Middletown earned the top seed in Division I and St. Georges earned the top seed in Division II when the pairings for the DIAA Football State Tournaments were announced Sunday.
The playoffs will begin Friday and run for three weekends, with the Division II championship game being played Nov. 30 and the Division I title being decided Dec. 1. Both championship games will be played at 7:30 p.m. at Delaware State University’s Alumni Stadium.
In the Division I first round, third-seeded St. Mark’s (8-2) will host sixth-seeded Cape Henlopen (8-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Fourth-seeded Caesar Rodney (7-3) will be at home against fifth-seeded Sussex Central (8-2) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
After those games are played, the lowest remaining seed will play at top-seeded Middletown (10-0) in the semifinals on Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m. The highest remaining seed will play second-seeded Salesianum (9-1) at Baynard Stadium on Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
The Division II field was expanded to eight teams this season, creating four first-round games and no byes. The fields are selected by the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association’s point system, and Archmere and Delmar tied for the eighth and final playoff spot.
The teams did not meet during the regular season, so the second tiebreaker – greater number of wins by opponents – was used. Archmere’s opponents had 52 wins, while Delmar’s opponents had 46 wins, giving Archmere the eighth seed.
The Auks (7-3) will open the playoffs against top-seeded St. Georges (10-0) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Caravel. St. Georges is the only higher-seeded team not playing on its home field in the first round. The Hawks’ stadium cannot be used for playoff games due to a lack of seating on the visitors’ side.
In other first-round games in Division II, No. 4 seed Indian River (8-2) will be at home against fifth-seeded Howard (8-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, third-seeded Caravel (10-0) will host sixth-seeded St. Elizabeth (6-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and second-seeded Hodgson (9-1) will host No. 7 seed Delaware Military Academy (7-3) at 11 a.m. Saturday.
After the first-round games are played in Division II, the highest remaining seed will host the lowest remaining seed in one semifinal, and the second-highest remaining seed will host the second-lowest remaining seed in the other semifinal.
Archmere coach Jerry Ambrogi knew his team would be in the Division II field Saturday morning. But he didn’t tell the Auks before they played St. Elizabeth that night.
“We’ve been to the playoffs so many times that I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out most of the points,” Ambrogi said. “… I knew we were in, I just didn’t know which seed. But that doesn’t say anything for how badly we lost to St. Elizabeth, because I didn’t tell the kids. The kids thought they had to win to get in.”
St. Elizabeth whipped Archmere 24-0 at Baynard Stadium, but Ambrogi had some good news for his players after the game.
“They were surprised,” he said. “They were pretty forlorn after getting beat as soundly as we did. That picked their spirits up.”
The first-round matchup against Archmere caught St. Georges coach J.D. Maull by surprise.
“I love what the DIAA has done with putting eight teams in the [Division II] playoffs,” Maull said. “But it was a little confusing. We had no idea we were playing Archmere. We thought we were playing Delmar. I went down to watch Delmar play on Friday night, because we thought we were playing them.”
Cape Henlopen also went 8-2 last season, but a 6-4 William Penn team that played a tougher schedule edged the Vikings out of the final Division I playoff spot by one point. This year, Cape Henlopen nipped A.I. du Pont (7-3) and Concord (6-4) by one point for the final spot.
“We thought we were in pretty good shape,” Vikings coach Bill Collick said. “We knew that Caesar Rodney would help us if they won. … When we found out that [CR] had won, we told our kids we’re going to meet [today] and get ready to practice.”
Tickets for all first-round games are $5. Tickets for semifinal games are $6 at high school sites and $7 at Baynard Stadium. Tickets for the championship games are $8.
Tickets for all games will be available at the gate, and tickets for semifinal and championship games may be purchased online at http://www.diaa.ticketleap.com.