DOVER — The Delaware State football team ended its season on a high note Saturday afternoon, defeating its oldest rival, Howard, 32-31 at Alumni Stadium.
It was the only win of the season for the Hornets (1-10, 1-7 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) and first-year coach Kenny Carter. The victory snapped a 15-game losing streak dating back to last season for DSU.
“I’m excited for the team,” Carter said. “It’s not about me. It was a great effort by everyone. There was a lot of adversity in the game and we had to battle our way back into it.”
After DelState fell behind by as many as 12 points in the second half, senior running back Dae-Hon Cheung scored on a 64-yard run with six minutes left for the game-winner.
“I knew coming out that I wanted to be in the box score since it was my last game,” Cheung said. “That’s all I had in my head and I just had to make it work.
“Once I got through the hole I had one guy to make miss and I knew I had to do that.”
Cheung had 116 yards on 11 carries.
The Hornets then sealed the deal on a sack by defensive lineman Gabriel Sherrod.
“We stayed with the scheme and did what the coach told us to do,” Sherrod said. “We stayed focused on our assignments. We did give up some explosive plays, but towards the end of the game we minimized that, as that was our key to victory.”
Freshman quarterback Kobie Lain threw two touchdowns and ran for a third in his first start.
“He did what we expected for him to do when we recruited him,” Carter said. “For him to get to that point and have that kind of pressure on him said a lot about the future of Delaware State football when it comes to the quarterback position.”
It was a back-and-forth affair during the first half of the game.
Howard (1-10, 1-7) scored on its first drive after a one-yard rushing touchdown by running back by Ricquaz Brannon at the 8:18 mark in the first quarter.
But Brycen Alleyne returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards to put DelState on the board for the first time.
Howard came right back and scored on a 92-yard kickoff return by Robert Mercer to take back the lead 14-7.
Lain, who had a 5-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter and a 16-yard scoring pass to Nate Ortiz, finished 14-of-27 for 181 yards and an interception.
“Dating back to last week I did pretty well, and I just wanted to continue on that streak that I was on,” Lain said. “Coach showed a lot of faith in me and has showed that since I came here, and I wanted to carry on from where I started.”
The Hornets trailed 23-19 at halftime, and Carter felt the team needed to settle down as the Hornets entered the second half.
“We had to settle down and get the ball in the perimeter,” the coach said. “On the defensive side we had to settle down and made sure that we contained the quarterback.”
At the 6:59 mark in the third quarter, Howard quarterback Kalen Johnson connected with Matthew Colvin for a 26-yard touchdown pass and a 31-19 Bison lead.
Lain then threw a 32-yard pass to Aris Scott at 2:56 of the third quarter to pull the Hornets within 31-25 after the two-point conversion failed.
For seniors Cheung and defensive back Terrick Colston, the victory was bittersweet.
“This is an emotional game for me, because as a senior this is my last game, but I really had fun,” said Colston.
Cheung shared that sentiment.
“I’m going to miss everyone that I came here with,” Cheung said. “It was a pleasure to meet new coaches. It feels like a championship game because we set the tone for next season.”
The Hornets plan to carry their momentum into next season.
“Any time your last game is a win that’s a positive,” Carter said. “We’re 1-0. That’s how we went into this game and that’s how we plan to roll into next year.
“The dynamics of the team will be different as it is for every team every year. But we’re very excited about the direction that we’re going in.”