It’s a simple task for Salesianum in tonight’s DIAA Division I state championship game.
Stop Middletown quarterback Darius Wade and wide receiver Chris Godwin. Or at least keep them from doing whatever they want.
Those things are easier said than done. But the second-seeded Sals (10-1) have already done it once this year, and they will need to do it again to keep the top-seeded Cavaliers (10-1) from winning their third straight state championship. Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Delaware Stadium.
“I think they’re the two best football players ever to come out of Delaware,” Sallies coach Bill DiNardo said of Wade and Godwin. “I know I’m putting that out there, but I’ve never seen anyone dominate like those two do. They’re tremendous.”
They have been tremendous for four years. Wade will be making his unprecedented 48th career start, and he has had a huge season (2,445 yards passing, 34 TDs) before heading off to Boston College.
“He has just been Mr. Calm, Cool and Collected,” Middletown coach Mark DelPercio said. “He takes the same approach every single game. Mentally, he’s on top of things. Physically, he’s such an incredible specimen.
“He’s fun to watch. I’m gonna miss him. But for game number 48, I told him, ‘Let’s make it your best game.'”
Godwin, who has committed to Penn State, has been just as outstanding. The 6-foot-4 speedster has hauled in 47 passes for 1,144 yards and 17 TDs this fall.
“I’ve absolutely marveled at him for four years,” DiNardo said.
So, how do you stop these guys? By knocking down Wade to keep him from throwing it to Godwin.
“We have to put pressure on [Wade]. We cannot let him sit back there,” DiNardo said. “He is deadly. He will sit back there and find the open guy. He will put the ball on the money every time.
“So you have to put pressure on him, and then you have to contain him. And I think the second part is harder than the first part. Lots of teams put pressure on him. Containing him is something else. I watched a film of him the other day, I think he broke six tackles on a touchdown against Caesar Rodney.”
The Sals had success against the dynamic duo three weeks ago, scoring a 24-13 victory at Baynard Stadium to snap Middletown’s 23-game winning streak. They did it by controlling the clock, with 230-pound Troy Reeder bruising his way for 220 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
“They made plays, and we did not,” DelPercio said. “But credit to them. They did a good job of limiting our playmakers, keeping us out of the end zone. Defensively, I think they get overlooked but they played outstanding.”
DiNardo is expecting to see a different game tonight.
“Both teams are going to make adjustments,” the Salesianum coach said. “You’re not going to see the same stuff that you saw in the first game. As good as we played the first game, we know that was really nice, and in that moment that’s what we wanted to do. But it means nothing this week.”
The Sals have a couple of Division I recruits, too. Reeder will join Godwin at Penn State to play linebacker, and rangy Brian O’Neill has committed to Pittsburgh, where he likely will be a tight end.
Middletown throttled Sallies 35-0 during the regular season last year, then blanked the Sals again 27-0 in the title game. But the improvement of senior QB Matt Sgro has allowed Salesianum to balance its offense. This year, the Cavaliers must defend the pass.
“You can no longer put all 11 guys in the box, as we’ve done in the past,” DelPercio said. “You’ve got to cover people. Having a 6-foot-8 guy [O’Neill] out there catching passes certainly adds to that, and a quarterback that throws the ball well and runs the ball well.”
Wade and Godwin won’t go down without a fight. Middletown can become the first team to win three straight state titles since Delmar did it in Division II from 2000-02. The last Division I team to go on this kind of run was Newark, which won five straight from 1997-2001.
“Our kids knew that if we wanted to be state champs, at some point we were going to have to go through Middletown,” DiNardo said. “Whether it be in the first round, the second round or the third round, we knew we were going to have to go through Middletown.”