Wildcats win first Division II state football crown since ‘09, defeat Milford 14-7

Delmar celebrates with their trophy after the they beat Milford during the Division 2 football finals in Newark. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

NEWARK — Jacob VonArx had not thrown a pass in nearly a month.

He was injured in Delmar High’s season finale and did not expect to play again.

Here he was though, throwing the game-winning touchdown pass for the state championship.

VonArx connected with Carson Phillips for a 12-yard touchdown as time expired in the second quarter. That score held up as the Wildcats edged Milford High 14-7 in the Division II state title game on Saturday night at Delaware Stadium.

Delmar’s Te’Shawn Dennard rushes against Milford during the Division 2 football finals in Newark. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Freshman Dante Trader had become the starting quarterback for the Wildcats and led them to a pair of playoff wins to reach this point. But with six seconds on the clock before halftime, coach Dave Hearn sent VonArx out to attempt the pass.

“He threw a dime,” Phillips said. “Oh my gosh that kid has been here all season since day one. Even when he got his job taken from him because of the injury, he was still right there with us. He’s a very good supporter of the team.”

It was Delmar’s first state championship since the 2009 season and its seventh all-time — the most of any Division II school. The Wildcats were seeded eighth but ran through the playoffs with wins over the top two seeds before knocking off No. 4 seed Milford for the title.

Delmar’s Patrick Spence gives his coach a hug after the Wildcats beat Milford during the Division 2 football finals in Newark. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

With Smyrna’s victory in Division I earlier in the day, it was the second straight season where the Henlopen Conference swept Division I and Division II. It is the only the fourth time both champions were from the Henlopen Conference since the tournament began in 1975 but the third time since 2008.
Milford finished the season at 9-4. It was the Buccaneers’ first time in the finals since they won it all in 2009.

“They worked their butts off,” said Milford coach Shaun Strickland. “They bought in from day one. The minute I walked into the weight room, they walked in with me and they haven’t left since. Those guys, they wanted it and they’ve worked so hard. They love the fact that they were the team that wasn’t supposed to be here. All we wanted to do when we came out tonight was just play and show people we belong, no matter what that scoreboard says and that’s what they did.”

VonArx played a few snaps last week in Delmar’s semifinal victory over A.I. du Pont when Trader left the game with a minor injury. He admitted he did not think he would have a role in Saturday’s game.

Milford receiver Tyrone Mifflin goes high above Delmar’s Trey Parsons to pull down a long pass for a first down in the 2nd quarter. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

“I was nervous but I trust the plays, worked on them at practice and I was ready to go,” he said. “I’m still not 100 percent. They say be ready, but I was surprised to go in. I didn’t expect it. Not at all.”

“We felt like we had to throw it at that time,” Hearn said. “Dante is playing both ways so we also thought we could keep Dante fresher. When we wanted to run the ball we’d bring Dante back in. Our intention was to rotate them but we just never got around to that until the end.”

Delmar did play both quarterbacks in the second half with Trader picking up numerous first downs with his legs.

“It was a smart move to play both of us and I wasn’t mad about it,” Trader said. “If you mix both run and pass up, you they can’t stop both.”

“We’ve gotten so much closer since my injury,” VonArx said. “I teach him things, he teaches me things, it’s just a good connection. We’re like brothers now.”

Jordan Waters of Milford struggles for a short gain against Delmar in the first half. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

Phillips had only recorded five catches all year but had four in the championship game. His father Robert Phillips played on the first Delmar championship team in 1976.

“It’s crazy,” Phillips said. “I was just looking up into the crowd, spotted my mom and everybody. It was so amazing. It really was.”

Ta’Shawn Dennard scored the other touchdown for the Wildcats on a 59-yard run off an option-pitch by Trader in the first quarter. Milford responded with a one-yard quarterback sneak by Tayone’ Matthews to tie it 7-7 on the first play of the second quarter.

There was no scoring in the second half but Delmar defense had to stop Milford twice in the waning moments.

Te’Kwon Dennard sealed it for the Wildcats when Milford went for it on fourth-and-long in Delmar territory with 15 seconds left. Trader also picked off a pass in the end zone on the previous drive.

“It’s unreal this feeling is crazy I can’t explain it,” he said. “I’m a freshman and I’m a state champion already. I didn’t expect it but, hey I’ll take it.”

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