When the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association decided to play this year’s football state championship games at Delaware Stadium, no one was more excited than Bilal Nichols.
Hodgson’s 6-foot-5, 235-pound defensive end-tight end has committed to play football at the University of Delaware. So when the Silver Eagles meet St. Georges in the Division II title game at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nichols will get a preview of his next home field.
“It’s going to feel crazy, playing my last high school football game where I’m going to start my college career,” Nichols said. “It’s just going to be an amazing feeling. I’m really looking forward to it.”
St. Georges is not looking forward to dealing with Nichols – on either side of the ball.
“Bilal is 6-foot-5, and my defensive backs are about 5-8,” Hawks coach J.D. Maull said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us.”
Nichols has 13 receptions for 326 yards – a whopping 25.1-yard average – and seven touchdowns. He’s even better on defense, with a staggering 23 tackles for losses.
“What a player,” Hodgson coach Frank Moffett said. “On both sides of the ball, he is someone our opponents have to account for. And sometimes, even that’s not good enough. He just plays with so much tenacity and speed.”
Hodgson quarterback Ray Jones enjoys throwing the ball to his big target. But he enjoys manning both ends of the defense with Nichols even more, and Nichols said the Blue Hens recruited him primarily as a defensive end.
“I like him on defense,” Jones said. “He’s very aggressive, flies around, quick off the ball. His footwork is really good.”
“I’m just a contributor,” Nichols said. “Anywhere I can help my team, that’s where I’m at. It really doesn’t matter to me if I play offense, defense, special teams, anywhere I can help my team.”
Hodgson and St. Georges are Blue Hen Flight B rivals, and the Silver Eagles edged the Hawks in a 24-21 classic on Sept. 28. The lead changed hands three times, as the St. Georges trio of fullback Tymiere Griffin and twin halfbacks Taronn and Keyjuan Selby combined to rush for 251 yards.
“The key to stopping St. Georges is just playing disciplined football, not over-reading and not doing anything extra,” Nichols said. “Stay in your gaps and win the battle up front.”
The Silver Eagles are making their second straight trip to the title game, as Hodgson lost to Caravel 39-29 last year at Delaware State University’s Alumni Stadium. Nichols is expecting a better outcome at UD.
“We’re not content with just getting to the state championship,” he said. “I think last year, we were a little content with just getting there. This year, we’re definitely focusing on nothing but winning it.”
It’s less than 5 miles from Hodgson to Delaware Stadium, so Moffett is happy to see Nichols continue his football career at UD. The Silver Eagles often play on Saturday mornings, so don’t be surprised to see Moffett make that short drive up Del. 896 to watch the Blue Hens on Saturday afternoons.
“That is a great place for him,” the coach said. “… I’m glad, because he’ll be close to home where we can go see him. It’s a great fit. He’s a student-athlete. Academically he is strong, and he can play the game. He’s got a bright future.”