DOVER – Once the disappointment of a loss in the state championship wears off, the Salesianum football team may recognize what it accomplished this season. The Sals went 10-2, defeating highly touted Dover, state semifinalist Caesar Rodney and St. Mark’s – twice. However, that was not enough to hide the dismay following Saturday night’s 27-0 loss to Middletown in the Division I final at Delaware State University.
Still, Sals coach Bill DiNardo said his team had reason to be proud.
“We played our butts off tonight, and we couldn’t make the plays when we had to make them. The kids tried, the kids didn’t do anything wrong. We just didn’t finish,” he said.
Middletown blazed through an unbeaten 12-0 season by pummeling its opponents, outscoring them by an average of 47-11. Only Caesar Rodney, in the semifinal last weekend, came close to knocking off the Cavaliers, as the Riders lost, 35-28. Coach Mark DelPercio and his team were on a mission to successfully defend the title they won last year, and with a talented roster, they were able to do that.
“Our guys came out and made plays when we needed to, offensively and defensively. This group of guys is going to go down as one of the best ever. I’ve never been around a more outstanding football team,” he said.
Middletown quarterback Darius Wade said the team’s only goal when the season started was to repeat as state champs. “I was very pleased with our effort. Back in training camp, we just worked hard, and I just felt we definitely deserved this. All the hard work really paid off, and we just really wanted it bad. We just wanted to come back and repeat and we were able to do that.”
Middletown struck early, as Chris Godwin scored on a 59-yard run on the team’s first possession. The Cavaliers were just as potent on defense, holding Salesianum without a first down on two possessions, and the first quarter ended with Middletown holding that seven-point lead.
Wade was given time to throw all night long, and he took advantage. Middletown’s second touchdown drive included a 23-yard pass to Dennis Berger and 22-yard strikes to both Jamar Baynard and Godwin. Baynard finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.
The senior running back also scored his team’s the third TD, on a 3-yard run, with 18 seconds left, essentially putting the game out of reach. The big play on the drive was a 38-yard pass to Erich Schneider on a third down and 11, putting the ball at the Sals’ 18. Wade took a keeper to the 2-yard line on the next play, but a penalty on first down made it first and goal from the seven. On fourth and goal from the 3, Baynard found the end zone.
After the first quarter, Salesianum was able to drive the ball but could not convert as they neared the end zone. The Sals reached the Cavs’ 32-yard line on their only full drive in the second quarter and the 35 as the half expired.
After intermission, they got as far as the Middletown 22 before Andrew McClelland was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-2. Following a Middletown punt, Salesianum started one yard into Cavaliers territory but two penalties stalled the drive. On their last drive of the evening, a Jesse June punt return set the Sals up at the Middletown 23, but the series ended when Baynard intercepted a Matthew Sgro pass in the end zone.
Godwin finished the scoring on a 25-yard reception from Wade.
Both coaches talked about the teams they had to coach this season in glowing terms.
“I’ve been blessed with great kids. They had a great season this year. I was so proud of them. I wouldn’t trade these kids for anybody in the world. We gave it 150% tonight, we just came up short against a very good, a very talented team,” DiNardo said.
Said DelPercio: “It’s a super-great group of guys, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. They’re an outstanding group of young men, and they can play football, too.”
Wade, Godwin and Berger are only juniors, so they and a good chunk of the Cavaliers’ roster will be back to try to make it three in a row next season. Wade said it is not out of the question.
“I know the way our coaches coach, we can keep doing this year in and year out,” he said. “Our coaches do a great job of developing our players.”