NEW CASTLE – As the William Penn football team’s kickoff return specialist, senior Keith Johnson is tasked with setting the tone for the Colonials’ offense to start a game.
Johnson’s speed spoke volumes on Saturday afternoon, as his 91-yard opening kickoff return for a touchdown got the Colonials off on the good foot, stepping over longtime rival Newark for a 35-7 homecoming win.
“We spend a lot of time on special teams,” Colonials head coach Marvin Dooley said. “We had two big plays today. It’s great to see the things you work on in practice that might not get enough respect come up big for you in a game.”
“It’s real big. For us to get a great start like that, it gives us momentum,” defensive back Isaiah Gaynor said. “Everybody’s contributing and getting hype. That’s what it takes to win a football game.”
Johnson’s long run was just the first special play on special teams for William Penn (5-1, 4-1 Flight A). After forcing Newark to punt, Terin Cochran took the ball on the bounce and zipped 44 yards down the left side to open a 14-0 first-quarter lead for the Colonials.
“I just saw two open holes and I had to get there,” Johnson said. “That’s what’s expected of me. All week long, they’ve been telling me to take one to the house and that’s what I did.”
Angelo Ortiz, Zachariah Burton and Jahsan Gildersleeve added rushing touchdowns to stake Penn to a 35-0 lead to start the fourth quarter.
Defensively, William Penn held Newark (1-5, 1-3 Flight A) scoreless until the final 45 seconds of game action, using their size in the trenches and speed on the outside to their advantage.
Benefiting from the battles in the interior was Gaynor, who blitzed often from the left side, recording two sacks and several tackles for loss.
“We just wanted to keep the win streak alive against Newark,” Gaynor said. “It’s probably the best rivalry in the state of Delaware.”
“It’s Newark-William Penn. I told our seniors they have a chance to be 4-0 in their careers against Newark and that means a whole lot,” Dooley, a William Penn grad himself, explained. “Winning a rivalry game on homecoming? Doesn’t get much better than that.”
Sophomore quarterback Nevan Lambert tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Mekhi Pressey for Newark’s lone touchdown.