for an Upset
Newark in Division I Final
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Photo: Sussex Central head coach John Wells.
GEORGETOWN -- To many observers, Sussex Central High School's Delaware Division I state championship football game against Newark would seem to be a no-win situation.
That's no-win, as in the Golden Knights are given little chance to knock off the three-time defending state champions when the teams meet Saturday, Dec. 2, 2000.The Knights, however, look at the noon contest at Delaware State's Alumni Stadium as a no-lose situation, as in they have nothing to lose in a game no one expects them to win.
Because this is the Knights' first state championship berth, and because Newark has been to the title game six straight years now, is unbeaten at 11-0 this season, has won 46 of its last 47 games, and has twice routed a Caesar Rodney team this season that beat Sussex Central, virtually no one expects a Golden Knight victory.
Even though the Knights are 10-1 and the tournament's second seed, a win would go down as one of the great upsets in state tournament history. It is, pardon the cliche, a true David vs. Goliath matchup.
The Knights, however, look at the game from a different perspective.
"We've told the boys they are playing a good football team," said Wells. "We've told them they're not playing an image or a reputation. It's our 11 guys versus their 11 guys."
Sussex Central's 11 guys start with a big offensive line that has overpowered opponents and softened defenses up for big plays from quarterback Blake Hershelman, running back George Davis and split end Andrew Weatherly.
But the Knight line, which averages 6-1, 248 pounds, won't have that advantage against a Yellow Jacket front defensive four that averages 6-2, 250 and is led by 6-4, 268-pound standout Orien Harris.
That will mean a more challenging test for Hershelman, Davis and Weatherly, who destroyed Dover in a 33-3 win last week.
Davis rushed for 1,189 yards during the regular season and put together a 170-yard performance against Dover including an 83-yard touchdown romp.
Hershelman threw only one pass in the rain against Dover after completing 48 of 75 passes for 849 yards and 12 touchdowns during the season. He put a stake in the Senators' hearts with a 44-yard touchdown run in the second period.
Weatherly, meanwhile, has been the Knights' Answer Man. He replaced Yoree Washington at running back on occasion against Dover and responded with an 18-yard touchdown run. During the regular season, the sophomore split end caught 14 passes for 406 yards and 5 touchdowns and returned two punts for TDs.
Defensively, the Knights' front five, which averages 6-0, 213 pounds, will be severely tested by a Newark offensive line that averages 6-2, 243 pounds and is again anchored by Harris.
As the game wears on, Sussex Central's defensive line of noseguard Jack Roach, tackles Orlando Short and Terry Williams, and ends Orlando Farrow and Ricky Pierre, will likely need more of the same kind of support they got against Dover from linebacker Teddy Thompson and strong safety Blake Hershelman, who combined for several tackles for losses in the first round.
The Knight defense allowed only 8.8 points a game during the regular season but will face a Newark team that averaged 39.9 points a night. The Yellow Jackets have plenty of punch behind that line, too, with running back Nelson Drew, who rushed for 152 yards in the win over CR in the first round, leading the way.
Sussex Central head coach John Wells on playing three-time defending state champion Newark:
"I think Newark has earned that respect, being undefeated. They've got some big kids. They've got speed. They're not where they are by accident. We've just been telling them what we've been seeing on film, just about some of the things they do well, what they do well offensively, what they do well defensively, what the scheme is to stop them and contain them, just what we tell them any other game. The boys know what they're playing for and the magnitude of the game, but that's not my job to tell them that. My job is to prepare them for things that their opponent does well and not so well and what we want to do to exploit certain things and take away other things."
Wells on the Knights' mindset entering the program's first state championship game:
"We don't have anything to lose. We're the underdog. We expect that going in. That's how we're going to play. We're going to play with reckless abandonment. It's kind of good to be able to play that way. They've been excited since they made the playoffs, so it's not been different (than last week). They've been pretty focused and working hard."
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