Woodbridge earns Division II championship over Wilmington Friends

NEWARK — All year the Woodbridge High defense was difficult to score on.

Minutes away from the first state title in program history, the Blue Raiders weren’t about to change that.

Two defensive stands in the red zone held off No. 5 Wilmington Friends as the top-seeded Blue Raiders captured the DIAA Division II football state championship with a 14-9 victory on Saturday evening at Delaware Stadium.

The hard-earned win capped an unbeaten season for the Blue Raiders (13-0).

“I’ve never had such joy like this in my life,” said senior defensive lineman Leah Styles. “We have something now that can never be taken away from us. Now we can truly celebrate at the end of the year that we went 13-0.”

With Smyrna’s victory in the Division I game a few hours earlier, it was the first time since 2008 (Caesar Rodney and Milford) that both football state champions are from the Henlopen Conference. The only other time it happened was in 1988 when Dover and Indian River swept the football titles.

Sophomore quarterback Troy Haynes scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 21-yard run with 1:39 remaining in the third quarter. Senior Terrique Riddick had the other touchdown for Woodbridge, a 4-yard run in the first quarter.

After the game, Woodbridge lingered on the field posing for pictures with its first championship trophy. Some players wiped away tears of joy while others hugged anyone they could get their hands on.

Some, like Woodbridge coach Ed Manlove, were rendered speechless at times. Manlove took over Woodbridge in 2009 and went a combined 10-30 in his first four seasons.

“We’re perfect — 13-0,” Manlove said. “Three or four years ago, who would have ever thought this? I’m just proud of our kids. Defensively we played big and offensively we did it when we had to. And that’s the way they’ve done it all year.”

Woodbridge’s defense entered the contest allowing only 4.9 points scored in its previous 12 games.

The Quakers (11-2) went above that average Saturday. But Woodbridge was its usual stingy self.

The Blue Raiders held Wilmington Friends to just 93 total yards of offense and only seven first downs.

When Wilmington Friends took over after a fumble with 5:29 to go on Woodbridge’s 13, the Blue Raiders didn’t let up any yards. In fact, they pushed the Quakers backward for a net loss of five yards on the drive.

Senior defensive lineman Shymere Vessels started the drive with a sack. The next play was Styles’ turn for a sack that forced Wilmington Friends back to the 24-yard line.

Friends completed a five-yard pass before freshman James Kane batted down a pass on fourth down. The Quakers never got the ball back.

“We don’t care where you’re at on the field,” Styles said. “We don’t like any other teams to score.”

“I still can’t believe that we won it,” Vessels said. “It really feels like a dream right now.”

One drive before that, Wilmington Friends was even further into Woodbridge territory, going as far as the four. But the Blue Raiders defense held, thanks in large part to Richard Massey’s tackle on second down.

The Quakers settled for a 23-yard field goal.

“That’s what they always do,” Manlove said of his defense. “They make play after play after play. They never give up. They get after it. I don’t even know what to say. I’m speechless.

“When it came crunch time, we got it done. Those kids were just tremendous all year long so it’s only fitting that they have those stands, I guess, to win the championship.”

Haynes helped set up the first touchdown with a 74-yard pass to sophomore Gabriel Wescott. Haynes also sealed with a quarterback bootleg for a key first down which allowed Woodbridge to run out the clock.

His touchdown came a few series after he threw an interception to Wilmington Friends’ Owen Sheppard, who returned it 87 yards for the lone Quaker touchdown. The TD tied the game 6-6 with 5:10 left in the third quarter.

Haynes’ game-winning touchdown came on the following drive.

“I owed my team back,” Haynes said. “I knew I messed up. I placed the ball where it wasn’t supposed to be. I knew I had to pay it back and that’s what I did.”

“I’m never going to forget this,” he added. “It’s going to be in my heart forever.”


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