From the Sports Editor: CR, Dover set to tip off hoop season Friday

The high school fall sports season will reach its crescendo on Saturday with the DIAA Division I and II football state championship games.

But the winter season also kicks quickly into high gear on Friday night.

And the Henlopen Conference schedule-makers made things especially interesting by having Caesar Rodney and Dover High open the basketball season against each other.

The boys’ game is at CR with the girls’ contest at Dover. Both varsity games are slated to tip off at 7:15 p.m.

Coach Stephen Wilson’s Dover boys’ basketball team went 17-4 last winter. (Delaware State News file photo)

Coach Stephen Wilson’s Dover boys’ basketball team went 17-4 last winter. (Delaware State News file photos)

Neither CR boys’ coach Freeman Williams or Senators’ coach Stephen Wilson can remember the two Henlopen North rivals ever opening the season against each other. But Wilson said that’s fine with him.

“It gives us a chance to get off on the right foot in the division,” said Wilson, whose team went 17-4 last winter. “I think it’s important.

“I’d rather jump into the North schedule. I think jumping right out there and playing our crosstown rivals, we get to see what our young team can do. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Both the Riders and Senators have similar rosters. Both have enough veterans to give them some optimism but also enough newcomers to realize that it might take some time to get things squared away.

CR went 8-13 last season but did make the state tournament. The Riders are

“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” said CR boys’ coach Freeman Williams of Friday’s opener vs. rival Dover. “It’s a rivalry like no other in our state. We respect them and the strength of their program.” (Delaware State News file photo)

“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” said CR boys’ coach Freeman Williams of Friday’s opener vs. rival Dover.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” said Williams. “It’s a rivalry like no other in our state. We respect them and the strength of their program.

“I think it’s a good opportunity to kind of kick the year off. It’s a new season, a new opportunity.”

Is Rocco the Hens’ man?

Most of the talk going around is that current Richmond coach Danny Rocco is Delaware’s choice to be its next football coach.

Rocco, whose Spiders play at North Dakota on Saturday in the second round of the NCAA FCS Division I playoffs, talked about the situation with John O’Connor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Wednesday.

Clearly, though, you can read whatever you want into his answer.

Danny Rocco

Danny Rocco

O’Connor asked the 56-year-old Rocco if he planned to still be Richmond’s coach next season.

“I think right now what I plan on doing is doing everything in my power to extend our season,” Rocco is quoted on Richmond.com. “And when the season is over, I want to sit down with all of the appropriate people to be able to make the best decision for me and my family moving forward. Tomorrow is promised to no one.

“And I do believe that I will have some options when the season is over. And I just have to be able to weigh those options and make the best decision that I can make.”

In 11 seasons at the FCS level, coaching at both Liberty and Richmond, Rocco’s teams are a combined 89-41. The Spiders have gone to the FCS playoffs each of the last three years, reaching the national semifinals in 2015.

Rocco has also been a finalist for national Coach of the Year five times in his career.

It’s unclear exactly why he would be interested in moving to Delaware, which is in the Colonial Athletic Association with Richmond. According to a story in The Collegian last year, Rocco was the fourth-highest paid employee at the University of Richmond, making $437,632 a year.

That figure is believed to be higher than what Delaware has paid its previous football head coaches.

If Rocco is the Hens’ man, UD would presumably have to wait until the Spiders’ season is over before announcing anything.

Of course, Blue Hen fans still remember when K.C. Keeler was hired in 2002. Harvard’s Tim Murphy was supposedly on his way to Newark before some influential people got involved and Keeler wound up with the job.

Drass excited about future

This Wesley College football season wasn’t always an easy one.

Mike Drass

Mike Drass

The Wolverines started 1-2 and then failed to reach the NCAA Division III playoff third round for the first time since 2008.

But, after falling at sixth-ranked John Carroll, 20-17, in double overtime in the playoffs’ second round last Saturday, that doesn’t mean coach Mike Drass was glad to have the season over with.

“To be honest with you, I wish we were playing this week,” the veteran coach said on Wednesday. “I really feel confident with this group of guys. I feel horrible for our seniors that their season is over.”

The exciting thing for Drass, though, is thinking about where the Wolverines might be headed next fall. While Wesley loses some talented players, enough others emerged during the season to make him very optimistic.

“I think this could be a great, great year for us,” said Drass. “I just sat down and had 70 player evaluations. And when I look at where we were early in the season to where we’re at right now, it just gets you excited.”

Of course, things are still a little unsettled at quarterback.

Dan Kesack was the starter in the first half of the season before Nick Falkenberg took over in the second half. Both QBs are juniors.

Drass said on Wednesday that Kesack is definitely moving to wide receiver, where he spent some time late in the year. But he also said that sophomore Khaaliq Burroughs, a former junior college player who joined the team late this year, will also get a long look in spring practice.

“I think, in the last five games of the season, he (Falkenberg) did a lot of things that give us a lot of confidence,” said Drass. “Khaaliq, I think if he has a spring under his belt where he’s getting all those reps, there’s going to be a competition there.”

Odds & ends

•Caesar Rodney High grad Dante’ Shells, a senior receiver on the Liberty football team, was a first-team selection on the Big South all-conference squad.

Shells had the best season of his career as a senior, finishing with a team-leading 43 catches for 655 yards and eight touchdowns. For his career, he had 119 receptions for 2,061 yards and 14 TDs.

•UD athletic director Chrissi Rawak sent out an email on Wednesday afternoon saying that the university will no longer require season ticket holders (in sections A through N), to make a donation to the athletic department. The first-year AD said the move was in response to complaints from fans.

“This is the first of many steps to come,” Rawak wrote. “We are in an important moment for the Delaware football program, and we need you: We need you back, and we need you to help us bring others back. I believe we are on the road to reviving the winning traditions and we want you with us on the way.”

•Former Dover basketball standout Jordan Allen is redshirting in his first season at Rider University because of an issue with a high school credit. Allen was the Gatorade Player of the Year and a first-team All-Stater as a senior for the Senators.

•Delaware State and Delaware will renew their men’s basketball rivalry on Friday at 7 p.m. in Newark. The Blue Hens lead the all-time series, 12-4, but the road team has won the last five meetings.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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