Sussex Central falls to William Penn in Div. I tourney

 

NEW CASTLE — There was no quit in Sussex Central High’s football team, but no advancing in the state playoffs either.

Competing tenaciously until the last incompletion of the season, the Golden Knights dropped a 38-21 decision to host William Penn in the DIAA Division I first round on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon.

As they walked somberly out of Bill Cole Stadium, players received well-deserved applause from dozens of fans who traveled from Georgetown to support their team.

There was plenty to be proud of in a game that appeared headed for a blowout early in the second quarter before sixth seed Sussex Central (7-4) rallied and kept things interesting.

Third seed William Penn (10-1) led 21-0 after Myles Goodson-Tatum returned a botched handoff exchange 97 yards for a touchdown with 8:05 left before halftime.

Undaunted, Sussex Central continued to grind away and scored two touchdown in the final 17 seconds before intermission to pull within 21-14.

Brady Bowden began the stunning finish by throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Mark Tolson, who made a twisting acrobatic catch to earn the score.

SC recovered the ensuing squib kickoff with 11 seconds left, and Bowden completed a 22-yarder to Tolson before hitting Lashawn Handy for a four-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the second quarter. Kade Bullock kicked his second straight extra point, and the Golden Knights were suddenly down just one score and full of momentum.

William Penn responded with rushing touchdowns to begin the third and fourth quarters, rebuilding its lead to a more comfortable 35-14.

Down three scores, SC responded almost immediately and pulled within 35-21 on a 12-yard touchdown run by Kenqrique Nocks with 9:40 left in the game. Drew Morris set up the score with runs of 10 and 17 yards and the Knights were helped by two William Penn penalties.

Led by Fulton Holland, John Morris and Josiah Blake, SC’s defense forced a punt that landed deep in their territory. The Golden Knights gained only one first down and lost the ball on downs with 4:28 left.

The hosts capped the scoring with a 20-yard field goal with 50 seconds left.

With the game hopelessly out of reach, backup quarterback Isaac Barnes completed a 24-yard pass to Tolson and a 23-yarder to Morris in the closing moments of a drive that ended on William Penn’s 20-yard-line. Standout starter Bowden had been knocked out of the game with a jarring tackle just a few minutes earlier.

Afterward, head coach John Wells cited the team’s 21 seniors for “putting the pride back into the program. They were awesome.”

According to Wells, SC made “too many penalties and too many mistakes,” to win the playoff game.

He paid tribute for the Golden Knights’ effort right until time ran out.

“We try to pride ourselves in not quitting,” Wells said. “We call it the ‘SC Way’.”

William Penn advanced into a semifinal matchup at No. 2 seed Smyrna (10-0) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Top seed Middletown (10-0) hosts Salesianum (8-3) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The state championship is scheduled for Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. at Delaware Stadium.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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