Wildcats enter Division II title game riding 10-game winning streak

Dave Hearn

Saturday’s Division II state football championship will be the third game of the tournament.

But Delmar High has been playing playoff games since the third week of the season.

Coach Dave Hearn did some rough projections when the Wildcats lost to St. Mary’s, Md. on Sept. 15. He figured the only way Delmar could make it into the eight-team field in Division II was to win the rest of its games.

The Wildcats haven’t lost since.

They bring a 10-game win streak into Saturday’s championship game against Milford (5:30 p.m. at Delaware Stadium in Newark). Smyrna and Middletown play in the Division I title game at 1 p.m.

“We’ve really been in a playoff mode since we lost back in September,” Hearn said. “We didn’t have any big schools on our schedule so we had no Division I points. I wasn’t sure what kind of bonus points we would get, so we told the kids, if we’re going to get into postseason play the only way is to win it all.”

“It’s risky to tell a team that, but they’ve won ever since,” Hearn added. “If we didn’t win those games, we wouldn’t be here. It’s like we’ve been in the playoffs all along.”

Delmar was in a similar situation last year when the Wildcats just missed out on the postseason. Delmar dropped back-to-back games to Milford and Woodbridge in the final two weeks to end the year at 6-4 instead of 8-2.

This year the Wildcats wrapped up the regular season at 9-1 and won the Henlopen Conference Southern Division, giving them an automatic-bid to the state tournament.

“We were tired of sitting at home and watching other teams in the playoffs,” said senior running back Brooks Parker. “We just wanted to get a taste of it.”

Despite earning the auto-bid, Delmar still wound up as the No. 8 seed due to the point index. The Wildcats did not play a Division I opponent and only had Milford and Woodbridge win seven or more games so they did not record as many bonus points for strength of schedule as other teams in Division II.
But Hearn didn’t care about the seed, just that the Wildcats were one of the eight.

“Once we’re in, everybody is the same,” Hearn said. “I didn’t care where they put us. All the teams in can win it. Some of the folks were mad, they didn’t understand why teams we beat were ahead of us and why we were traveling. So I had to answer all those questions.”

It’s the seventh time Hearn has coached a Delmar team to the championship game since he took over in 1991. He’s won the title in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2009 for four of Delmar’s six championships.

Delmar has been in the playoffs a couple of times since 2009, but this is the first time the Wildcats are back in the finals since then.

Junior Trey Parsons remembers he went to every playoff game that year.

“We looked up to those guys as young kids,” Parsons said. “Now we get the chance to go on that field and do our part. We want something bigger than just getting in the playoffs.”

There was not a home game this postseason for Delmar, but its fans sure have made their presence felt in every round. At both road contests the away seating sections were full with fans clad in orange.

Those fans have already made the trek to the University of Delaware once this fall. They, along with members of the football team, were there as the Wildcats won the Division II state field hockey championship at Rullo Stadium.

“Delmar has a rich tradition as a football town,” Parker said. “It would be an amazing honor to put a banner up for the town. We have the field hockey team doing so well. We support the field hockey team and the field hockey team is a big chunk of our student section. We expect to see them all there (on Saturday).”

“I have a feeling there will be a bunch of folks coming up the road,” Hearn said. “We always travel well. They don’t care if it’s regular season or playoff time.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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