Star RB Knight injured as Eagles romp 46-0 in finale

Smyrna’s Stephen Whaley looks for an opening is the first quarter against Polytech on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

WOODSIDE — Will Knight’s teammates have seen him bounce back from injuries plenty of times before.

So when Smyrna High’s star running back hurt his ankle on the first play from scrimmage Friday night — and didn’t return — the Eagles were a little concerned.

“We were worried if he broke his ankle or something like that,” admitted junior running back Stephen Whaley. “Usually he’ll walk it off but this time he didn’t walk it off.”

But after his Smyrna squad dispatched Polytech, 46-0, in its regular-season finale, coach Mike Judy said he was confident that Knight’s injury wasn’t serious.

For one thing, the victory — the eighth in a row for the Eagles (6-0 Henlopen North, 8-2 overall — was believed to have wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the DIAA Division I state tournament for Smyrna. The means the two-time defending state champion Eagles will have a bye next weekend, and Knight will have an extra week to recuperate.

The senior is about 120 yards shy of the state’s all-time rushing record.

Smyrna’s Akil Garrett Jr. and Caden Naylor break up a pass to Polytech’s Tucker Reed in the first quarter at Polytech on Friday.

“I think he’s going to be fine,” said Judy. “The kid was obviously hurting. In the moment, it’s just not worth it (to play him).”

“He’s a tough guy,” said Whaley.

Besides, on Friday night, Smyrna was OK plugging Whaley into Knight’s spot. The junior ran for three touchdowns and 126 yards on 19 carries while adding a pair of two-point conversions.

Judy said the Eagles still feel pretty good with the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Whaley carrying the load.

“He was able to step in there at a moment’s notice,” said Judy. “With Will out, we were unable to do a lot of the stuff we do offensively. It really pared us down.

“I thought the guys just did a good job of doing what they had to do.”

“It was time for me to step up basically,” said Whaley, who had run for only four TDs before Friday. “I’ve been in the backfield before so it wasn’t anything new for me. I enjoyed it.”

Polytech’s AJ Foster finds a opening in the first quarter at Polytech on Friday.

Already leading 16-0 midway through the second quarter, Smyrna really started to pull away when sophomore cornerback Akil Garrett, Jr. intercepted a pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown.

Fellow cornerback Jeremy D’Aguiar matched that feat in the third quarter when he returned an interception 40 yards for a TD that stretched the Eagles’ advantage to 30-0.

The game went to a running clock with 5:19 remaining in the third quarter when Whaley’s seven-yard run and two-point conversion run made it 38-0.

Smyrna’s Hunter Moyer tackles Polytech’s AJ Foster in the backfield in the first quarter at Polytech on Friday.

It was a tough finish for Polytech (3-3 North, 6-4 overall), which made a major turnaround after going a combined 1-19 over the past two seasons. Senior receiver Tucker Reed had three catches for 50 yards in his final game as a Panther.

“Polytech is much improved,” said Judy. “I was really impressed with them. There’s a couple of their players I think are all-conference players.”

Smyrna, which had already clinched its third straight Henlopen North title, has now won 18 straight division contests. Now the Eagles want to see if they make it three Division I state crowns in a row.

“One of my favorite parts of any season is being able to have Thanksgiving together with the team,” said Judy. “If we do get the two seed — which I think we will — that kind of guarantees we’ll be playing on Thanksgiving weekend. That just makes my heart happy.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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