for First Tourney Berth
Photos: Sussex Central head coach John Wells (top) and sophomore wide receiver Andrew Weatherly (below).
GEORGETOWN -- The disappointment of their loss to Caesar Rodney two weeks ago just a distant memory, the Sussex Central High School football team pummeled visiting Christiana 33-6 Friday, Nov. 17, 2000, to earn the school's first Division I state tournament berth.
The non-conference victory, sparked by sophomore wide receiver Andrew Weatherly's two touchdowns, finished the Golden Knights' regular season at 9-1. They now await word on who they will play in the first round of the tournament Thanksgiving weekend.
The Knights just missed the Henlopen Conference Northern Division title, too, as Dover beat Caesar Rodney 10-7 in another game on Friday night.
Had Dover won that game by 4 points, the Knights would have been the North champions based on the points system used to determine champions when three teams tie for a division crown in the Henlopen Conference.
But none of that mattered Friday night.
"I told the boys that we wanted to win for ourselves," said Sussex Central head coach John Wells, "but we also wanted to win for the community, alumni, alumni that are parents who have kids coming through here now, teachers who have been here for a long time. It wasn't a monkey on our back, it was a gorilla. Now we can put that one to sleep."
The Knights were in a similar situation a year ago when they needed a non-conference victory in the season's final game to earn a state tournament berth. They lost that game 13-12 to St. Mark's, though, and missed the tournament.
"They could have folded up camp, they could have played tense, under pressure, but these guys came out and made big play after big play, played loose and relaxed," said Wells of the Christiana win.
"They were real aggressive tonight. Last year, we were like 'Man, if we had just done a little more.' I don't think they were going to walk away from this game saying they should have done a little more. They were going to leave it on the football field tonight."
Sussex Central struck quickly against Christiana, with George Davis' 9-yard touchdown run after a 66-yard punt return by senior Mike Lopez giving the Knights a 7-0 lead.
Weatherly then scored the first of his touchdowns on a 65-yard end around that made the score 13-0 in the second period. He then connected with quarterback Blake Hershelman on a 47-yard touchdown pass for a 20-0 Knight halftime lead.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Knights went up 33-0 in the fourth period on a 22-yard run by Hershelman and a 38-yard pass from Hershelman to tight end Jesse Makowski.
"Big plays did it for us," said Wells. "We had nice drives but we'd stall out on a penalty. We had six or seven game-breakers in this game."
Weatherly finished the game with 75 yards rushing and 92 receiving. Hershelman completed 5 of 6 passes for 147 yards and the two touchdowns and Davis rushed 17 times for 95 yards.
Wells said his staff will try to determine who the Knights will play on Saturday and start preparing.
"Actually we're kind of melancholy," he said. "We're enjoying it, but I think this whole staff knows we have more football in us. Our motto all year long has been one game at a time. Our focus is turning to who we play next and to prepare for the next game.
"I think when the season's over, over, when the football season for the whole state is over, then we'll reflect back and say, 'Man, it was great getting there'. But right now we can't get caught up in the celebration and being happy. We're happy for the boys and the community more than anything else."
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