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Game of the Week
The Sussex County High School Football Game of the Week

Game of the Week ...

Big Turnaround
for Raider Seniors
From 1-9 to 9-0, Title

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Game of the Week Story ...

BRIDGEVILLE -- Adam Hickman couldn't have been sure he was in the right camp back in August when he looked at Woodbridge High School head football coach John Parker's list of pre-season goals.

Among the list of 10 goals that Parker could remember after his team's 21-20 overtime victory over Laurel on Friday, Nov. 12, 1999, were:

  • No. 1 -- Play fundamentally sound (okay, reasonable enough).
  • No. 2 -- Play with a lot of spirit and emotion (another reasonable goal).
  • No. 5 - Win the first game against Seaford (a seemingly tall order, but not impossible).
  • No. 6 -- Win the Harvest Bowl against Delmar (again, a tall order but not impossible).
  • No. 7 -- State Tournament Berth -- (What?)
  • No. 9 -- Henlopen Conference Southern Division title -- (uh, say that again, coach)
  • No. 10 -- Win a state championship (in whose dream?)

Everything sounded fine to Hickman, the Blue Raiders' co-captain, until those last couple of goals, the kinds of goals that teams with winning traditions set for themselves, not teams coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, not teams that had never before won a division title or qualified for the state tournament, not teams with only 4 seniors -- and Woodbridge was all of those things.

"Coming out in August off a 1-9 season I didn't know what to think," said Hickman, one of the four seniors along with co-captain and quarterback Jason Rust and running backs C.J. Pitts and Corey Sanders. "Then I saw our goals and saw 'state championship' and I was shocked."

Now, the Raiders have shocked the Delaware high school football world.

Friday's win over Laurel gave the Blue Raiders their first Henlopen South title, gave them their first Division II state tournament berth, gave them an unbeaten record of 9-0, and gave them something the underclassmen can build on in the future -- a legacy of winning football games.

That reality was still sinking in for the four seniors who endured the brunt of the humiliation in the last two seasons but were able to drink in all of the elation of their accomplishments with a swarm of hometown fans in a wild mid-field celebration after the game.

"I'm speechless," said Rust.

"After two years of 1-9 ... 9-0, this is a big difference," said Pitts.

The four seniors credit coach Parker with the dramatic turnaround in only his second season at the school.

"Coach Parker is a great inspiration to us," said Sanders, who scored the game-tying touchdown in overtime that set up placekicker Ben Passwaters' winning extra point kick. "Coach (Mark) Isaacs gave us a lot of intensity. They've taught us to never give up."

That came in handy for the Raiders against a Laurel team that presented the most serious threat to ending the team's Cinderella season.

The Raiders had shut out seven of their previous eight opponents and none had put together what could be called a "drive". Laurel, however, used a big offensive line and the slashing running of Titus Mims to ground out 247 yards of total offense including a 17-play touchdown drive and a 78-yard TD run by Mims.

Still, the Raiders didn't flinch, even though the Bulldogs nearly doubled the Raiders' yardage total of 125.

"We're in good condition and that helped us a lot," said Pitts of his team's ability to survive Laurel's bruising front. "Even though Laurel was driving the ball, coach got us to give a gut check because he knows we have a lot inside us. We just had to keep playing until the final whistle blew."

And now, they can focus on their remaining two goals. First, they go after the Harvest Bowl at Delmar on Friday, Nov. 19. Then ...

"We're going to go 10-0 and win states," said Sanders.

Now, that doesn't sound so crazy anymore.

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