During the first week of preseason practice, Chris Godwin caught an 80-yard touchdown pass against Middletown’s always-stout defense.
That was during his freshman season, and he hasn’t slowed down since. If anything, he has continually accelerated.
“If Godwin ever dropped a pass, I’d love to see that film,” Newark coach Butch Simpson said. “In seeing him live, in scouting him, in seeing him on film, it was just a great performance every time.”
Those great performances added up to four straight appearances in the DIAA Division I championship game, with two state titles. Godwin was a first-team All-State selection at three positions two years in a row, and this year the senior was named the state’s Offensive Player of the Year in voting by the media and Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association board of directors.
“In 26 years, he’s the finest player I’ve ever coached,” Middletown coach Mark DelPercio said. “He’s the finest player I’ve ever seen come through the state of Delaware.”
The 6-foot-4, 202-pound Godwin finished his career with 147 receptions for 2,795 yards and 40 touchdowns. He added 1,063 rushing yards and 12 TDs, and passed for five more scores. And he scored 15 times on kickoff and punt returns.
“I’m thrilled with how my high school career has gone,” Godwin said. “Not too many people can say that they’ve played in the state championship game in all four years of high school. We won two state championships, so I’ve been blessed to be in this situation.”
Godwin was fortunate to play his entire Middletown career with quarterback Darius Wade, last year’s Offensive Player of the Year and this year’s Gatorade Delaware Player of the Year. The Boston College signee passed for 7,778 yards and 100 TDs over the last four years.
“They kept getting better, and you wondered how that could happen,” Simpson said of Godwin and Wade. “Either one of them was exceptional in their own right. But when you put the two of them together through the same four-year run, they complemented each other so well. You knew what to expect, and you still couldn’t do anything about it.”
Godwin improved through continuous effort, studying film all year, attending summer camps at various colleges and finishing every drill with a flourish.
“I’ll always work on my route running and my footwork,” he said. “As a receiver, your footwork can never be too good. If you run good routes, it’s going to be hard for anyone to stop you.”
The Big Ten will try to stop him next fall, as Godwin plans to sign with Penn State. With his defensive burden lifted (Godwin was first-team All-State at linebacker last year and at defensive back this year), his high school coach has no doubt he’ll succeed.
“I can’t imagine what this man will be able to do when he’s only playing one side of the ball, because we got 48 minutes out of him every game,” DelPercio said. “To see him on one side of the ball, it’s going to be special. He’ll be an impact player, and he’ll be an impact player next year at Penn State. He won’t be somebody that will be sitting or redshirting. He’ll be on the field next year.”
Godwin was recruited by dozens of schools before narrowing his top three to Penn State, Ohio State and South Carolina.
“With the offense they run, I feel like it’s suitable for my position,” Godwin said of the Nittany Lions. “And the academics are second to none. I’m really excited to go up there and try to contribute.”
Of all the spectacular plays Wade and Godwin made, the most memorable for Godwin came in just the second game of their careers. On Sept. 17, 2010, Middletown was leading Smyrna 20-16 with less than 10 seconds left in the first half when the Cavaliers lined up for a final play from their own 39.
“They called for a Hail Mary pass,” Godwin said. “He threw it about 45 yards and I caught it, broke a few tackles and ran it in. That kind of stands out to me. I thought it was pretty cool.”
It was a sign of things to come. The dynamic duo hooked up for three touchdowns that night as Middletown won 39-22. The Cavaliers compiled a 41-7 record over the last four years, including a 23-game winning streak spread over parts of three seasons.
Middletown lost to St. Mark’s 37-25 in the 2010 Division I championship game. Then the Cavaliers beat Newark 27-23 for the 2011 title and shut out Salesianum 27-0 in the 2012 championship game to complete a 12-0 season.
The Sals gained some revenge with a 23-7 win over Middletown in this year’s title game. Godwin caught nine passes for 125 yards to finish this season with 56 receptions for 1,269 yards and 17 touchdowns. And he has one high school game remaining – the Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. It will be broadcast live on ESPN at 4 p.m. Thursday.
“Playing with Darius has been awesome,” Godwin said. “He’s one of my best friends off the field, and on the field we have great chemistry. His ability to make plays and his great arm strength has definitely helped me. His football IQ is amazing.”
They were the perfect combination – Wade patiently scrambling in the backfield, waiting for a receiver to come open. More often than not, it was No. 12.
“There’s a playsheet that had Godwin plays on it, and that list of plays got longer and longer as Chris went from his from freshman to sophomore to junior to senior year,” DelPercio said. “As a coach, I learned that sometimes you have to design more and more plays to get the ball to a guy when defenses are doing everything they can to stop that from happening.”
The opponents did their best for four years. Most of the time, Chris Godwin did better.