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Friday at Caesar Rodney
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Photos: Delmar head coach Dave Hearn.
DELMAR -- Two of the state's most successful high school football programs in the 1990s vie to become the first state champion of the 21st century when Delmar meets St. Elizabeth in the Delaware Division II state tournament championship game Friday, Dec. 1, 2000.
Delmar, the tournament's top seed with a 10-1 record and 10 straight wins, and St. E's, the tournament's second seed with an 11-0 mark, kick off at Caesar Rodney at 7:30 p.m.
The game marks the second time in the past five years that the two programs have met for the Division II state championship. St. Elizabeth won the 1996 finale, 20-14.
As for Delmar, the Wildcat are literally chomping at the bit to play Friday night.
"They're just almost eager for the week to get over and get to the game part," said Delmar coach Dave Hearn. "I think at this point they'd go through fire just to get to the game."
The two teams have dominated their opponents this season.
Since a 39-6 loss to Division I state tournament championship qualifier Sussex Central in their season-opener, the Wildcats have outscored their last 10 opponents by an average of 38.2-7.7, including a 33-0 blanking of rival Woodbridge in the first round of the state tournament last week.
The Vikings of St. E's, meanwhile, ripped through their schedule unbeaten, and in the process outscored their opponents 38.7-10.5. Included was a 20-6 victory over three-time defending state champion Middletown in the first round last week.
Hearn has seen St. Elizabeth three times this season. He saw the Vikings destroy Seaford 56-0 (Delmar beat Seaford 53-3), saw them beat Caravel 28-21, and saw last week's game against Middletown.
"They're just an outstanding football team," said Hearn. "They're really outstanding on defense. They have no obvious weaknesses. They execute the Wing-T offense about as well as anybody's ever going to. We played them in 1996 and they made no mistakes and they're the same way now. That's going to be the key there, like in most championship games, who executes the best and makes no mistakes."
The Vikings have three tough running backs in halfbacks Andrew Swarter and Brian Sulecki and fullback Jeff Fletcher. Against Middletown, Swarter broke a 93-yard touchdown run on the Vikings' first play from scrimmage. He finished with 148 yards on 14 carries as the Vikings outrushed Middletown 256-107.
While Fletcher gained only 36 yards on 17 carries, he rushed for nearly 1,300 yards during the regular season. Quarterback Joe Durney is also a threat with the ball as he gained 34 yards on 6 carries last week.
"It's like the University of Delaware Wing-T offense," said Hearn. "It's more of a pound it at you offense. They run a lot of motion, misdirection, deception-type things, nice ball-handling. It's really not many plays, it just looks like a lot of stuff they way they run it. It's a very conservative looking offense but it's got potential to get you in a hurry. They've (Wildcats) got to play their responsibility and be sure tacklers. They've got three ball carriers and they all run hard."
The Wildcat defense will pose a formidable challenge to the Vikings. Improving every week, the Wildcats have only allowed 77 points in the 10 games since their season-opening loss to Sussex Central.
Linebackers Lawrence Sinagra, Vince Stewart and Zarar Shauket and linemen Michael Hunt, Lamar Stewart and Scott Price keyed a defense that handed Woodbridge its only shutout in the past two seasons last week.
Offensively, the Wildcats couldn't be more different than St. E's. With quarterback Dustin Johnson and running back Ian Hudson, they are a threat to score from anywhere at any time, and not just on offense. Against Woodbridge, both Johnson and Hudson returned punts for touchdowns.
Johnson has rushed for 433 yards this season and completed 49 of 98 passes for 755 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hudson has rushed for 1,093 yards including 131 against Woodbridge and has scored 25 touchdowns including 14 in the last five games.
They will test a Viking defense led by Fletcher and Roman Schurga at linebacker, tackles Mike McNulty and Steve Samluk, ends Matt DiRocco and Brian Podolak, Durney at cornerbac, and safety Chris Barnes.
Photos: Delmar quarterback Dustin Johnson (16) ran a quarterback sneak 52 yards for a TD last week. Delmar lineman Lamar Stewart (55) helped harrass Woodbridge quarterback Jamil Young (7).
Delmar head coach Dave Hearn on his players' reaction to being in the state championship game:
"I think they're probably like theirs (St. Elizabeth's players) are. They're just almost eager for the week to get over and get to the game part. Last week was kind of the same deal. Practice becomes almost a labor a little bit, just to get through it. Yes, we've go to go through the process and learn and make sure we know what they do and what we're going to try to do. But let us get at 'em. It's that kind of thing. I think at this point they'd go through fire just to get to the game. It's just a matter of they've got people after them all. We've got reporters coming out to the school, the Salisbury television stations were there today, ust a lot of little extra things going on around them, buzzing around them. People in town are talking about the game. There's a lot of hub-bub and a lot of excitement going on."
Hearn on St. Elizabeth:
"They're undefeated, they beat Middletown in the semifinal in convincing fashion. They're just an outstanding football team. They do everything well. They're really outstanding on defense. They have no obvious weaknesses. They execute the Wing-T offense about as well as anybody's ever going to. Joe Hemphill and his group, they just do a tremendous job. They always have done. He's been there 20-some years. We played them in 1996 and they made no mistakes and they're the same way now."
Hearn on St. E's offense:
"They're more of a ball control offense. They do not throw the ball that often. They throw it effevtively. It's usually a play-action pass when they do, so it's more effective because they don't throw very much, maybe like ourselves. That's not their game, big plays. They can score from anywhere. Against Middletown they scored the first play from scrimmage 94 yards, so that was a pretty big play, so they are capable. But their offense is a style of ball control. It's like the University of Delaware Wing-T offense. It's more of a pound it at you offense. They run a lot of motion, misdirection, deception-type things, nice ball-handling. It's really not many plays, it just looks like a lot of stuff they way they run it. It's a very conservative looking offense but it's got potential to get you in a hurry."
Hearn on St. E's running backs Jeff Fletcher, Andrew Swarter and Brian Sulecki:
"They've got three ball carriers and they all run hard. Maybe they're not like Ian Hudson or the Pennewell kid (Mike Pennewell of Smyrna) or somebody like that who can break one every time, but they don't go down easily. They know their roles, they play them out very well, and they run their lanes to a T. That's all they do and they do it real well. "
Hearn on St. E's defense:
"Defensively they're in a 5-2, and they do it real well. They do some different things in the secondary so you can't be sure you're going to see the same thing. Like every defense, they move around a little bit, they stunt, and they've got good solid people up front and solid people all over."
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