GREENVILLE – Alexis I. du Pont High won by playing one solid half of football Friday night at Tiger Stadium.
It’s a half the Tigers will always remember while St. Elizabeth will only want to forget.
A.I. du Pont ran just seven first-half plays in the nonconference encounter while quickly falling behind by 21 points.
Kerry Galloway’s second-quarter 75-yard kick return for a touchdown kept A.I. close before it could unleash its second-half offensive fury in what became a 34-21 victory over the stunned Vikings.
A.I. had 10 total yards on seven first-half plays, which included a kneeldown. But the Tigers finished the game with 313 total yards.
“The return in the first half was a big difference. It kind of stopped their momentum a little bit,” A.I. coach Zeb Blum said. “To keep them to 21 in the first half was a credit to our guys. That was the key for us. We thought if we could control and possess the ball a little bit it would be a different game.”
The Tigers, who trailed 21-6 at halftime, did just that in the second half.
Sophomore running back James Naylor finished the game with 121 yards on 15 carries with a 26-yard TD run to close the scoring with 3:04 left.
Quarterback Chad Jones, also a 10th-grader, completed 17 of 25 passes for 184 yards with second-half TD tosses of 50 yards to Jamir Dantley and five yards to LeRoy Lynch. The latter, along with a two-point pass to Lynch, inched A.I. ahead 22-21 with 1:20 left in the third quarter. Dantley and Lynch are also sophomores.
Jones’ 1-yard keeper for a TD made it 28-21 with 9:48 remaining.
“We just had to keep our heads up and not let the seniors down, keep going, keep pushing, keep playing,” Dantley said of the Tigers’ second-half uprising. “We were confident. We just had to bring our energy to the game.”
A.I. du Pont (3-4) resumes Blue Hen Conference Flight A play next Friday night at home against Mount Pleasant.
“I said to them after the game, ‘It’s a lot of fun to watch you start thinking,’ ” Blum said of his youthful squad. “It’s kind of a wild-chicken-with-your-head-cut-off thing in the first half tonight. In the second half everybody calmed down and remembered how to play football and do their assignments, and when they do that they’re smart football kids and they have lots of talent.”
St. Elizabeth (3-4) missed breakaway running back threat Chris Cropper, the junior who suffered a season-ending broken collarbone in practice Wednesday. But the Vikings still got 126 yards on 12 carries from 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior fullback David Hazelton Jr. and 91 yards on 20 runs from sophomore Jordan Brown.
A.I. had outscored St. Elizabeth 54-48 last year, 41-20 in 2014 and 49-20 in 2013.
“They can score points. The two turnovers were what really hurt us,” Vikings coach Joe Aviola said, referring to fumbles at the A.I. 24- and St. E 5-yard lines in the third quarter that both led to Tiger touchdowns. ” . . . A.I. just has an explosive offense. I was like, ‘All right, it’s 21-6, it’s starting to rain, they throw the ball.’ It seems like everything was lining up for us. But they did what they do.”
St. Elizabeth drove 55 yards on nine running plays for a touchdown on the game’s opening possession, Hazelton scoring from the 4. The Vikings followed that with a 13-play, 83-yard scoring march that finished with Brown’s 1-yard TD run but was keyed by Casey Bock’s passes of 32 yards to Herman Jones and 16 yards to Fullerton, each on third down.
Hazelton concluded St. Elizabeth’s third series by scoring from the 2 as the Vikings took charge 21-0. The 65-yard drive featured a pass-interference call that A.I. rightfully protested.
But the Tigers then got on the scoreboard when Galloway sped down the visiting sideline 75 yards for a TD on the kickoff to make it 21-6.
Dantley then blocked a 30-yard St. E field goal to close the half.
Contact Kevin Tresolini at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @kevintresolini.