You don’t have to dig deep in the history books for the situation Smyrna hopes to repeat Saturday in the Division I Football Championship Game against Smyrna.
In 2015, Smyrna fell 76-56 at Salesianum in one of the wildest games in Delaware high school history.
That Eagles team ran the table from there, and who was waiting for them at Delaware Stadium? Salesianum.
In 2017, Smyrna dropped a 35-28 game to Middletown when all 9 touchdowns in the game were from at least 21-yards away. They’re back in the title game, and sure enough, the Cavaliers will join them on Tubby Raymond Field.
Head Coach Mike Judy said his message to his team after this year’s Harvest Bowl was the same he gave at Baynard Stadium in 2015.
“We do our jobs and they do their’s, we’ll see them again. So far I’ve seen that twice and it’s happened. I’m really happy and excited to be playing them. Best team in the state versus the next best team in the state, we’re ready.”
That’s not to say the Eagles haven’t forgotten that night. Will Knight scored 60, 69, 35, and 70-yard touchdowns in the game, but it wasn’t enough.
“What I remember is us not executing, us going off of the game plan, and not being who we are. We just need to go back to the blueprint and just execute.”
Linebacker Hunter Moyer and the Eagle defense gave up three touchdown passes and two long Kedrick Whitehead runs, but the senior sees places where they have room to improve this time around.
“They are a phenomenal offense. I think we struggled big time with tackling, and during the course of the season we’ve improved on tackling. I think that’s going to be the biggest difference.”
What else can be the difference for Smyrna? Coach Judy said it can start with Moyer, the glue to his defense with a team-high 21 tackles for loss.
“I’m a pretty calm guy, and he’s the guy I need. He’s a fiery, passionate individual. I love seeing it out of these kids. He plays with that energy, and he really enjoys the game and playing with his teammates.”
Offensively, the attention easy drifts to Knight, who rushed for 1,922 yards and 29 touchdowns, while adding another 10 catches through the air. While the state’s all-time leading rusher is a key, perhaps bigger is quarterback Isaiah Wilson, who made his first start for Smyrna after transferring from Glasgow in that Week 1 loss.
Wilson is completing 48% of his throws for 1,712 yards with 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but Judy said the senior is better now than in September.
“He’s a hard-working individual. He’s a kid that knew it would be tough at the front end of the season, and would take his lumps learning what we do, getting the timing down with the running game and the receivers. He worked very hard with his teammates to get to this point, and I feel very confident that he will make a big impact in this championship game.”
Wilson, Knight, and Moyer each figure to play key roles in a potential Smyrna role reversal from week 1, but Coach Judy said the Harvest Bowl rivals can be broken down pretty easily.
“The first game of the season, the team that made less mistakes won that game. I don’t think anything changes. The team that makes less mistakes and is fundamentally better wins this game. The added bonus is seeing them at the beginning of the year, and then now, which team has grown most. If Middletown was better than us at the beginning of the year, have they grown to maintain that gap?”
For his part, Moyer is happy it’s Middletown-Smyrna for all the marbles.
“There’s no other team we’d rather play in the state championship game. The reason why is at the season they’re at their best, and we’re at our best. It’s nice to see how we compare at the end of the season. It’s almost like the season was a race to see who could get better.”
If it’s anything like Week 1, the game will be a sprint on the Field Turf in Newark, and with Knight in the backfield, Smyrna can’t help but think they have a great chance for their third straight title.