Both Caesar Rodney and Sussex Central gained plenty of yards on Friday night. But the Riders feasted on five turnovers, and that was the difference.
Caesar Rodney got a fumble return for a touchdown and three interceptions by Arthur Miles to earn a 20-9 victory in a key Henlopen North game at Caesar Rodney.
The fifth-ranked Riders (4-2, 2-0) fumbled on their first play from scrimmage, with Tyshawn Hicks recovering for Sussex Central at the CR 23. But three plays later, Miles’ first pick came in the end zone to keep the game scoreless.
“We needed that,” Miles said. “We needed a turnover in general, a fumble, interception, anything. We had to have a spark somehow.”
The next time the Golden Knights (4-2, 2-1) got the ball, they drove from their own 35 to the CR 32 before the ball popped out at the end of a 7-yard running play. It bounced right to the Riders’ Aaron Briggs, who went 75 yards the other way for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
“We fumbled the ball right to their guy, right down the sideline. Unbelievable,” Sussex Central coach John Wells said. “That’s a 10-point swing. That was a big part of the game right there.”
Miles came up big again two drives later, intercepting a Golden Knights pass at the SC 45 and returning it 5 yards. The Riders drove to a first-and-goal at the 10, but a holding penalty and two sacks backed them up to fourth-and-goal at the 32.
That’s when quarterback Alex Kemp lofted a rainbow toward the right corner of the end zone. Kendall Wicks was there to make an over-the-shoulder catch for a 14-0 lead with 2:51 left in the first half.
“We were just trying to throw it up to see if something could happen, and they made it happen,” CR coach Mike Schonewolf said.
A 20-yard field goal by Alberto Sosa-Contreras capped Sussex Central’s first drive of the second half. Later, the Golden Knights used a little trickery as receiver Amontay Clanton took a pitch on a reverse, pulled up and threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Isaiah Bailey to pull Sussex Central within 14-9 with 6:49 to go.
“That was a neat play,” Schonewolf said with a chuckle. “I might have to put that one in.”
But the Riders came back with a five-play, 72-yard drive, all on the ground. Devon Horton broke free for a 52-yard gain on a draw play, then went 14 yards around left end on the next play to push CR up 20-9 with 4:54 remaining.
The Riders snuffed Sussex Central’s next two drives with interceptions, first by Michael Negrete, then by Miles on the final play of the game.
“Any turnover is a thrill,” Miles said. “But for it to have an impact on the game, it means so much more.”
Horton finished with 98 yards on nine carries and Shaquille Stratton added 67 yards on 15 carries as Caesar Rodney rushed for 262 yards. Sussex Central rushed for 205 and passed for 124 more, but it all came down to turnovers.
“The turnovers certainly were a little unusual for both teams, if you watched them both throughout the course of the season,” Schonewolf said. “… Certainly the ball bounced a little more our way than it did their way.”