By any measure, the first Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association football championship games played at Delaware Stadium since 1974 were a rousing success.
On Monday, DIAA executive director Kevin Charles said a record 9,156 tickets were sold for Saturday’s doubleheader, as Hodgson shut out St. Georges 38-0 for the Division II title and Salesianum got past Middletown 23-7 for the Division I championship. Add band members, cheerleaders, administrators and media and total attendance approached 10,000.
“Overall, it just exceeded our expectations,” Charles said. “Definitely, the crowd was a little more than we thought it would be.”
The only snag came when a large number of fans arrived minutes before the scheduled 6 p.m. start of the Middletown-Sallies game. DIAA delayed the start by 10 minutes to allow more fans time to get through the gate and find a seat.
“We were maxed out on ticket sellers,” Charles said. “We had every window open during the rush.”
University of Delaware athletic director Eric Ziady said the university was happy with the doubleheader and would like to host the games again.
“I thought it was a great event,” Ziady said. “The weather worked out great, and the crowd was significantly more than everyone expected. But that’s a great thing. That’s a testament to us being able to play a role in the community and have it be a venue that the people from the four different schools wanted to come and see.”
Charles said the largest combined crowd over the previous 10 years – when the games were played on separate days at Delaware State University’s Alumni Stadium, came in 2008. The presence of four downstate teams – Caesar Rodney and Sussex Central in Division I, Milford and Laurel in Division II – boosted combined attendance to 7,700 that year, Charles said.
There was no way to measure exactly how many fans watched both games, but judging from the crowd in the bleachers between games it appeared at least 2,000 fans braved a cool day and cold night to see the entire doubleheader.
“I liked having the two games in one day,” Charles said. “I thought that went well. I had one email expressing concern that the D-II players weren’t going to get to play under the lights, but I didn’t feel playing a daytime game at Delaware Stadium diminished that game whatsoever.”
Hodgson coach Frank Moffett said the afternoon was ideal.
“For us it was like, ‘Wow, 2 o’clock, in that temperature, we’re on the sunny side,'” Moffett said Monday. “For us, it was nice playing at 2 o’clock. I thought the conditions were great.”
Of course, it’s easy to have fun when you’re winning 38-0. But Moffett was surprised by how – with the end-zone seating closed – fans filled the bleachers behind both sidelines.
“I thought it was a great experience,” Moffett said. “I just liked the whole atmosphere in the stadium. I know it was big, but it didn’t really feel big. Everyone I talked to, our parents, everyone thought the venue was really nice.”
Charles said DSU wants to meet with DIAA officials and submit a proposal to have the games return to Alumni Stadium. That may happen, but after Saturday’s success a return to UD will certainly be on the minds of the DIAA’s board of directors and football committee.
“I think everybody that was there would like to go back, that’s for sure,” Charles said.
Rounding it up
* Darius Smith scored the final touchdown for Hodgson in Saturday’s win over St. Georges. Smith had worn jersey No. 2 all season, but wore No. 28 for the championship game.
* The A.I. Tip-Off basketball tournament will be held Friday and Saturday at A.I. du Pont High School. Action starts at 3:15 p.m. Friday with a girls game between Mount Pleasant and Tatnall, followed by the St. Georges and St. Elizabeth boys at 4:45. Then comes a Wilmington Christian-A.I. du Pont doubleheader, with the girls at 6:30 and the boys at 8.
The girls consolation game starts Saturday’s play at 2 p.m., followed by the boys consolation game at 3:30, the girls championship at 5:30 and the boys championship at 7. Daily tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for students, and will cover all four games that day.
* A person who is very familiar to longtime Delaware sports fans has been named lacrosse coach at Ursuline. Feffie Barnhill, former head coach at William & Mary, will lead the Raiders this season. The Tatnall graduate was a five-sport star at Ursinus College, and is a past president of U.S. Lacrosse and the Federation of International Lacrosse. She also is a member of the Virginia Lacrosse Association, Delaware Lacrosse Association, U.S. Lacrosse and Delaware Sports halls of fame.
* Ryan Hersch of Conrad was a first-team All-Diamond State Conference selection in boys soccer. A different school was published in an earlier listing of the team.
* The First State JV Classic is seeking junior varsity basketball teams to fill boys and girls tournaments Dec. 27-30 at Woodbridge High School. For more information, call Mark Sills at (302) 389-8558.
* St. Georges center fielder Quenton Hamrick has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Maryland-Eastern Shore.
* The annual DFRC Hockey for a Cause game, which benefits Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens with intellectual disabilities, will have a twist this year. Alumni from Salesianum will face off against alumni from St. Mark’s at 7 p.m. Dec. 27 at the University of Delaware’s Gold Ice Arena. Tickets are $5 at the door, and are also available online at dfrc.org.