It was late on a Wednesday afternoon in May 2010 when Bill Collick met with the Cape Henlopen football players to tell them he would be taking over as head coach.
Enthusiasm was at an all-time low. The Vikings were coming off a 1-9 season, and when Collick told a longtime friend he had accepted the job, she said, “Coach, have you lost your mind?”
Attendance was sparse at that first meeting. And three seasons later, only eight players have stuck with Collick all the way.
“They came to that first meeting,” he said. “Everybody didn’t stay after school. I went to meet the team and it was getting late and everybody didn’t stay. So we like to talk about the eight that stayed.”
Diaz Nardo, John Colucci, Cody Dmiterchik, Kevin Wright, Mike Miller Jr., Matt Hurlock, Robert Prettyman and Jeremiah Cohen now form the core of a team that immediately improved to 5-5 in 2010, went 8-2 last year and now sits at 7-2 going into Friday night’s regular-season finale at home against Smyrna.
“It had been a tough deal here,” Collick said. “There are eight people left. I’m so proud of those guys.”
The Vikings knew they were getting a proven coach. Collick remains the all-time leader in coaching wins at Delaware State University, producing an 81-48 record from 1985-96. But ask him about the sudden success at Cape, and he defers to his assistant coaches.
“I always say the biggest part of coaching is can you keep people together over 10, 11, 12 games during the season?” Collick said. “There are trials and tribulations, injuries, personal problems, all kinds of stuff. Everybody on our staff has played a part in keeping this thing together.”
Assistants John Parker, Herky Billings, Billy Collick, Jay Maull, John Parker Jr., Bo Gooch, Gilbert Maull, Ken Hardy, Dan Mesinna, Pat Manning and James Harmon have the Vikings rolling now. Collick said the first big sign of progress came when Cape spoiled Dover’s homecoming with a 25-24 victory in 2010.
“To move the program forward, you’ve got to beat some people that maybe some people say you shouldn’t,” he said. “That Dover thing was the first game where it was great to get that win on our back.”
A schedule light on Division I opponents cost the Vikings last year, when a 6-4 William Penn team edged Cape for the final playoff spot in Division I. A similar scenario could play out this season.
“I don’t get into that,” Collick said of the regular-season schedule. “I just like to see us improving and making progress and moving forward, and I think that’s what we’re doing.”
Collick would love to see his team make the playoffs, a special reward for the eight players who have been through it all. Cape has come from behind to beat Dover and Caesar Rodney this year. Now, Smyrna stands in the way of a second straight 8-2 season.
“I tell our kids all the time, it’s tremendous to be playing some good football when the leaves turn,” Collick said. “I’m hoping we can keep playing well and finish this thing. And then wherever it falls, it falls.”