Andre Patton will likely catch some key passes, and Jamar Baynard should rush for many important yards. All-star games are made for players in skill positions, such as Patton and Baynard, to sparkle.
But players on both the Blue and Gold teams agreed that tonight’s 58th annual Delaware All-Star High School Football Game will come down mostly to basics, such as blocking and tackling, and who does it better.
Much of that will occur under the radar at Delaware Stadium, where pregame activities begin at 6 p.m. and kickoff at 7.
“The big plays are going to happen,” said Gold offensive lineman Darren Helwig from Smyrna. “But we feel like it comes down to being able to grind it out, yard for yard.”
Even Patton, who’ll leave Sunday for Rutgers, where he has a football scholarship, expects the outcome to rely on nuts and bolts.
“Our team has jelled together real well, so you won’t even know which one of us will make a play,” said Patton, a Blue player out of St. Elizabeth. “I feel like we have a lot of weapons in our offensive line. They’re big, but they can move and have good technique.”
The game matches the state’s top high school football players from the recent graduating class.
The Gold roster consists of players from high schools south of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, plus Christiana, Glasgow, Newark and Red Lion.
High schools from the rest of New Castle County put their players on the Blue, which has won 30 all-star games to the Gold’s 24. There have been three ties.
“I think strong play up front will win the game for us,” said Blue tackle Devan Labau from St. Mark’s. “We’ve just got to stay together as a team and keep the line of scrimmage moving and let our backs and receivers make the big plays when it counts.”
The Gold has won the last two outings, with Quadir Bryant’s all-star record 240 rushing yards in 2011 and Taylor Reynolds’ running and passing exploits in 2012, earning each game MVP awards.
There are plenty of Blue-Gold players this year capable of similar stellar performances.
“Every spot has an explosive player,” said Gold quarterback Ian Gory, a Dover graduate who has enjoyed handing the football to Baynard (Middletown), feeding slotbacks Donovan Cain (Dover) and Devon Horton (Caesar Rodney) and throwing deep to Malacchi Esdale (Appoquinimink). “But in order to get those long passes and explosive plays, we need a big, strong front. If the two work together, we know we’ll put points on the board.”
Esdale and Patton, who also could both play defense, may even match up periodically across the line of scrimmage, which is certain to catch fans’ attention.
Both offenses know there are plenty of defensive standouts on the other team whom they also need to steer clear of.
Gory and his Gold teammates are particularly wary of speedy Blue defensive end Michael Williams from St. Mark’s and safeties Jesse June (Salesianum) and Jeffrey May (Hodgson).
All week the Blue has expressed concern about getting past Gold linebackers Nick Digati (Middletown) and Cory Mattox (Delmar). Blue-Gold defenses are required to play a 5-2, and there is no blitzing.
“It’s been rough on our offense to get yards rushing, because Digati and Mattox are two scary guys in the middle,” Gory said.
Game proceeds benefit the Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities. The Blue-Gold experience — as opposed to winning or losing — is frequently lauded as the greatest result of the annual game. But, surely, both teams are out to win and will remember the outcome.
“I really think what we need to focus on is limiting mistakes,” said Blue quarterback Sam Carney of Friends. “If you do that and keep pounding, getting 3 or 4 yards every play, that’s something.”
Labau (Blue) and Glasgow’s Khari Ngozi (Gold) each earned the Jim Williams Award for contributing the most to team morale during camp at Friday night’s Blue-Gold banquet in Dover. … Sussex Central’s Travis Caraway (Gold) and Concord’s Cody Bauer (Blue) received Hand-in-Hand awards for having the best relationships with their buddies in the program matching players with intellectually disabled kids. … Ambassadors Avery Chandler (Polytech) from the Gold and Rachel Levithan (Concord) of the Blue received Bob Carpenter Jr. awards for their leadership and dedication during Blue-Gold activities. … Outstanding Cheerleader Awards went to St. Georges’ Sarah Royston (Gold) and Brandywine’s Courtney McGuigan (Blue) while Dover’s Jada Little earned the Outstanding Band Member honor.