All season, Middletown’s offense received the most credit and most headlines. And for good reason.
Darius Wade, Jamar Baynard and Chris Godwin helped the Cavaliers’ offense average a whopping 47.2 points per game throughout their perfect season. But on a chilly Saturday night in Dover, it was the defense coming through in clutch moments.
“There’s no doubt that our defense came up big tonight,” Middletown coach Mark DelPercio said. “No surprise what we did tonight.”
In its 27-0 triumph, Middletown raced out to a 21-point halftime lead and seemed set to coast to the Division I state title.
But Salesianum, which the Cavaliers trounced 35-0 earlier this season, came out firing in the second half.
Three times the Sals fought their way deep into Middletown territory after halftime. Three times, they came away scoreless.
The first drive of the second half saw Sallies, behind a 29-yard rush from quarterback Matthew Sgro, make it all the way to the Cavalier 22-yard line. The Middletown front, however, snuffed a fourth-and-2 to give the ball back to that vaunted offense.
The Cavaliers’ next drive stalled and Sallies was back in business and on Middletown’s side of the field, this time on the Cavalier 40. Two penalties and a sack later, Middletown had the ball back.
The third drive looked to be the Sals’ best shot. With Sallies in the red zone, Middletown cornerback Richard Arnold picked off a pass in the end zone, which essentially clinched the Cavaliers’ second straight state championship.
“I’ve never seen a defense like this in Middletown,” Arnold said. “It’s been amazing. I’m happy to be a part of this squad.”
Arnold, who tried to beat out Godwin and Thomas Davis on the offensive side, switched to defense just before the season. Before long he was the starting cornerback.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” DelPercio said.
A few minutes later, Wade found Godwin in the end zone from 25 yards out to give the Cavaliers a 27-0 lead with seven minutes left in the game. The game was in hand, thanks in large part to that defense.
The defensive players might not have gotten much love throughout the year, but they only gave up 11.6 points per game.
Both times they played Sallies – whose only losses of the season came at the hands of the Cavaliers – they posted shutouts. They only allowed 184 yards of total offense in Saturday’s win.