St. Mark’s coach John Wilson likes his defense. William Penn coach Marvin Dooley is concerned about his offense.
It could be a tough start for the Colonials, who open the season against the Spartans at 7 tonight at St. Mark’s. It is one of 15 Friday games across the state as Delaware’s high school football season cranks up.
St. Mark’s went 9-3 and reached the Division I semifinals last year. The Spartans open this season ranked fourth in Division I and will rely on a speedy defense led by linebackers Brendan Fogarty, Markquise Normand and Mike Catalano, DE Michael Adams and DB Rhett Schweizer.
“All of those guys can fly, and that’s a big thing for us,” Wilson said. “They really get to the ball, and they can swarm.”
William Penn is coming off a 4-6 season and has a new coach in Dooley and a new offense in the pistol. All of the changes may not mesh perfectly in the first game.
“I’m a little concerned about timing,” Dooley said. “You hope it all hits on Friday night, but we have had some timing issues. Hopefully, with another week of reps we can be mistake-free.”
Dooley has been impressed with the arm strength of sophomore quarterback D.J. Johnson. And the coach believes senior receiver Deshawn Smith has All-State potential.
“He’s a really good receiver, and we’re going to take shots with him because I think he can go over the top of anybody. He’s about 6-3,” Dooley said. “We’re going to try to get some one-on-one matchups and see if he can make plays for us.”
The marquee games of the weekend come on Saturday, as Hodgson hosts Caravel at 10:30 a.m. and Division I heavyweights Caesar Rodney and Salesianum clash at Baynard Stadium at 7:30.
The morning showdown is a rematch of last year’s Division II championship game, won by Caravel 39-29. The Buccaneers open this season ranked first in Division II, with Hodgson at No. 3. But Caravel coach John Reed isn’t living in the past.
“We have a lot of holes to fill,” Reed said. “We’re a young team. We graduated 12 seniors, so that is forcing our young guys to come up and play at a high level.”
The Buccaneers do return a three-year starter at quarterback in senior Derrick Groomes, along with halfbacks Aaron Hudson and Darnell Savage, one of the fastest players in the state. Linebacker Matt Boylan leads the defense.
The Silver Eagles have even more experience, with 17 seniors and 16 juniors on the roster. Quarterback Ray Jones eclipsed 1,000 yards passing and rushing last year, and RBs Rakeim Woodland, Ruben Saunders and Darius Smith will look to make headway behind a big, veteran offensive line.
“One of the things we’ve worked hard on in practice is making sure we protect the football,” Hodgson coach Frank Moffett said. “In some games, maybe if you turn the ball over once or twice it doesn’t hurt you. But in big ballgames against quality teams, those miscues can really cost you.”
CR-Sallies is a classic clash of styles – the speed of the Riders against the brute force of the Sals. Salesianum won 35-20 at Caesar Rodney last year on the way to a 10-2 season and appearance in the Division I championship game.
“They controlled both lines of scrimmage, they maintained great field position and we were never able to effectively stop them or move the ball,” CR coach Mike Schonewolf said of last year’s game. “But we’ve worked hard to get better, and we’re looking forward to seeing that growth and how we match up this year.”
The Sals return a 6-3, 230-pound hammer in RB-LB Troy Reeder, who is headed to Penn State. Sallies also relies on 6-7 TE Brian O’Neill, who has committed to Pittsburgh, and experienced senior QB Matt Sgro.
But the Riders are one of the most experienced teams in the state and improved throughout an 8-4 season that ended with a 35-28 loss to Middletown in the state semifinals, the closest anyone played the Cavaliers all year. CR returns elusive QB Alex Kemp, big-play WRs Kendall Wicks and Arthur Miles and a wall of experienced linemen.