Game of the Week
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Photos: Sussex Central quarterback Blake Hershelman (19) eludes Dover safety Jon Lust on a 44-yard touchdown run with running back J.J. Ricketts (22) leading him the rest of the way. Below, Ricketts recovers Dover's fumble on the opening kickoff.
GEORGETOWN -- The story from Dover High School all week had been that the Sussex Central football team would meet a different team in the Delaware Division I state tournament than the Golden Knights had manhandled back in October.
As it turned out, Dover met a different Knight team, too -- one that was even better in the first round of the state tournament on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2000, than it was back in October.
The Knights dominated the rainy game from start to finish in a 33-3 first round victory that propelled them into the program's first state championship game appearance next weekend.
The Knights' opponent in the Division I championship game will be three-time defending state champion and unbeaten Newark, which blew out Caesar Rodney 33-9 in another first round game on Friday night. The game will be played at Delaware State's 5,550-seat Alumni Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 2. The time has yet to be determined.
Sussex Central, the tournament's second seed, rose to 10-1 with an even more convincing performance than the 26-7 licking it laid on Dover back on Oct. 20.
Motivated by comments from the Senators leading up to the game, the Knights took advantage of a fumble recovery by J.J. Ricketts on the opening kickoff and proceeded to hammer Dover with a blitzkrieg ground game and a punishing defense that held Dover to only 71 total yards.
The defense turned in its best effort of the season, as it limited standout Dover running back Pierre Bowers, who averaged more than 150 yards a game during the regular season, to just 34 yards on 9 carries. The Senators managed only 4 first downs in the game and didn't get their initial first down until the final minute of the first half.
Following the fumble recovery by Ricketts on the Dover 26, Sussex Central running back George Davis, the game's leading rusher with 170 yards including an 83-yard touchdown run, swept around end for 24 yards to the Dover 2. Knight quarterback Blake Hershelman capped the short drive with a 2-yard touchdown run that put the Knights up 6-0 just 27 seconds into the game.
That deflated the Senators quickly, and following a change of possessions, the Knights went ahead 13-0 on a 4-yard reverse by Davis with 1:02 left in the first quarter.
The lead grew to 19-0 early in the second period when Hershelman rolled out and scampered 44 yards down the sideline with 9:41 left in the half.
Dover scored its only points on a 25-yard field goal by Doug Oswell as time ran out in the first half following a bizarre series of penalties that cost the Knights the services of defensive back Sean Milligan, who was tossed for fighting.
That was the last momentum the Senators could muster, however, as the Knights closed the door on their first drive of the second half. Sophomore Andrew Weatherly returned the second half kickoff 60 yards to the Dover 30 and five plays later scored on an 18-yard touchdown run that made it 26-3 with 8:26 left in the third quarter.
Davis' 83-yard burst up the middle finished the scoring on the Knights' next series and gave SC a 33-3 lead with 5:10 remaining in the third quarter.
From there, the Knight defense pounded on the Senators with crushing tackle after crushing tackle.
Above Photos: Sussex Central defensive end Orlando Farrow (29) and Mike Lopez give a rude welcome to Dover's Dominic Daniels, while Sussex Central linebacker Teddy Thompson holds Dover running back Pierre Bowers to a short gain.
11:33 -- SUSSEX CENTRAL (6-0 Sussex Central)
1:02 -- SUSSEX CENTRAL (13-0 Sussex Central)
9:41 -- SUSSEX CENTRAL (19-0 Sussex Central)
0:00 -- DOVER (19-3 Sussex Central)
8:26 -- SUSSEX CENTRAL (26-3 Sussex Central)
5:10 -- SUSSEX CENTRAL (33-3 Sussex Central)
Total Offense -- Dover 28-71, Sussex Central 50-337.
Rushing -- Dover 28-66, Sussex Central 49-337.
Passing -- Dover 2-6-1, 5; Sussex Central 0-1-0.
First Downs -- Dover 4, Sussex Central 15.
Fumbles/Lost -- Dover 1/1, Sussex Central 1/0.
Penalties/Yards -- Dover 1-15, Sussex Central 5-55.
Dover -- Pierre Bowers 9-34, Jason Lilly 3-32, Alan Arnaud 8-17, Dominic Daniels 2-5, Collins Evans 6-(-12).
Sussex Central -- George Davis 16-170, Teddy Thompson 13-61, Blake Hershelman 10-53, J.J. Ricketts 6-34, Andrew Weatherly 4-19.
Dover -- Collins Evans 2-6-1, 5.
Sussex Central -- Blake Hershelman 0-1-0.
Dover -- Jason Lilly 1-5.
Photos: Sussex Central head coach John Wells congratulates his team on earning the program's first state championship game berth.
Sussex Central linebacker Teddy Thompson on the team's motivation:
"I tell you what. Dover really put fuel to the fire by talking, you know, all that stuff in the paper. In high school that's the wrong thing to do because that's just more fuel for the fire."
Thompson on holding standout Dover running back Pierre Bowers to 34 yards rushing:
"That's what we keyed on. Stop Bowers and we should win, and we did."
Thompson on rattling sophomore Dover quarterback Collins Evans:
"I know last game we had a lot of big hits on him and he probably had that in his head as soon as he came in."
Sussex Central quarterback Blake Hershelman on facing three-time defending state champion Newark in the finals:
"They're a great team, obviously. We've got a lot of respect for them, but we're going to go out there with all we have and we've got to make big plays just like we did tonight."
Hershelman on the support of the Sussex Central community:
"I feel great, man, I feel great. We're doing it for everybody. Even on a rainy night we've got a packed house, that's how supportive everybody is."
Hershelman on only having to throw one pass:
"It was rainy, windy, it was not good passing conditions and luckily we have the line to take over so we didn't have to pass the ball."
Hershelman on comments from Dover players during the week:
"I think we handled them from the get-go. They talked all week about how they wanted to play and they got us. I was happy we handled them the way we did. We came out fired up. Like I said, they were talking smack in the paper all week and we really wanted to get after them. That really pumped us up and they shouldn't have done that."
Sussex Central head coach John Wells on reaching the finals against Newark:
"We were happy getting there and we were kind of ecstatic getting into the playoffs but we didn't want to be content getting there. And the same this week, we're excited to get to the state finals but we don't want to be content just getting there. Newark's run off six times in the final game in a row, they've won three in a row, Cape couldn't stop them, CR couldn't stop them, St. Mark's couldn't stop them. Our work's cut out for us. But one thing we've got to understand is we can't be intimidated. We've got to go in there and play football. That's what we're excited about doing and we're going to go in there and give it out best."
Wells on the Knights' big plays:
"Drew breaking some big plays for us, George Davis on the long run. We weren't really hip on throwing the football tonight with the wind blowing in our face and the rain, and especially when we got up early. One slip or bad grip on the ball could be six points the other way so we were real cautious on throwing the football. When you're playing defense like that you can do a lot of things (other than pass). The defense played awesome tonight."
Wells on the different looks the Knights gave Dover:
"With Yoree (Washington) being out, we had to make some adjustments and other guys had to step up and one of those was Drew (Andrew Weatherly) playing more of a running back role than before and Leroy (Mann) had to take more reps at split end for us, and that worked out pretty well. Then we had to rotate some backs. But still, you can't replace Yoree and what he does for the team. There's no one better at blocking on the linebackers than he and Teddy (Thompson), but we had to improvise a little bit and one of the keys was changing some things up, which you saw tonight."
Wells on fullback Teddy Thompson stepping up with 61 yards rushing:
"Teddy always runs hard. I just don't give him the ball a whole lot early in the game because he's playing linebacker and he's taking on linemen and fullbacks and everything else so I try to keep him fresh. But he loves contact. If he runs through the hole and he sees you he's going to run after you. He just loves contact."
Wells on jumping on the Senators early in the game:
"I thought they would bounce back after the first quarter but our defense stepped up. That hurt them. I told these guys here it was deja vu. Last week (33-6 win over Christiana) we got a break the first play of the game off a punt return and scored and this week we got a break (recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff) and this week we got a break and punched it in and we were up 6-0, but we couldn't let up. They've got some weapons in Lilly, Bowers and Collins can make things happen for them. But tonight it wasn't enough."
Wells on beating Dover twice in one season:
"They (players) were inspired. We knew, the boys were told from day one that to beat any time twice in the same season of their caliber, at any level. You take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They beat Chicago by 41 points and last Sunday, that was one of my war cries, 'Hey, they lost to Chicago last Sunday'. I used that as my statement game for an example. I'm sure they (Knights) saw the quotes from some of the Dover guys that they wanted to play us again. Hey, that's good. That's all I needed somebody to say to get our boys fired up. That saves me from my pre-game speech. I didn't have to do a whole lot."
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