A cool, overcast Saturday almost turned into the brightest day in the history of the Delaware Military Academy football program.
The Seahawks, ranked sixth in Division II after their first 3-0 start, threw everything they had at top-ranked Hodgson. But the Silver Eagles kept their poise, reined in their offense and rallied for a 28-14 victory at Bob Peoples Stadium.
“This was good for us,” Hodgson coach Frank Moffett Jr. said. “To be battle-tested and be in a good football game … this is the first game that our first unit has had to play a complete game. I’m proud of them.”
The Seahawks (3-1) made big plays and jumped to a 14-7 lead late in the third quarter. But the Silver Eagles (4-0) found an extra gear and won it with three touchdowns in the fourth.
“This game definitely humbled us,” Hodgson running back Jeffrey May said. “All respect to DMA, they’re a tough team. But we’re a tough team, too. … This is what we live for.”
Hodgson lost two fumbles and turned the ball over on downs at the DMA 12 in the first half, then finally broke through on Raymond Jones’ 8-yard pass to Rakeim Woodland to take a 7-0 lead at half.
But a shotgun snap that sailed over Jones’ head changed the momentum early in the third. DMA’s Trampas Henderson recovered 35 yards up the field at the Hodgson 45. Four plays later, Kyle Sulecki found an opening off left tackle and went 21 yards to tie the game.
DMA’s Tyler Lewis intercepted Jones at the Hodgson 47 on the next series, the Silver Eagles’ fourth turnover. The Seahawks found some running room, then quarterback Sean O’Brian lofted a 23-yard pass to Lewis. The junior made a diving, over-the-shoulder catch in the left corner of the end zone. Suddenly, DMA led 14-7 with 1:59 left in the third quarter.
“It felt like everything we had game-planned for was coming together,” DMA coach Joe Aviola said.
That’s when Hodgson ditched its spread offense, went to a tight formation and started running between the tackles.
“I said, ‘Let’s lean on them a little bit,’ ” Moffett said. “I believe in my offensive line. Let’s go to our two-tight-end set and start running the ball, maybe eat up a little clock.”
The Silver Eagles went 54 yards in 11 plays, all on the ground. Jones’ 1-yard plunge tied it at 14 with 9:39 remaining.
Hodgson forced a DMA punt, then finally got the huge play it needed. May took advantage of a big block by right tackle Dwight Chavis and bolted 70 yards down the right sideline to give the Silver Eagles a 21-14 lead with 5:48 to play.
“It popped open for me,” May said. “All credit to the line. … We knew it was a dogfight with that d-line, but our offensive line gave me the hole and I took advantage of it.”
“We got caught in the wrong defense,” Aviola said. “We were mixing up some fronts on them, and that’s part of the game. Coach Moffett made a good adjustment there.”
DMA was pinned at its own 4 on the ensuing kickoff, but drove to the Hodgson 47 before defensive lineman Jefferson Joseph intercepted a deflected pass with 2:03 left. The Seahawks forced a punt to get one last chance from their own 20, but Jones intercepted O’Brian and went 24 yards for the final touchdown with 29 seconds to go.
“You can’t take anything away from Hodgson,” Aviola said. “They’re a good team, and that’s what good teams do. They got on the ropes, and they responded.”