

While Peace started right away as a freshman at cornerback, the Senators worked him onto the field more slowly on offense. But he showed a glimpse of what he could when he scored a pair of touchdowns in Dover’s season-ending, 27-17 win over Caesar Rodney last November.

Then, Peace started off his sophomore year with a big night in a 36-30 loss to Archmere. He scored all four Dover touchdowns, running for 231 yards on only 16 carries.

With Magee sidelined by an injury, Peace often just lined up behind center in a wildcat formation. He scored on runs of 65, 50 and 30 yards.

That included one run where he limped the final 20 yards after cramping up in the heat.

“He played out of his mind,” Simonetti said after the game. “That last touchdown he kicked into a gear that I think he wasn’t even sure he had. He’s a player. I’m really proud of him and what he did.”

For the season, Peace has scored 12 touchdowns, including 10 on the ground. He’s run for 739 yards on 71 carries with 16 catches for 181 yards.

Peace was just 14 and stood only about 5-8, 152 when he played his first varsity game last fall. The season ended up being a great learning experience for him, though.

“I was nervous like my first three games,” Peace admitted. “But, after that, I got comfortable. I was just like, I have to man up to it. I’m young, but I’m on varsity for a reason.”

“I’ve been coaching 12 years now just about,” said Simonetti. “I don’t like pushing freshmen up to varsity so you really have to knock my socks off to get a promotion up like that. But, athletically, he did.”

Simonetti said Smyrna’s Knight is in a class by himself — “There’s only one Will Knight. He’s the best in the state.”

But, with over half his high school career still in front of him, Simonetti is excited to see what Peace can become. He’s got a chance to do his share of special things at Dover before he’s done.

“He’s been a leader for us as well as one of our top guys on the field,” said Simonetti. “And he’ll mature even more and become an even bigger leader next year. … I’m happy for him, I know he’ll keep his head focused and on straight, keeping his eye on the prize.”

But Peace isn’t giving up on trying to help the Senators win some more games this season, either. He wants to send Dover’s seniors out with some more good experiences.

“This season wasn’t the best because we had a lot of injuries at the beginning of the season,” said Peace. “These last four games, we’re going to try to win those for the seniors. “

Extra points

• Radio station Delaware 105.9-FM is carrying the Polytech at Sussex Central North matchup tonight. WDEL (1150-AM/101.7-FM) will air the Smyrna-Dover game.

The Cape Henlopen-Milford contest can he heard on ESPN 930-AM/102.1-FM.

• With 5,610 career rushing yards, Smyrna’s Will Knight is 591 yards shy of what is believed to be the state rushing record. That mark, of 6,201 yards, is held by former Laurel workhorse Chris Jones.

Knight is averaging 256,8 yards per game this season and has scored 20 TDs in the five games he’s suited up for.

• Caesar Rodney had a pair of 100-yard rushers in last Friday’s 27-6 win over Cape Henlopen: Kevin Robinson (7 carries-104 yards) and Julian Trammell (10-102).

• Milford clearly made itself a prime contender for the Henlopen South title by snapping Woodbridge’s 18-game winning streak last week. But Delmar (5-1) will also have something to say about the South race when it closes the regular season by hosting Milford and then Woodbridge.

• With three shutouts, Milford is giving up only 7.6 points per game.

• Seaford’s 32-20 win over Indian River last Friday snapped a 31-game Henlopen South losing streak for the Blue Jays that dated to 2012.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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