Rematch with Dover
Finals Berth in Row
Photos: Sussex Central head coach John Wells.
When you lose to a team once, it's tempting to think you need to make major adjustments to come out with a win when you face that team again later in the season.
But given that Sussex Central only lost 34-32 to Dover in a Henlopen Conference football matchup a month ago, the Golden Knights don't think they need to change up much ... save for an extra point here and there and better tackling.
The 9-1, third-seeded Knights get a rematch with unbeaten, second-seeded Dover in the semifinals of the 2001 Delaware Division I high school state football tournament on Saturday, Nov. 24, at 7:30 p.m. As with the first encounter this season, the game will be played at Dover.
The two teams played in the semifinals last year, too, with Sussex Central winning that contest 33-3 en route to a state championship game appearance against Newark.
Four-time defending state champion and top seed Newark advanced to the championship game for the seventh consecutive season, but barely, with a 6-0 victory over fourth-seeded William Penn in another Division I semifinal on Friday, Nov. 23.
In the first meeting between Dover and Sussex Central back on Oct. 19, the Golden Knights actually outgained Dover 347-310 in total yards with big plays from fullback Orlando Farrow and split end Andrew Weatherly.
But Dover controlled the game with the steady runs of standout running back Pierre Bowers, who rolled for 243 yards on 44 carries to lead Dover's 19-9 advantage in first downs.
Still, the game came down to extra points, as the Knights had one extra point kick blocked, missed another, and failed to convert a pair of two-point conversion runs.
Dover finally subdued the Knights with 2:39 left in the fourth quarter when Bowers scored from the 3.
Besides the extra points, Knight head coach John Wells came out of that game impressed by Bowers but less impressed by his defense's tackling. So special teams and tackling will likely be the message at practice this week for Sussex Central.
"We have a couple of little things to tweak, but we can't go changing too much," said Wells. "I'm sure we'll work on a couple of things, but at this point in the season, there's not a whole lot you can change."
The Knights don't need to change much offensively other than to get fullback Orlando Farrow and tackle A.J. Rovillard healthy.
Farrow rushed for 794 yards in the Knights' first six games before suffering achilles and knee injuries that have reduced his playing time and production. He ran for 166 yards including touchdowns of 79 and 49 yards in the loss to Dover last month and finished the regular season with 1,050 yards.
"I'm sure he'll muscle up and be ready for Friday," said Wells. "We'll just try to get him as close to 100 percent as we can."
Andrew Weatherly is the Knights' other main big-play threat. The sleek junior wide receiver has scorched opponents with long touchdown receptions and kickoff returns for touchdowns all season.
Weatherly has caught 7 touchdown passes, returned three kickoffs for touchdowns, and accounted for more than 600 yards in receiving including back-to-back 100-yard outings against Cape Henlopen and Dover. He also scored on a 52-yard run last week at Christiana.
Quarterback David Pusey, running backs Jonathan Ricketts and Will James, and tight end Jesse Makowski have also been major contributors.
Pusey has completed more than 55 of 94 passes for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Ricketts has contributed offensively and defensively with nearly 500 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns plus 1 touchdown receiving and another on an interception return.
James has scored four touchdowns on the ground and Makowski is always a threat for a long pass play with nearly 300 yards in receiving including an 82-yard reception against Sussex Tech two weeks ago.
Defensively, the Knights have been led by linemen Terry Williams and Layton Wright, linebackers Jesse Makowski and Ricky Pierre, and defensive backs Jonathan Ricketts and Jeremy Baker.
Wells is somewhat concerned that his team hasn't played up to its potential in the last couple of games with difficult victories against Sussex Tech and Christiana.
"We did a good job against Dover the first time, but in the last couple of games, we've not been up to par," Wells said.
Besides Bowers, the state's leading scorer with a school record 29 touchdowns this season, the Senators have gotten better production of late from junior quarterback Collins Evans, running back/receiver Jason Lilly, and running back Lawrence Dixon.
So Wells cautions against putting too much emphasis on stopping Bowers this time.
"As much as Bowers is their workhorse, you can't key on just one player," said Wells. "Dover is loaded with skill players. Evans and Lilly do as much damage as anybody else."
In addition, the Dover defense has stiffened since the Sussex Central game, allowing only 22 points in the last three games including just 2 points in a 44-2 win over Caesar Rodney last week.
"Their line is improved, their playing pretty good defense," said Wells. "They're hot, playing good ball, and they're confident. We have to step it up, playing them on their field."
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