Eagles use second-half surge and advance to DIAA title game vs #1 Salesianum
Entering the DIAA semifinal game at Bill Cole Stadium against William Penn, the Smyrna Eagles were averaging an incredible 55 points per game. The Colonials held the high-flying explosive offense to just 6 points while taking a 13-6 lead into halftime. The second half would be a different story, the Eagle defense suffocated the Colonial offense holding them scoreless. The Eagle offense scored 24 unanswered points to overcome losing their stand-out starting junior quarterback #2 Nolan Henderson and earn a re-match with Salesianum for the DI title. Sophomore HB #25 Will Knight rushed 34 times for 275 yards. He scored all four of his team’s touchdowns and ran in three 2 point conversions. William Penn, the defending DI champions got on the board first when senior HB #6, Kamau Floyd scored a 14 yard TD off left tackle with 5:25 left in the 1st quarter. The extra point attempt failed and the Colonials led 6-0. They took that same lead into the second quarter when HB #6, Floyd took a counter play 15 yards into the end zone for his second TD of the game. This time the extra point kick was good and the Colonials not only led 13-0 but they had held the state’s highest scoring offense to nada at that point. Smyrna junior QB #2, Nolan Henderson was carted off the field just before halftime. He took a hard hit to the head which many of Smyrna’s fans could not believe was not a penalty. After he left the game, sophomore HB #25, Will Knight took it personal. Three plays and a Colonial penalty later #25, Knight scored from a yard out to finally put the Eagles on the board. The extra point attempt was denied but more importantly the Eagle offense had scored, giving them the confidence they needed entering the half.
After forcing the Colonials to punt on their first possession of the second-half, Smyrna went right back to work. Pinned down at their own 1 yard line after a 55 yard punt by William Penn senior captain #4, Frank Burton, HB #25 Knight, took a direct-snap and zoomed 99 yards for what would be the go-ahead TD. Knight ran in the 2 point conversion and all of a sudden the Smyrna Eagles, who had been held scoreless until just before halftime also playing without their starting QB, had the lead 14-13 with 8 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. The offense got the ball back after forcing another Colonial punt and once again Eagles HB #25, Will Knight scored. He ran in a 7 yard TD then added another 2 point conversion making the score 22-13 with just over 4 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. Smyrna went from barley scoring and losing one the best players in the state to injury, to suddenly slamming the William Penn offense door shut and racing up and down the field with HB #25, Knight running the Wildcat offense perfectly. Knight scored the last points of the afternoon on an 8 yard TD run, added 2 more points on the conversion run and the Eagles held a commanding 30-13 lead with only 2 minutes and change left to go. The Eagles turnaround in the second-half was a credit to their coaching staff said senior DB #5, Rodney Ruff. “At halftime our coaches told us we’ve been punched in the mouth, time to give it back”, said Ruff. He went on to mention “We were playing for Nolan, he’s done an amazing job for us this year and we didn’t want it to end today”, “We’ve wanted this re-match with Sallies ever since we lost 76-56, now we got it”! Will Knight proved himself to be one of Delaware’s premier high-school football players in only his sophomore season. Putting the team on his back and the massive offensive line paving the way for him, it was turnaround that anyone in attendance won’t soon forget. Smyrna (11-1) will play top-seeded Salesianum (11-1) December 5th, at UD stadium for the DI football title. If its anything like the first game they played, a combined 132 points, it should be memorable.
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