On Sept. 28, the first time Hodgson and St. Georges met this season, the lead changed hands three times before the Silver Eagles blocked a last-minute field goal to preserve a 24-21 victory.
Expect it to be just as close when the Blue Hen Flight B and vo-tech rivals clash again at 2 p.m. today in the DIAA Division II state championship game at Delaware Stadium.
“This is what you work for,” St. Georges coach J.D. Maull said. “You get to play your rival school, Hodgson, in the state championship. They’ve beaten you before. If you want to say you’re No. 1, this is your chance to say you’re No. 1. You get to play them on the big stage, in front of everybody.”
That loss to Hodgson was the only one for the top-seeded Hawks (11-1), who reached the title game in only their sixth year of varsity football. The victory over St. Georges started a nine-game winning streak for the second-seeded Silver Eagles (10-2), who are appearing in the Division II title game for the fourth time in seven years but have only won it once – in 2007.
Hodgson has only allowed 35 points in its last eight games, and dominated defending state champion Caravel 48-0 in the semifinals.
“We have gotten really good on the defensive side of the ball,” Silver Eagles coach Frank Moffett said. “Those kids are starting to really understand their reads. They’re starting to understand their coverages. … I’m an old-school type of coach, and I firmly believe that defense wins championships. I think right now, I’ve got a championship-caliber defense.”
But the Hawks’ ground game presents a formidable challenge. Fullback Tymiere Griffin and twin halfbacks Taronn and Keyjuan Selby combined to rush for 251 yards in the first meeting.
“J.D. likes to neutralize the clock,” Moffett said of Maull. “He likes to get the clock running, and I assume that’s going to be one of his game plans, to run the clock and keep our offense off the field.”
That’s a good idea, because Hodgson quarterback Ray Jones has been almost impossible to stop. The junior has rushed for 1,098 yards and 16 TDs and passed for 1,325 yards and 20 scores so far. The Hawks limited Jones to 84 yards on 20 carries the first time. But he completed 8 of 16 passes for 229 yards and four touchdowns – including the winning 54-yarder to Ruben Saunders in the fourth quarter.
“He’s the one-man gang. He’s the ultimate weapon,” Maull said of Jones. “He puts gray hair on my head. He’s an awesome football player, and a great kid. What we have to do on Saturday is to try to control him, try to contain him, which is going to be hard.”
This budding rivalry has only had five meetings so far, with Hodgson leading 3-2. The teams have alternated victories, so if history holds it will be St. Georges’ turn. Either way, it should be close.
“I see this being a battle,” Maull said. “I don’t see it being a blowout for either team. It’s going to be a battle, and whoever wins the turnover battle and wins the front line will win the game.”