Overtime Boosts 'Cats
Publisher, Sussex County Online
Photos: Delmar defensive back Tyler Downes intercepts a pass in overtime (top), while linebacker Zarar Shauket leads a charge to stuff a Hodgson run.
DELMAR -- For 33 straight games, the Delmar High School football team had been able to overcome bigger opponents with its quickness and intelligence.
The top-seeded Wildcats, however, nearly forgot that formula in the Division II state tournament semifinals on Friday, Nov. 29, 2002, and it almost cost them a shot at their third straight state championship.
But in the end, Delmar survived numerous penalties, four lost fumbles, and a bobbled extra point snap as placekicker Cody Collins drilled a 22-yard field goal from the left hash mark on fourth down in overtime for a 9-6 victory over fourth-seeded Hodgson.
Unlike last year's 42-16 semifinal victory over Hodgson, the Wildcats had to come from behind for only the second time this season to earn a third straight trip to the state title game. That, despite more than doubling the Silver Eagles in total yardage at 253-120.
This time, Delmar will face either No. 2 Laurel or No. 3 Howard for the championship at the University of Delaware's Tubby Raymond Stadium. Game time will be at 7 p.m. on either Friday, Dec. 6, or Saturday, Dec. 7.
In rising to 11-0 this season with their 34th consecutive victory, the Wildcats got a miracle completion on third down and 35 yards to go, plus a late hit penalty against Hodgson, to set up their only touchdown of the game.
One play later, quarterback Jonathan Ellis scored from 9 yards out to tie Hodgson, which had taken a 6-0 lead following one of Delmar's fumbles with 8:16 remaining in the third quarter.
Ellis' touchdown figured to be followed by the extra point kick for the lead by Collins, who is about as automatic as they come. But the snap eluded the holder, Ellis, who threw an incomplete pass to leave the score tied 6-6 with 2:20 left in regulation.
Neither team would score after that, although the Wildcats mounted the most serious threat only to have a 42-yard completion from Ellis to Shaun McLain end with another lost fumble at Hodgson's 36.
That set the stage for overtime, and Delmar's defense, as it had throughout the game, stuffed Hodgson on two plays and then eliminated any chance Hodgson had for a go-ahead field goal when defensive back Tyler Downes intercepted a pass on third down at the goal line.
Delmar thought it had scored the winning points on its first play in overtime, but end Michael Hunt's apparent touchdown catch was ruled incomplete when he lost the ball while celebrating.
After clearing the field of celebrating Delmar players who also thought they had won, the Wildcats ran an incomplete pass play and a five-yard run by Vince Stewart to the Hodgson 5 to set up Collins.
After a timeout by Hodgson, Collins forgot about a 53-yard attempt he missed earlier in the game and the botched extra point try to calmly put the ball right in the middle of the goal posts for the winning points.
"I was ready to kick it right then," said Collins. "I had to make it. It was all right there in front of me. You can't miss stuff like that. You've got to take the opportunities that you've got."
The Wildcats continually frittered away opportunities for most of the game, as they lost two fumbles in the first half and committed four penalties.
The worst was yet to come, though, as they lost two more fumbles and committed nine more penalties in the second half.
Ironically, their worst drive also became their only scoring drive. After taking over on their own 49, the Wildcats moved the 51 yards in 7 plays, but the drive was hardly as efficient as it sounds.
First, a 15-yard run by fullback Maurice Stewart to the Hodgson 7 was called back for an illegal block. Then, a 35-yard touchdown pass from Ellis to end Demeris Cannon was wiped out by an illegal procedure penalty. Another illegal procedure call pushed the ball back to the Hodgson 45 to force third down and 35 yards to go.
Finally, the Wildcats got a break of their own on the next play, as Ellis threw up a pass that Maurice Stewart hauled down for a 27-yard gain to the 18. And, while he was on the ground, a Hodgson player piled on for a late hit penalty that moved the ball to the 9 and set up Ellis' touchdown run.
The Silver Eagles scored their only touchdown following another Wildcat mistake in the third period. After a Delmar fumble, Hodgson took over at the Wildcats' 32 and immediately, quarterback Lenzie Davis connected with Navy-bound tight end Larry Cylc on a 32-yard pass play to the Delmar 1.
The Wildcats proved stubborn against the much bigger Silver Eagle offensive line, but on third down, Davis was able to sneak over from about 6 inches to give Hodgson the lead. Davis was then stopped on the two-point conversion run to leave the score at 6-0.
The touchdown would be the only time Hodgson's offense got the better of Delmar's defense.
The Wildcats recorded 9 tackles for losses, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery while holding Hodgson to 120 yards of total offense. Only Davis was able to have any success against the Wildcat defense with 59 yards rushing on 16 carries.
4:26 -- DELMAR (6-6)
DELMAR (9-6 Delmar)
Total Offense -- Hodgson 46-120, Delmar 59-253.
First Downs -- Hodgson 5, Delmar 12.
Rushing -- Hodgson 41-89, Delmar 40-146.
Passing -- Hodgson 1-5-2, 31; Delmar 5-19-0, 107.
Fumbles/Lost -- Hodgson 2/1, Delmar 5/4.
Penalties/Yards -- Hodgson 2-9, Delmar 12-75.
Hodgson -- Lenzie Davis 16-59, Delwen Hall 15-(-5), B.J. Wright 7-25, Brandon Glynn 1-1, Rich Loveless 2-9.
Delmar -- Vince Stewart 18-49, Chip Cuffee 1-2, Maurice Stewart 5-16, Jonathan Ellis 12-39, Shaun McLain 1-2, Tyler Downes 1-1, Demeris Cannon 2-37.
Hodgson -- Lenzie Davis 1-5-2, 31.
Delmar -- Jonathan Ellis 5-19-0, 108.
Hodgson -- Larry Cylc 1-31.
Delmar -- Demeris Cannon 1-19, Tyler Downes 1-3, Maurice Stewart 2-43, Shaun McLain 1-42.
Delmar kicker Cody Collins on his game-winning field goal:
"I was ready to kick it right then. I had to make it. It was all right there in front of me. You can't miss stuff like that. You've got to take the opportunities that you've got."
Collins on the victory:
"It was for the seniors. There are so many seniors on this team that need to go to the state championship. It was for them.",p>
Collins on the difficult angle on his game-winning field goal from the left hash mark:
"That's the first one I've made all year from this side. It's the first one I've tried from this side."
Collins on the missed extra point in regulation:
"Jon (holder Jon Ellis) got a bad snap. All that stuff happens. I knew we'd get it back. I knew we'd get it back. There was no way they were going to get by us from the 10 yard line (in overtime). No way."
Collins, a member of the school's state semifinalist soccer team, on his fall seasons:
"We lost in soccer but we had an awesome season. We never had anything like that."
Delmar quarterback Jon Ellis on the victory:
"They're (Silver Eagles) a great football team. I think honestly that brought out the best of us. We've never been down like that. It shows we have heart, character. I have the utmost respect for them."
Ellis on going to the shotgun on the tying drive in regulation:
"We knew we just couldn't keep getting beat down (by Hodgson's big defensive line). It was time for us to shine and we came out on top tonight."
Ellis on the field goal in overtime after he bobbled the snap on a potential game-winning extra point in regulation:
"I was so nervous. I was scared to death, to tell you the truth. I just wanted to get it on the block. I knew he (kicker Cody Collins) could do it if I just got it on the block. It came out good in the end."
Ellis on overcoming all of the offense's mistakes:
"Our defense. That's purely it. Our defense is great. It kept us in the game all year. It kept us in here tonight. They've done it three years continously, especially this group here. They're just great guys. They won the game for us. We put the points on the board, but they won the game for us."
Ellis on his 9-yard touchdown run to tie the game:
"I just had to get in the end zone. I wasn't really trusting my arm at the time. I struggled all game. I know hat doesn't sound good, but I just needed to make sure that was a firm touchdown. I just had to make sure I made it in."
Delmar head coach Dave Hearn on his team's mistakes:
"We were struggling. We put the ball on the ground a lot, but we were still working hard. It was very frustrating because we were making mistakes. We had people jumping that said they couldn't hear, so we resorted to looking at the ball. I guess it was noisier out there than it was where we were standing. It's just very frustrating. We were making some plays finally, but they kept taking them back. We made mistakes mentally, physically, but I don't know if we made mistakes as much as a lot of them were caused by great play (by Hodgson). They played a tremendous game both ways, with the defense, really both defenses played inspired. Each team shut the other down. We made a lot of mistakes, but we were looking for things to do and we were struggling to find them."
Hearn on the program's 34th straight victory:
"That's a nice one to put on that streak. That's a topper to put on there. The kids can look at the next one (if they win their third straight state title next weekend), but i don't think the kids will forget this one any time soon."
Hearn on Hodgson:
"They were big kids, they played great, they played inspired. They took away things we do normally. Normally we can adjust. When people take the inside awa,y we can go out. When they take them both away, we can pass. We struggled in all three categories tonight."
Hearn on the missed extra point try for the lead in regulation:
"I don't think Cody would have missed it if we had not let the hold get away. Cold hands are tough, especially late in the game and you've got pressure on and you get a little cold and the ball skitters away. We were pretty good on our special teams and that was frustrating."
"Hearn on giving Hodgson the ball first in overtime:
"I had very much confidence that we could hold them in the overtime.
Hearn on the Wildcats' few close games in the past three years, including a 7-6 win over St. Elizabeth in September:
We've lost an overtime game, a championship game, to St. E's a few years back (20-14 in 1996). We've been in this experience before, not these kids, but I know the feeling. I know the feeling they (Silver Eagles) feel leaving here. (Against St. E's this year) it was same kind of thing. We ran that same spread offense against St. E's late in the game to set ourselves up to get get a touchdown late in the game and to win that game. Each time we've struggled we've found ways to work our way out of it. Good defense has a lot to do with that, too."
Hearn on giving Hodgson the ball first in overtime:
"We were going to give them the ball first if we won the toss. I had confidence we would stop them."
Hearn on the overtime strategy on offense, which saw the Wildcats throw two incomplete passes then run outside for 5 yards by Vince Stewart:
"I probably should have gone right up the middle and stayed in the middle of the field (instead of Stewart's sweep). That wasn't very bright as I thought about it. We hadn't run that play all night and we thought maybe we could get outside but the cornerback made a nice play. He kind of stuffed us and turned us back inside where we thought we could get outside. There was only one man out there and he made a nice play, took on the blocker, stuffed him inside. We were thinking about going for it there (on fourth down instead of kicking the field goal) after we missed that extra point, but cody's pretty dependable, so it's hard not to use him as a weapon."
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