Game of the Week
Sussex Central Stuns
Delmar With Comeback
Photo Above: Delmar's Ian Hudson rips off a big chunk of his 131 yards rushing in his team's 30-24 loss to Sussex Central Friday night, Sept. 10, 1999.
Photo Below: George Davis ran for 59 yards, a touchdown and a pair of two-point conversions to lead Sussex Central's 30-24 comeback win.
Sussex County Online
DELMAR -- All you need to know about how dead Sussex Central High School's football team looked midway through the second quarter of its season-opener at Delmar Friday night, Sept. 10, 1999, is this: By that point, Delmar had 24 points, and Sussex Central had only five total yards and no first downs.
Then, with 4:37 left in the first half, Golden Knight running back Ben Rogers cut back on a buck sweep for a 43-yard gain.
Rogers' intuitive gallop led to a 5-yard touchdown run by running back Burless Hall before halftime and the Knights were on their way back to a remarkable 30-24 victory over a gasping Wildcat club and a stunned Delmar crowd.
"I was really worried that the young guys would have their heads down (at 24-0)," said Sussex Central head coach John Wells. "We were grasping at straws, but they never gave up. That long run (by Rogers) really sparked us."
Sussex Central eventually won this tale of two halves on a two-yard quarterback sneak by Blake Hershelman with 4:29 remaining in the game.
Delmar rallied after that, moving the ball from its 33 to within the Knights' 15-yard line with more than a minute to play, but a fourth down pass by Wildcat quarterback Dustin Johnson was broken up in the end zone by Hershelman and George Davis with 1:16 left to seal the win.
"We have a young team and I told the kids at halftime that good things will happen if you don't give up," said Wells, who has only six seniors on his team. "To be honest, I wasn't upset with them. I never got mad at them. I was just looking to see how they were responding."
Delmar jumped out to the 24-0 lead by scoring three touchdowns and a field goal on its first four possessions with an uncommonly crisp offensive attack for a season-opener.
The Wildcats, led by running back Ian Hudson's 136 yards rushing, scored in the first period on a 9-yard run by Johnson and a 20-yard run by Mike Ross. A 25-yard field goal by Mickey Budd and a 9-yard scoring run by fullback Steven Twilley gave Delmar its 24-point cushion.
By then, Delmar had 168 total yards of offense to the Knights' 5.
The Rogers' run, however, seemed to deflate Delmar, and as the Wildcats "relaxed", as head coach Dave Hearn put it, the Knights gained confidence and began using their powerful running game to wear Delmar down.
A Wildcat seemed to be reeling on the ground in cramps from the humidity on every other play in the second half, while the Knights ground up yardage while showing no signs of fatigue on the way to three second-half touchdowns, including a 57-yard scoring run by Rogers on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.
"Sussex Central's offensive line controlled things in the second half," said Hearn, whose team was outgained by Central 198-68 in the second half.
"They just drove straight ahead. We had a lot of freshmen on the field (due to the injuries), but that's not an excuse. Sussex Central just beat us. Either they were in superior shape or they just held up better than us."
The Wildcats did move the ball in the second half but they couldn't put up any more points due to fumbles, penalties and dropped passes, including one that would have been a sure touchdown.
The Knights took advantage starting with the 57-yard touchdown run by Rogers, who led the Knights with 125 yards on 10 carries.
Down 24-16, the Knights then turned the ball over to their running back tandem of George Davis and Burless Hall to put together two long scoring drives in the third and fourth quarters.
Davis, who finished with 65 yards, capped an 11-play, 72-yard drive that ate up six minutes of time with a 19-yard touchdown run to bring the Knights within 24-22, and Hall, who gained 25 of his 66 yards on the drive, tied the game by bulling over from 2 yards out for the two-point conversion.
On the clinching drive in the fourth period, Hall and Davis handled the bulk of the running again on a 12-play, 80-yard drive. Hall and Davis combined for 54 yards on the drive, which was aided by a 15-yard facemask penalty at the end of a 19-yard Davis run.
Throughout those drives, the Wildcats were simply powerless to stop the pair.
"24-0 is a lot to come back on," said Hall, "but I was hoping the game wasn't over. The line blocked real well and the running backs had key runs. We feel like we're one of the best conditioned teams. Coach Layfield (Knight assistant) busted our butts all pre-season."
Given Sussex Central's disappointing 4-6 record in 1998 after lofty preseason expectations, Friday night's comeback should provide a mother lode of confidence for the Knights.
"One of our mottos is 'One More Step'," said Hall. "This was a big step for us."
Delmar's Hearn, meanwhile, believes his team, with memories of its four consecutive Henlopen Conference Southern Division titles in mind, will rebound.
"I think they'll get right up off the floor," said Hearn. "The kids have to understand it's only a six-game season (Southern Division games for a state tournament berth). It doesn't matter what happens in the other four."
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