The Cape Henlopen football team did what they needed to take an 18-15 halftime lead against its bitter-most rival down Route 9 at Sussex Tech.
The Vikings took advantage of two Tech turnovers and an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jeramiah Smack with under a minute left in the half.
But the lead would not last Friday night in Georgetown.
The Ravens returned the favor in the second half, capitalizing on five key penalties and a turnover as Tech stormed back to win 38-21 behind three second-half rushing touchdowns by senior Patrick Griffin.
Griffin rushed 33 times for 224 yards and four touchdowns.
Head coach Mark Quillin said his senior running back was a man on a mission.
But Griffin gave credit to his offensive line and the adjustments the Ravens made in the second half.
“All props to the offensive line. They did exactly what they did and allowed me to punch three in the second half,” Griffin said.
The four-touchdown performance was reminiscent of last year’s senior runner Kani Kane, who had six against Cape.
Cape Henlopen head coach Bill Collick said the penalties, especially the personal fouls, always come at the wrong time.
“We couldn’t finish, and we couldn’t make plays when we had to,” Collick said. “We had our chances. … They’re a good football team. When you play people like that, you got to make it happen.”
The win propels the Ravens (8-2) into the playoffs, knocking out Cape Henlopen (5-4).
Quillin told Tech all week it was win and in or lose and out, and they responded after the halftime speech, even though Tech was the better team in the first two quarters.
“We talked about the importance of special teams, especially the kickoffs,” Quillin said. “You can’t give those up. You have to pin them deep. … When we got in there, we’ve been down before. We challenged the kids up front.”
Despite being outgained 225 to 56 yards in the first half, Cape led and it increased with the Richard Carey’s 32-yard goal 5:29 into the third quarter. The Vikings look poised to score but a penalty pushed them too far away from a first down, resulting in the field goal.
But the Ravens responded with a drive of their own, aided by an encroachment penalty on fourth-and-2 near midfield and then a personal foul a few plays later to set up Griffin’s 7-yard run on another fourth down with 37.5 seconds left in the third quarter.
The touchdown gave the Ravens the 22-21 lead into the fourth quarter.
Cape got its offense going behind senior and sophomore duo Michael Williams and Kolby Wright, but when the Vikings faced a fourth-and-3 at the Tech 37, a delay of game forced a punt.
Tech got deep into Cape territory on a 36-yard pass from quarterback Justin Hill to Griffin Dunn, who fell to the ground at the Cape 33.
Another unsportsmanlike penalty on Cape pushed the Ravens to the to 15, and Griffin barreled through defenders for the score that put the Ravens up 30-21 thanks to a two-point conversion by Hill with eight minutes left in the game.
The wheels fell off on the next drive of Cape. After quarterback Dillon Adams just missed a wide open Rasheed Woods down the field, a reverse attempt was botched and the Ravens’ Theopolis Teagle fell on the ball at the Cape 35.
Griffin lowered his head at the goal line to finish a 13-yard touchdown run with four minutes remaining for the game’s final score.
“Coach always says, ‘Put the nails in the coffin,’ ” Griffin said. “After we stopped them, we punched it in and they started to get down on themselves and we were able to punch two more in.”
If Quillin’s calculations are correct, he believes the Ravens will take the No. 5 seed and play No. 4 Middletown in the first round of the playoffs.
He likes the matchup and will be looking to avenge last year’s big semifinals loss to Middletown.
“When I first took over here, we talked about how I want to put our program up into the Sallies, Middletown area and that type of program,” Quillin said. “This is a great opportunity for us.”
NOTES: Tech’s Patrick Griffin’s first touchdown tote was from 54 yards out, and senior Timaun Williams also had a touchdown in the first half, totaling 102 rushing yards on the night. In total, Tech had 344 rushing yards. … Cape was led by Michael Williams, who had 57 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Cape’s sophomore Kolbi Wright also had 42 rushing yards.
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Sussex Tech 38, Cape Henlopen 21
Cape Henlopen 6 12 3 0 – 21
Sussex Tech 0 15 7 16 – 38
CH-Williams 11 run (kick failed)
ST-Griffin 54 run (Handy kick)
CH-Williams 5 run (Williams run failed)
ST-Williams 1 run (Griffin run)
CH-Smack 86 kickoff return (kick failed)
CH-Carey 32 FG
ST-Griffin 7 run (Handy kick)
ST-Griffin 15 run (Hill run)
ST-Griffin 13 run (Griffin run)