On Aug. 15, the first day Delaware high school football teams were allowed to practice, Middletown coach Mark DelPercio told his team to focus on improving every day.
The Cavaliers kept that focus throughout, and the payoff was an undefeated season capped by a 27-0 victory over Salesianum in the DIAA Division I championship game on Saturday night at Alumni Stadium.
Middletown (12-0) won its seventh state football championship, and became the first Division I school to win back-to-back titles since Salesianum in 2005-06. The Sals finished their season at 10-2.
The Cavaliers routed Salesianum 35-0 in their first meeting on Oct. 26, and this one didn’t go much differently. Middletown built a 21-0 halftime lead the first time, and the Cavaliers did it again on Saturday night.
“You always feel pressure, especially coming off a big win like that,” said Middletown quarterback Darius Wade, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown. “We knew the other team was going to come back hungrier, especially on this big of a stage.”
The Cavaliers took the opening kickoff and covered 77 yards in six plays. Chris Godwin slipped after taking a pitch to the left, but kept his footing and blazed 59 yards down the sideline for a 7-0 lead with 8:48 left in the first quarter.
“I stumbled a little bit, but my offensive line blocked great for me,” Godwin said. “I took it to the house.”
The Cavaliers motored 80 yards in nine plays early in the second quarter, including Wade completions of 23 yards to Dennis Berger, 23 yards to Jamar Baynard and 22 yards to Godwin. Baynard took it in from the 1 for a 14-0 lead.
The Cavaliers got the ball back with 5:51 left in the half and ate almost all of the clock with a 13-play drive. Erich Schneider broke a tackle and went 38 yards on a screen pass, and Wade scrambled for 16 yards to the Sallies 2. The Sals put up a good fight from there, pushing it to a fourth-and-goal, but Baynard scored from the 3 for a 21-0 lead.
“This team is just so awesome that if you give them a second chance, if you miss a tackle, it’s lights out,” Sallies coach Bill DiNardo said of Middletown. “They’re a tremendous team. We had our opportunities, but we couldn’t cash in on them.”
Sallies drove to the Middletown 22 to open the second half, but Andrew McClelland was stuffed by the Cavaliers’ defensive line for no gain on fourth-and-2. Jesse June’s 35-yard punt return set up the Sals at the Middletown 23 on the first play of the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers’ Richard Arnold intercepted a pass in the end zone to preserve the shutout.
With 7:02 to go, Wade lofted a pass to Godwin, who used his 6-foot-4 frame to shield a defender and come down with a 25-yard touchdown catch for the final points.
“The key was coming out strong and then finishing strong,” Godwin said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Middletown outgained the Sals 415-184, but DiNardo was proud of his team’s effort. Troy Reeder led Sallies offensively with 12 carries for 51 yards.
“Our kids played their backsides off,” DiNardo said. “They played really well for two or three plays, but we couldn’t get that one big play. We couldn’t get the turnover, the big play, the big first down.”