The Caesar Rodney football team prepared for Henlopen Conference play by tackling the toughest nonconference schedule in the state.
Those bruising tune-ups paid off Friday night, as the Riders opened conference play with an impressive 35-14 victory at Cape Henlopen.
“We’ve played four very good football teams,” CR coach Mike Schonewolf said. “… When you play against good people, you have to have that level of play, be at that speed. When you play that way all the time, then you hope you have an advantage.”
The Riders (2-2, 1-0), ranked fourth in Division I, scored two touchdowns on special teams and controlled the clock with a dominant running game to knock off the No. 6 Vikings (2-2, 0-1). Caesar Rodney was battle tested after losing to No. 2 Salesianum and No. 1 Middletown before defeating Hodgson – ranked third in Division II – last week.
The Riders’ Naquan Watkins darted around the edges for 99 yards, while 212-pound Dominique Dorsey blasted up the middle for 87 more. CR’s front five of Zack Parker, Brendyn Moore, Kyle Bailey, Marcus Lawrence and Ian McCarthy paved the way for 318 rushing yards overall.
“I’ve just got to thank my line,” Dorsey said. “They blocked for me, had the holes open, and I just hit them hard.”
Both teams put together long scoring drives early, as CR’s Dean Johnson scored on a 3-yard run and Cape Henlopen’s Zach Stevenson answered with a 46-yard burst to tie it. Riders defensive back Arthur Miles held himself responsible for the Vikings’ touchdown, and he erased their momentum in 13 seconds by returning the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a TD.
“I knew I messed up when I let the guy score, and I felt bad,” Miles said. “… I kind of took it upon myself to just go all out on the return. I saw the hole, and I just took off.”
CR’s Seth Brosius broke through to block a Cape punt, and Dorsey picked it up and cruised 10 yards to push the Riders ahead 21-7 with 9:51 left in the second quarter.
“That was a real nice answer to their touchdown,” Schonewolf said of the kickoff return. “And then the blocked punt just put some momentum on our side.”
CR forced another punt, then earned a first down on a fake punt during a nine-play, 49-yard drive. Alex Kemp’s 1-yard plunge made it 28-7 at the half.
Cape showed some life with a 70-yard scoring drive to start the third quarter, with Justin Lopez running it in from 14 yards out. But the Riders put together drives of 10 and 11 plays, capping the second one with Kemp’s 8-yard pass to Kendall Wicks for the final score.
“When we got the nice lead with our special teams plays, it was nice to be able to drive the ball and grind out the clock,” Schonewolf said.