Team of the Year: Smyrna honored for football championship

120515-8144 by .

Smyrna players celebrate with the state title trophy after their December victory. (Special to the State News/Gary Emeigh)

SMYRNA — Some teams may look the same from one year to the next.

Often times the names of the coaches and many of the players don’t change.

But every squad and every season is unique for a hundred different reasons.

So, even just a month removed from its last game, Mike Judy already knows there will never be another team quite like his 2015 Smyrna High football squad.

“Regardless of whether they won the state championship or not, we always talk about how special each team is,” said Judy. “This team will never exist again. You need to cherish that.”

Certainly, though, in the handful of months they were together, the ‘15 Eagles put together a season that won’t be forgotten any time soon both in Smyrna and around the state.

For their accomplishments, the Eagles have been named the state of Delaware’s 2015 Team of the Year by the Delaware Sportswriters & Broadcasters Association.

Smyrna will be honored at the DSBA’s 67th annual awards luncheon on Feb. 15 at noon at the Sheraton Wilmington South Hotel (365 Airport Rd., New Castle).

Other awards to be given out at the event are the John J. Brady Award for Delaware’s Outstanding Athlete, the Herm Reitzes Award for public service, the Tubby Raymond Award for Delaware’s coach of the year and the Buddy Hurlock Unsung Hero Award.

Tickets are available for $30 at http://www.delasports.org/

Even among other state championship teams, the Eagles’ accomplishments were pretty remarkable last fall.

At 12-1, Smyrna not only won the school’s first state championship in football, but it became just the second Henlopen Conference squad to win the DIAA Division I state title since 1990. The Eagles avenged their only loss by outdueling Salesianum, 32-26, in overtime in the state finals.

Playing before a crowd of close to 10,000 at Delaware Stadium, Smyrna won the contest when it scored on a fourth-and-goal from the one in OT before stopping the Sals on a fourth-and-goal from the one on the memorable afternoon’s final play.

More than that, though, the Eagles got to the title game by playing a wide-open, aggressive style of football that hadn’t been seen before in Delaware. Smyrna regularly tried onside kicks, rarely punted and always went for two after a touchdown.

The Eagles averaged 51.4 points per game, despite having most of their contests go to a running clock in the second half. They never scored less than 30 points in a game.

Judy, in his second year as head coach, said the philosophy was as much psychological as it was strategic. Smyrna went only 2-8 just two seasons earlier.

“We needed something to give the kids an edge,” Judy explained. “We always felt, in years previous, that the game was dictated to us. I felt very strongly we had to dictate the game to other people — and to put our kids on the other end of that.

“They had never been on that side of the ball, where they are dictating the game. … We were going to be very aggressive in everything we did. It was a huge risk but it was something that I think was necessary.”

The result was something pretty special.

“The difference between the outcome that we had — winning the state championship — and not even making the playoffs, it comes down to a few plays or a few situations that turned out in our favor,” said Judy. “There’s so many levels to it. It’s not just about the football. It took a lot of work. Then the football gods have to smile on you.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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