SMYRNA — Even on a cold, windy night, Smyrna High’s high-octane offense is difficult to slow down.
The top-seeded Eagles scored on each of their first four possessions and never looked back, eventually posting a 46-6 victory over No. 8 William Penn in the DIAA Class 3A football state quarterfinals on a blustery Friday night.
Smyrna (9-2) advances to next weekend’s Class 3A semifinals where it will take on the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal between No. 5 Dover and fourth-seeded St. Georges. The Eagles have reached the state semifinals in six of the last seven seasons.
Smyrna has now won eight games in a row since losing to Middletown on Sept. 17.
“The goal tonight was to not let the weather dictate things to us,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy.
With the Eagles already leading 30-6 at halftime, Wayne Knight bolted 42 yards for a touchdown on Smyrna’s first drive of the second half. The senior’s third TD of the evening paired with his third two-point conversion run gave the Eagles a 38-6 cushion.
Knight then sprinted 27 yards up the middle for his fourth TD on the next possession to send the contest to a running clock with Smyrna’s lead at 46-6.
The two TD runs were Knight’s only carries of the second half. He finished with 163 yards and four touchdowns on 11 carries.
Smyrna’s players still hadn’t forgotten their 38-34 loss to Sussex Central in last year’s state semifinals.
“That was really a hard feeling, not only for the team but for the community,” said Knight. “This is our year to prove ourselves, bounce back and go on this road.
“It’s win or go home, backs against the wall,” he said about the state tourney. “Whoever throws the harder punch comes out on top. In practice our motto is, ‘Start fast, start fast.’ You want to get the advantage on a team and set the tempo.”
“We weren’t going to let it happen again,” said sophomore defensive end Brandon West. “We put in too much work and effort. It hurt. I didn’t even play last year and it hurt me to watch it.
“There’s just so much more on the line,” he added. “We can’t afford mistakes.”
On defense, the Eagles held William Penn to its lowest point total since it was shut out by Central in its season opener. The Colonials (5-7) opened the tournament with a 41-6 victory over No. 9 Hodgson while Smyrna had a first-round bye.
William Penn was one of only two Class 3A teams that the Eagles didn’t face this season.
West recorded three of Smyrna’s five sacks in the contest.
The Colonials made the Eagles work for their first touchdown. Smyrna twice converted on fourth downs — including one from its own 21 — before marching 83 yards on a 12-play drive that lasted 4:36.
Knight jumped outside to get to the sidelines for an 18-yard touchdown. He added the two-point conversion to give Smyrna an 8-0 lead.
The Eagles’ defense gave its offense the ball right back after forcing a three-and-out. This time, quarterback Cameron Edge launched a 44-yard scoring pass to Yamir Knight, who was wide open after a defender fell down.
Yamir Knight’s two-point conversion run pushed Smyrna’s advantage to 16-0.
Edge found another wide-open receiver on another 44-yard touchdown pass on Smyrna’s next drive, this one going to Devin DeMoe. Wayne Knight’s two-point run made it 24-0 in the second quarter.
William Penn was able to answer with a scoring drive of its own this time. Markell Holman scored the touchdown on a four-yard run with 5:41 left in the second.
But it took Smyrna just one play to respond. After a short kickoff gave the Eagles the ball at midfield, Wayne Knight took a handoff, waited for a moment and then accelerated away on a 50-yard scoring run that stretched Smyrna’s advantage back to 30-6.
Even despite having a 36-yard scoring pass to Knight wiped out by a penalty, Edge completed 9-for-11 passes for 201 yards in the first half.
Judy said Knight deserved a lot of credit for his leadership during the bye week.
“He’s an impressive young man,” said Judy. “The biggest thing, and this is what people don’t get to see, is how of a leader he is. A bye week is really tough to get through.
“He was critical, critical to the success of keeping everybody focused and intense. Obviously his play was spectacular but his leadership was even better.”
The Eagles also beat William Penn in both the 2015 and ’16 state tournaments. ... For William Penn, Holman finished the first half with 73 yards on 18 carries.