Beat CR, 20-16
Knights Past Nemesis
Photos: SC's Candido Felix (45) and Jonathan Ricketts (22) wrap up CR's Stephon Beckham (above) while SC fullback Orlando Farrow lunges into the end zone to tie the score 13-13.
GEORGETOWN -- The seniors on this year's Sussex Central High School football team had little to go on in devising a winning game plan against Caesar Rodney.
The seniors, themselves, had been on the wrong end of 48-0 and 21-10 scores in their sophomore and junior seasons. And the SC program itself had only two wins against the Riders in the past 16 years.
So on Friday, Nov. 2, those Knight seniors had to wing it, mixing up a winning concoction of a kickoff return, a blocked punt, a miraculous reception, a gritty defensive stand, and a whole lot of faith in themselves, to beat CR, 20-16.
The full moon probably didn't hurt, either.
"We're definitely counting our blessings," said SC head coach John Wells following the improbable victory.
Lost in the celebration of junior Andrew Weatherly's heroic catch and run with a tipped pass for a 70-yard touchdown reception was the fact that the Knights, in rising to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the Henlopen Conference Northern Division, may have also staved off disaster in their hopes for a state tournament berth.
Those tournament hopes remain because the Knights battled back from a 16-13 deficit with just 2:45 left in the game when CR's Megan Collins bounced a 28-yard field goal off the crossbar and through the goal posts.
Things looked pretty dire for the Knights at that point, especially when they committed one of their 13 penalties to face a first and 25 situation at their own 30 yard-line just moments later.
But after an incomplete pass left them with a second-and-25, Weatherly breathed new life into the Knight faithful when he followed a pass from quarterback David Pusey off the fingertips of CR defensive back Jeff Watts into his hands at about the 35 yard line and raced the rest of the way for a 20-16 Knight lead with 2:13 left in the game.
But the Knights hadn't ridden out the storm yet, even after defensive back Jonathan Ricketts picked off a CR pass on the Riders' next possession to give SC the ball at its own 24 with 1:54 to go.
Following another Central penalty, fullback Orlando Farrow, who scored earlier on a 2-yard run, was stripped as he battled for more yardage. The resulting fumble was covered by CR's Brandon Lintz at the SC 19 with 1:47 still to go.
But the Knight defense summoned up four gritty efforts to stop the Riders on downs at the SC 18.
Finally, with 51.7 seconds remaining, Pusey, a senior, was able to give the Knights their first win over CR since 1997 with a couple of kneel-downs.
The Knights had the upper hand in the first half beginning with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Weatherly on the game's opening kick.
They then drove on their next possession to the Rider 14, but another Farrow fumble killed that drive.
After that, the Knights killed themselves as penalty after penalty wiped out any gains they made in a 7-0 first half.
In the second half, CR took the momentum away from Central as it took advantage of a short punt to go 36 yards with running back Stephon Beckham bursting in from 2 yards out to tie the game 7-7.
The Riders scored again on a 14-yard Beckham TD, but Knight defensive end Layton Wright swatted the extra point down to keep the score at 13-7 with 3:19 left in the third period.
In the fourth quarter, the Knights began their comeback Josh Ward blocked a punt and scooped it up and returned it to the CR 16.
Five plays later, Farrow bulled in from the 2 to tie the score 13-13 and set up the frantic final minutes.
11:40 -- SUSSEX CENTRAL (7-0 SC)
6:12 -- CAESAR RODNEY (7-7)
3:19 -- CAESAR RODNEY (13-7 CR)
6:11 -- SUSSEX CENTRAL (13-13)
2:45 -- CAESAR RODNEY (16-13 CR)
2:13 -- SUSSEX CENTRAL (20-16 SC)
Total Offense -- Sussex Central 54-204, Caesar Rodney 44-159.
Rushing -- Sussex Central 40-72, Caesar Rodney 35-150.
Passing -- Sussex Central 5-14-0, 132, 1 TD; Caesar Rodney 1-9-2, 9.
First Downs -- Sussex Central 12, Caesar Rodney 9.
Fumbles/Lost -- Sussex Central 2/2, Caesar Rodney 1/0.
Penalties/Yards -- Sussex Central 13-140, Caesar Rodney 6-40.
Caesar Rodney -- Stephon Beckham 21-139, Eric Looney 7-15, Mike Henry 6-(-1), Josh Coveleski 1-(-3).
Sussex Central -- Orlando Farrow 14-53, Jonathan Ricketts 6-15, Will James 10-34, David Pusey 6-(-20), Andrew Weatherly 4-(-10).
Caesar Rodney -- Josh Coveleski 1-9-2, 9.
Sussex Central -- David Pusey 5-14-0, 132 yards, 1 TD.
Caesar Rodney -- Jeff Watts 1-9.
Sussex Central -- Andrew Weatherly 2-86, Jesse Makowski 2-41, Jonathan Ricketts 1-5.
Sussex Central head coach John Wells on beating Caesar Rodney:
"These guys haven't won in four years aginst CR. The last time before that was four years before that. Then again, the breaks went both ways. We maybe shot ourselves in the foot a few times but we got two large breaks with the blocked punt and the tipped pass. We'll count our blessings on that."
Wells on the tipped pass Andrew Weatherly turned into the game-winning touchdown:
"He had him beat but the ball was underthrown. We got one (a break). That was our saving grace on that one."
Wells on the Knights' many mistakes:
"I was a little disappointed there in the first half. I thought we had a chance to get it up to 14-0, 21-0 with a couple chances in the red zone. We fumbled in the red zone, we missed a chip shot for a field goal possibly. But we understand that CR played real tough and took some things away from us, too. They didn't make it easy for us. We missed some opportnities early, then we kept making mistakes, turning the ball over, flags. But our boys were resilient and played through that. They could have hung their heads and gave up early but they didn't do that. I'm proud of the way my kids played."
Wells on the blocked punt by Josh Ward that turned the game around for the Knights:
"We came out at halftime and knew we wanted to get a stop on those guys. We missed a kick, it ended up being a short kick, he shanked it, an they got the ball on the 40 or 45 yard-line. Then they pinned us down with a punt, we go three and out, we're jammed up, and then they score on a short field and they had all the momentum. Blocking that punt, that was large. We were coming for that one. I said, "Coach Booth (special teams coach), go get it'. He does a nice job. I said go get 'em and he went after 'em."
Wells on holding CR after a late fumble gave the Riders the ball at the SC 19 with 1:47 to go:
"That was one of the best stands probably in SC history. Jeremy Baker stepped up on that waggle throwback (on CR's last play). We knew it was going to be coming some time. We were waiting for it all game long and on the last play of the game they came to it and he was right where he was supposed to be like we told him all week. So hat's off to a sophomore playing good cornerback play."
Sussex Central receiver Andrew Weatherly on his team's resilience:
"That's one thing about our team. We never really give up. No matter how far we're down, we'll never give up. We're a fourth quarter team. We run all week, conditioning, conditioning, conditioning, and it pays off."
Weatherly on the winning touchdown reception:
"He (CR defender) just tipped the ball and I just stuck with it. It took concentration, that's all it took. I just thank the lineman for blocking because all night our QB was getting sacked and they held them that time. I wasn't letting that ball drop. It was a very neat feeling."
Weatherly on beating Caesar Rodney:
"The last time we beat them was four years ago (1997) and the year before that was four years ago (1993), and this was the fourth year. We had to do this, if not for ourselves (underclassmen), for our seniors. They deserve this one ... our coaching staff also."
Weatherly on his 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the game:
"Usually teams don't try to kick it to me. They know usually when I get it I try to do damage on them. You could see for yourself that the blocking was there. I only had to make one cutback and it was a touchdown. Wall left, that's what we call it. It was beautiful blocking."
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