Extension of Coach
Relies on Players' Maturity
Publisher, Sussex County Online
Photos: Delmar senior defensive leaders, linebacker Lawrence Sinagra (top) and lineman Josh Farr (below).
DELMAR -- Delmar High School defensive coordinator Dave McDowell is only 43 years old, but the school's assistant principal has already coached football for 25 years.
You could say he has football wisdom that goes well beyond his years.
It makes sense, then, that the players on his suffocating defense, a defense that has allowed only 36 points in 11 games this season, share that trait.
"People, I don't think realize, that on defense, especially last year, we won the state title with six sophomores starting, and now they're just juniors," said McDowell after his defense shut Hodgson down in the second half of a 42-16 Delaware Division II state tournament semifinal win on Friday, Nov. 23, 2001.
"The best thing I like about it is next year they're seniors, so they are still coming together."
McDowell will lead that defense into the Division II state championship game again on Saturday, Dec. 1, when the unbeaten Wildcats take on unbeaten Middletown in a matchup of two of the most storied small-school programs in the state's history.
McDowell takes as much pride in this defense as any other coaching job he has had, either in his early years with league championship teams at Bishop McDevitt High School in Philadelphia, or the three years he served as head coach at Woodbridge, or the latter years at Woodbridge when he served as an assistant.
After leaving the Woodbridge program to spend more time with his growing sons, McDowell took some time off, then decided to help Delmar head coach Dave Hearn five years ago.
Two years ago, he became the team's defensive coordinator, taking over a young, inexperienced group. By year's end, that defense was coming into its own, and this season, it has picked up right where it left off with four shutouts and two other games in which opposing offenses failed to score.
Even in the win over Hodgson, the defense allowed only 8 of the 16 points, with Hodgson's other touchdown coming on a kickoff return.
But while the statistics are impressive, what impresses McDowell more is the precociousness of this defensive unit.
"I was mentioning to Ed Vickers, our coach up top, that this is the closest to the teams that I had when I used to coach up in Philly," said McDowell. "This is a smart, smart football team. In some ways they do some college calling on the sidelines. They're correcting things as they see them.
"I don't know too many teams that I've ever coached that were able to do that. They are very, very intelligent young boys. It's fun to coach and to watch what they're coming up with and what they're doing."
Other coaches recognized those qualities, as well, as they named nine of Delmar's defenders to the first- or second-team all-conference squad last week.
Named to the first team All-Southern Division defense were senior linebacker Lawrence Sinagra, senior tackle Josh Farr, junior defensive end Michael Hunt, and junior defensive back Vincent Stewart.
Named to the second team were junior defensive end Scott Price, junior linebackers Zarar Shauket, James Stewart and Troi Handy, and junior defensive back Demeris Cannon. Hunt was also named a second team punter.
"All of them are leaders," said McDowell of his defense. "Sometimes certain kids get marked (as leaders), but some of these other kids, like Zarar, he is a leader. You don't hear his name all the time, but he'll get in kids' faces. That's what I like about it. They're 11 kids playing hard. They attack, all 11."
They also look at their efforts as one, McDowell says. He says that was never more evident than when Hodgson broke a long pass play to set up the only touchdown the defense had given up since October.
"There was no finger-pointing on that touchdown," said McDowell. "They sort of knew who made the mistake. They came over and there was no, 'Hey, you didn't do that, you didn't do this.' It was, 'Alright, they got that one'."
For Delmar's young defenders, like their coach, that shows wisdom beyond their years.
Copyright © 1999-2001 Sussex County Online