Woodbridge celebrates state title: ‘The support has been great’

NEWARK — As his players celebrated and posed for pictures on the field, Ed Manlove tried to appreciate the moment.

“Three or four years ago, who would have ever thought this?” said the Woodbridge High football coach.

The Blue Raiders made history, holding off Wilmington Friends, 14-9, on the evening of Dec. 3 to win the DIAA Division II state championship.

It was the small Sussex County school’s first state crown and put the finishing touches on its perfect 13-0 season.

While Woodbridge has had some success over the years, the program had been through its share of difficult times.

Woodbridge’s Shymere Vessels and other teammates hold up their trophy after the Division ll finals at Delaware Stadium. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

In 2008, the Raiders finished 0-10. That started a tough five-season span in which Woodbridge went a combined 10-40.

However, over the last four years, the Raiders are 33-14 with three state tournament appearances.

Winning the state crown was the icing on the cake for both Woodbridge and its community.

“This is uncharted territory for us,” Manlove said before the finals. “Just everywhere we go people are wishing us the best. It’s been a great whole season. The support has been great from the get-go.

“We had high hopes and we have gotten to where we needed to be.”

The state title was Woodbridge’s first in any sport since 1982 when the Raiders took their third state crown in four years in Division II boys’ track & field.

Woodbridge coach Ed Manlove watches the action from the sidelines.

The Raiders’ defense was dominant all fall. Woodbridge allowed just 68 points in 13 contests for an average of 5.2 points given up per game.

Blue Raiders fans celebrate the team’s state title.

The Raiders also registered five shutouts and surrendered more than one touchdown in a game only twice.

In the second half of the title game, Woodbridge made a pair of big stops inside its own 20 yard line to hang onto the lead.

“Those kids were just tremendous all year long,” said Manlove. “It’s only fitting that they had those stands to win the championship. … They just made great plays.

“We just worked,” he said about the program’s turnaround. “Three years ago, when we were in the semifinals, we told those seniors, this group’s going to be in the state championship some day. They laid the groundwork for it. We knew it was coming. I’m just glad it came now.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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