The DIAA football playoffs don’t start until November, but William Penn coach Marvin Dooley is already in postseason mode.
Middletown is the heavy favorite to run the table in Blue Hen Flight A. William Penn (2-2, 2-0 Flight A) and Newark (2-2, 2-1) are among a large group of contenders for second place, and the traditional rivals meet in a key conference game at 7 tonight at Newark’s Hoffman Stadium.
“I believe this game is a playoff game,” Dooley said. “The winner is going to really set itself up to be successful down the road.
“Middletown is the class of Flight A, everybody knows that. But I think the second-place team can get in [the playoffs]. I think 7-3 would get you in the playoffs, and the winner of this game is going to have a great chance to do that.”
Both the Colonials and Yellowjackets lost their first two games, then won their last two. William Penn fell to Division I powers Salesianum and St. Mark’s, but bounced back to top conference foes A.I. du Pont (27-20) and Appoquinimink (28-7). Newark lost close ones to Oxford (Pa.) and Charter of Wilmington before getting past Glasgow (22-18) and Delcastle (29-12).
“I think there’s a large group of us in Flight A, and maybe even across the state in Division I, we’re all week-to-week,” Yellowjackets coach Butch Simpson said. “We’re just trying to find a way to win a game week-to-week.”
Dooley said his young offensive line is improving rapidly. Center Brandon Dooley, guards Jalin Stanley and Dominick Trotta and tackles Elijah Lewis and Tre’Vone Skinner have paved the way for junior running back Reggie Carroll to rush for 470 yards and six touchdowns the last two weeks.
“Reggie always makes one guy miss,” Marvin Dooley said. “If we can block everybody and he makes one miss, he helps the offensive line a lot. He’s a really special running back. He has great vision, and he’s about 140 pounds but runs like he’s 300 pounds. As small as he is, he’s a powerful back.”
Newark counters with senior two-way lineman Dutch VanDerhout, quarterback Ben Campbell and receiver Peter Suski. The two juniors connected five times for 90 yards and two touchdowns against Delcastle.
“We don’t have superstars,” Simpson said. “We’re just trying to have 11 who are consistent.”
In other notable games this weekend:
* Salesianum (4-0), ranked second in Division I, faces a tough trip to Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, N.Y., at 7 tonight. The Blue Devils (4-0) are ranked third among New York private schools by maxpreps.com and are averaging 41.8 points per game.
* Two 3-1 teams tangle as Dover, ranked fourth in Division I, travels to No. 7 Sussex Tech in a key Henlopen North game at 7:30 tonight. The Senators have won three straight, including a 20-12 victory over then-No. 3 St. Mark’s last week. The Ravens erased a two-touchdown deficit in a 28-27 win over Sussex Central last week.
* Surprising Polytech (4-0), ranked eighth in Division I, faces its toughest test so far at No. 3 Caesar Rodney (2-2) in another Henlopen North matchup at 7:30 tonight. The Panthers were 10-40 the last five years but have started this season with wins over Delcastle, Woodbridge, Seaford and Smyrna under new coach Kevin Smith. The Riders have lost to No. 1 Middletown and No. 2 Sallies but defeated Hodgson (ranked second in Division II) and rolled past Cape Henlopen 35-14 in their conference opener last week.
* Hodgson (2-2) has no time to celebrate last week’s emotional 24-21 win at St. Georges. The Silver Eagles meet Howard (4-0), which is ranked fifth in Division II, in another critical Blue Hen Flight B game at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Wildcats have opened with wins over Charter, McKean, Christiana and Mount Pleasant.