Kevin Charles, executive director of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, is calling Saturday’s DIAA Division I football championship game “maybe the most highly anticipated event we’ve had.”
So on Monday, during the annual football championship luncheon hosted by The News Journal, Charles provided some tips to help spectators have the best experience. Top-seeded Salesianum (10-1) will meet third-seeded Smyrna (11-1) for the title, with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m.
Ticket windows and gates will open at noon, all on the west side of Delaware Stadium. Charles strongly recommends arriving early, because a crowd of 10,000 or more may be possible. Salesianum defeated Smyrna 76-56 in an epic regular-season game on Sept. 25, creating intense interest in the rematch.
All tickets are $8, and will be good for general admission to both the Division I and Division II championship games and the Unified flag football games. But re-entry will not be allowed without a new ticket.
Fans can avoid long lines at the windows by buying tickets in advance, either online or at the participating schools this week. Online tickets, which add a 97-cent convenience charge, are available at www.diaa.ticketleap.com. More than 300 tickets had already been sold online as of noon Monday.
Tickets will also be sold from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily this week at the DIAA office, located in the Collette Education Resource Center at 35 Commerce Way in Dover. Advance tickets also may be purchased at the four participating schools, on the following dates and times.
— Salesianum: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the school store and in the athletic director’s office.
— Smyrna: 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday at the main office.
— Howard: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the main office.
— St. Georges: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the main office.
After the Salesianum-Smyrna game, two Unified flag football games will be played on the field simultaneously at 4 p.m. Caesar Rodney will meet William Penn, and Mount Pleasant will take on Middletown.
The Division II championship game, featuring top-seeded St. Georges (11-1) against fifth-seeded Howard (9-3), will kick off at 5:30. That game will also be a rematch, as St. Georges topped the Wildcats 35-14 in a Blue Hen Flight B matchup on Sept. 18.
DIAA and the University of Delaware also provided the following additional information for fans:
— Both the West and East stands will be open throughout the day, but end-zone seating will be closed. The home teams (Salesianum and St. Georges) will be on the West side, while the visitors (Smyrna and Howard) will be on the East side.
— In addition to the lots closest to the stadium, extra parking will be available at UD’s STAR campus, on the other side of South College Avenue.
— Tailgating will not be permitted at any time.
One team will definitely go into the DIAA Division I football championship game without its starting quarterback. The other team isn’t sure who will be behind center.
Salesianum senior Garrett Cannon suffered a dislocated and fractured ankle with 1:47 left in the second quarter of last Friday’s 27-21 semifinal win over Middletown. Sophomore Zach Gwynn went the rest of the way for the Sals, and he will start in Saturday’s title game.
Smyrna junior Nolan Henderson took a hard hit to the head and neck and left the field on a stretcher with 40.9 seconds left in the second quarter of last Saturday’s 30-13 win over William Penn. Henderson was hospitalized briefly as a precaution, but may be able to play against Sallies.
“His status is still uncertain,” Smyrna coach Mike Judy said Monday. “We’re very hopeful he can play, but we haven’t heard anything from the doctors yet.”
Henderson, who has thrown 34 touchdown passes this season, would be a huge loss. But Eagles running back Will Knight took direct snaps the rest of the way and rushed 32 times for 270 yards as Smyrna scored the final 30 points against William Penn.
“At this point, we’re planning for two different situations,” Judy said. “[Henderson] being there and running our offense as normal, or the contingency plan, which is Will Knight being the quarterback and running the offense and sprinkling in the backup quarterback, Ryan McNatt.”
Cannon, a two-year starter, passed for 964 yards and eight TDs this year. Without him, Judy expects to see even more of Sallies running back Colby Reeder, who ravaged the Eagles for 408 yards and seven scores in the Sals’ 76-56 win over Smyrna on Sept. 25.
“I feel bad for him and his family that he’s not able to participate in this game in his senior year,” Judy said of Cannon. “But they have enough offense to hurt people, even without Cannon.
“I think it will be a different look. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little bit of wildcat, direct snapping to Colby Reeder. Anything to get the job done.”
Gwynn rushed three times for 1 yard and went 0-for-1 passing in the second half vs. Middletown. But he accomplished job No. 1 – operating the offense without a turnover.
The Smyrna game was one of Cannon’s best, as he completed 12 of 16 passes for 204 yards and three TDs. Salesianum coach Bill DiNardo said the Sals won’t be afraid to air it out with the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Gwynn this week.
“He’s more than capable,” DiNardo said. “He’s got a big arm. In seven-on-seven in the summer, he did very well. He impressed a lot of people. Even at some college camps we went to, there were some college coaches looking at him, looking at his arm.”
Time for hoops
Delaware’s winter sports season begins Friday, and that means basketball. Lots of it.
Both Salesianum and Howard have big football games on Saturday, but that won’t stop them from meeting on the hardwood at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Sallies. The Wildcats are always among the state’s top teams, and the Sals are the two-time defending DIAA champions.
The Tiger Tipoff Tournament will be Friday and Saturday at A.I. du Pont, featuring four girls teams and four boys teams. Action starts at 3 p.m. Friday with Tatnall vs. Wilmington Christian in a girls game. The Tatnall boys will meet St. Elizabeth at 4:45, followed by the A.I. girls against Brandywine at 6:30. The A.I. boys will wrap up the first day against Christiana at 8:15.
Saturday’s schedule has the girls consolation game at 1:15 p.m., the boys consolation at 3, the girls championship at 4:45 and the boys championship at 6:30. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for students each day.
The Dickinson Winter Classic will be played Friday and Saturday at Dickinson. The Dickinson girls will host Newark at 3:30 p.m. Friday, followed by the Newark boys against St. Andrew’s at 4:45. The Howard girls will take on Delcastle at 6:15, with the Dickinson boys going against Newark Charter at 7:30.
Saturday’s schedule has the girls consolation game at 10 a.m., the boys consolation at 11:30, the girls championship at 1 and the boys championship at 2:30.
With St. Georges and Howard meeting in the DIAA Division II football championship game on Saturday night, the inaugural Rumble By The River boys basketball showcase at St. Georges has been moved to Sunday.
The daylong hoopfest offers seven downstate vs. upstate matchups, with an $8 ticket good for all day. Sussex Central will tip it off against the Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security at 9 a.m., followed by Red Lion Christian against Delmar at 10:45.
Cape Henlopen will meet Concord at 12:30. St. Thomas More will take on Hodgson at 2:15, with Sussex Tech going against Howard at 4. Seaford will tangle with Appoquinimink at 5:45, and host St. Georges will wrap it up against Caesar Rodney at 7:30.
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ