With rain pouring down by the gallon, Saturday night was no time to do anything fancy on a football field.
Tower Hill came prepared and dominated the clock with two long drives in the first half, then sloshed to a 28-8 victory over Delaware Military Academy at DeGroat Field.
The Hillers, ranked ninth in Division II, remained undefeated at 3-0. The sixth-ranked Seahawks slipped to 2-1.
“I’m really proud of the fact that we put a full 48 minutes together tonight,” Hillers coach Kevin Waesco said. “We talk to the boys all the time about ups and downs, and the team that weathers those things the best hopefully comes out victorious.”
Tower Hill weathered the rain with a grinding rushing attack and a defense that came up big at critical times. DMA moved from its own 30 to the Hillers 28 on the first possession of the game, only to be stopped for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-1.
The Hillers took the ball with 6:57 left in the opening period and splashed 72 yards in 13 plays. Cole Wenzel’s 1-yard touchdown plunge made it 6-0 on the first play of the second quarter.
Tower Hill forced a punt, then went to work again. This time, the Hillers went 90 yards in 10 plays, helped by back-to-back offside penalties against DMA early in the drive. Matt Smith threw a 49-yard pass to 6-foot-7 tight end Patrick Kelly, then capped the drive with an 11-yard scramble around the right end. A two-point run by Jermaine Knotts pushed the Hillers’ lead to 14-0 with 3:01 left in the half.
The Seahawks turned the ball over on downs again, leaving Tower Hill with another chance to score. Two plays later, Matt Smith tossed a 28-yard touchdown pass to 6-5 receiver Peter Smith (no relation) for a 20-0 lead.
Tower Hill assistant coach Brett Smith, Matt’s older brother, looked at the wet weather forecast on Friday and suggested that the Hillers prepare for it.
“We had a bucket out yesterday, and we did our whole typical Friday walkthrough with a wet ball,” Waesco said. “We had a water cooler that we filled up with water and we dunked the ball in and ran our pass routes, then dunked the ball in and ran through our other offensive stuff.”
The Hillers looked right at home in the downpour, as Sam Murphy knocked down a DMA pass in the end zone to foil the Seahawks’ first drive of the second half.
DMA finally got on the board on Trevor Hill’s 2-yard run with 2:20 left in the third quarter. But Peter Smith squashed another DMA with an interception, and the desperate Seahawks turned the ball over on downs at their own 18 with 4:42 left in the game. Knotts sprinted up the middle for the final Tower Hill score on the next play.
Knotts carried 10 times for 73 yards, while Matt Smith rushed 20 times for 55 yards and completed 2 of 3 passes for 77 yards.
“It was fun,” Matt Smith said. “We worked hard for it. We practiced for the rain, and it paid off.”
It’s always fun when you win, no matter how wet it is.