Woodbridge has shot for second football title in three years

NEWARK — Troy Haynes was just a kid the first time he played for a state championship.

He was only a sophomore in 2016 when he quarterbacked Woodbridge High to its first Division II football state crown.

“It was a surreal feeling,” Haynes recalled. “I wasn’t really ready for it. I didn’t take it in until probably the day after everything happened. It was a great feeling.”

Two years later, Haynes — now a senior — and his fellow Blue Raiders will see if they can end their high school careers by bringing Woodbridge its second football state crown.

And, just like in ‘16, the Raiders have to get past Wilmington Friends.

Fourth-seeded Woodbridge (10-2) will take on the No. 2 Quakers (10-1) in the DIAA Division II state finals today at 6 p.m. in Delaware Stadium.

Despite being located at opposite ends of the state, the two schools have developed a pretty good rivalry in a short time.

This will be the 10th time that the Raiders and Friends have squared off since they started scheduling each other in the 2011 regular season. Woodbridge holds a slim 5-4 advantage in the series.

Seven of the nine matchups have been decided by seven points or less. That includes the Raiders’ 14-9 victory over the Quakers in the ‘16 state finals.

Friends interim coach Rob Tattersall said nobody imagined that this would become a state championship matchup when his father, Quakers coach Bob Tattersall, and Woodbridge coach Ed Manlove first decided to start scheduling each other.

“The teams were kind of in flux,” said the younger Tattersall. “You weren’t sure where they were going. And we both evolved into state finalists, twice.

“I think it says a lot about all the coaches and all the players from both sides — hard work gets you where you need to get to. It’s fun from the standpoint of you like to compete against good people.”

“I kind of modeled myself after Bob Tattersall, just with the consistency in the program,” said Manlove. “We do the same things, they do the same things. We’re very similar in a lot of ways. Consistency pays off.

“We’re not flashy by any stretch of the imagination. But neither is Friends. We just go out there and try to make plays.”

The Quakers won this year’s regular-season meeting, 24-21, on Sept. 21 in Bridgeville. The two teams traded touchdowns in a game that was tied three times before Rob Jaworski’s 28-yard field goal with 25 seconds left won it for Friends.

Senior linebacker Brock Keeler said the Raiders were their own worst enemy at times in that first meeting.

“There’s turnovers, there’s little mistakes, there’s flags that always come back to haunt you,” said Keeler. “We definitely learned that this year in the game against Friends. It’s definitely motivated us to improve our game.

“It’s always a great battle between us,” he added. “They’re always well-disciplined, they run the ball well. The line always does their job. They’re just a well-coached team.”

The Raiders haven’t lost since that setback to Friends. After a 1-2 start, they’ve reeled off nine wins in a row by an average margin of 30.2 points.

“After week five, I think we started to turn the corner,” said Manlove. “We knew three losses wouldn’t have been good. … It’s been fun, especially these last few weeks. Hopefully we can do it one more time.”

“We knew it was going to be a tough battle, with the 1-2 record that we started off with,” said Keeler. “But we flipped things around. We started putting drives together on offense and just playing as a team on defense. From there, we’ve just taken off.”

Just like Haynes, Keeler can remember when he walked into 22,000-seat Delaware Stadium for the ‘16 championship game. But it was that Woodbridge team’s seniors who were the leaders.

Now it’s this year’s seniors who want to make sure the Raiders come home with a second trophy.

“This year the pressure is on us seniors now,” said Keeler. “We’re just up for the challenge.”

Extra points

All seven current football-playing Henlopen South members have won at least one state title. Woodbridge is trying to become the fifth South program with multiple football state crowns. … Henlopen teams have won the Division II title 17 times …. Radio stations 105.9-FM and WDEL (1150-AM; 101.7-FM) are broadcasting the game.

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