St. Mark's to the Limit
Difference in 17-12 Loss
Photos (from top): Seniors Jamil Young (3), David Pusey (7) and Lewis Day (56) played their final games for Sussex Central.
The Sussex Central High School football team limped into the Division I state tournament semifinals on Friday, Nov. 29, 2002, injured both physically and emotionally.
But despite a 17-12 loss to second-seeded St. Mark's at Baynard Stadium in Wilmington, the Golden Knights walked out with their heads high.
Central finished its third straight state tournament season with a 9-2 record overall and the program's first Henlopen Conference Northern Division championship.
St. Mark's, meanwhile, will ride into the state championship game next weekend at the University of Delaware's Tubby Raymond Stadium with a 10-1 mark.
The Spartans will face the winner of the Saturday, Nov. 30 semifinal between top seed William Penn and No. 4 Middletown.
Coming off a 23-7 regular season-ending loss to Middletown that prevented them from securing the program's first undefeated regular season since 1970, and playing without all-state wide receiver Andrew Weatherly due to an ankle injury, the Knights pushed favored St. Mark's to the limit.
In fact, the Knights outgained St. Mark's 194-164 in total yards and tied the Spartans 10-10 in first downs.
Senior running back Jamil Young, the transfer from Woodbridge largely responsible for the Knights' success in 2002, scored two touchdowns, one from 3 yards out in the second period and another from 1 yard out in the fourth period that pulled Central within 17-12 with 11:42 left.
The Knights had a chance to take the lead moments later in the fourth quarter when defensive tackle Eric Wyatt forced a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Kevin VanVorst at St. Mark's 49-yard-line.
But after advancing to St. Mark's 27 with 8 minutes left, the Knights were stopped on downs with 7:34 remaining in the game and never got the ball back as the Spartans ran 13 plays, including a pair of fourth-down conversions, to run off the remaining time.
In the end, those fourth-down conversions and two lost fumbles proved to be the Knights' undoing.
First, with Central leading 6-3 in the second period, punter David Pusey turned a low snap into a completion to A.J. Neal, but Neal fell down short of the first down trying to avoid a St. Mark's tackler.
The Spartans turned that break into a 7-play, 23-yard scoring drive, with running back Jonathan Heydt scoring from 1 yard out for a 10-6 Spartan advantage.
Heydt then scored the Spartans' winning points on a 15-yard return of a fumble by Knight halfback Will James for a touchdown and a 17-6 advantage with 3:22 remaining in the third period.
Unlike the loss to Middletown, though, Central didn't back down this time and scored less than three minutes later to pull within 17-12.
St. Mark's (3-0 St. Mark's)
SUSSEX CENTRAL (6-3 Sussex Central)
ST. MARK'S (10-6 St. Mark's)
St. Mark's (17-6 St. Mark's)
Sussex Central (17-12 St. Mark's)
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