DOVER — Ever since Smyrna High moved to the Henlopen Conference Northern Division, Dover High had not made the Eagles feel welcomed in football.
Entering Saturday’s contest, Smyrna had lost all eight meetings against the Senators since joining the Henlopen North in 2007.
Smyrna ended that streak in emphatic fashion.
Sophomore running back Will Knight rushed for 254 yards, five touchdowns and five two-point conversions for a 40-14 Smyrna victory on Saturday night.
It’s the first time in at least 30 seasons that the Eagles defeated Dover. The two teams did not play for 22 years before 2007 when Smyrna was still in the Henlopen South.
“We’re trying to send a statement that we’re not the team we used to be,” said senior defensive lineman Jeffery Campbell.
With howling winds and rainy weather, Smyrna gave Dover a healthy dose of Knight. The Eagles (1-0 North, 3-1 overall) frequently lined up in Wildcat formations with Knight behind the center, allowing them to get the ball in his hands quicker.
Knight’s longest touchdown run went for 67 yards. He also scored twice from a yard out, once from two yards out and once from nine yards.
All his two-point conversions were out of the same tightly-packed power formation with direct snaps to Knight.
“I give it to my linemen they did it for me,” Knight said. “I can’t do it by myself. They protect me well. I know that they’ll do their jobs and get me in the end zone.”
“Will carried the load,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy. “He’s a special young man and the offensive line did a tremendous job.”
A week after giving up 76 points to Salesianum, the Eagle defense buckled down after allowing a touchdown on Dover’s first drive and held the Senators without an offensive touchdown for the rest of the game.
Dover’s only score after its first drive was on a 38-yard punt return by Melvin Jackson. Jerry Warren had the first touchdown of the game to make it an 8-6 scoreline with a one-yard run.
But Smyrna kept the Senators off the board while Knight scored three unanswered touchdowns as Smyrna raced out to a 32-6 lead at halftime.
“We had to work hard at practice and we got our stuff together,” Campbell said of the defense’s improved performance. “We pulled through tonight and we plan to pull through next week and continue on a winning season. We plan on being something big this year.”
The closest Smyrna had come to beating Dover in recent years was when the Eagles lost 25-24 in 2008. Dover was victorious in last year’s matchup 41-22.
“I’m just so glad that our guys were able to get off the schnide with Dover,” Judy said. “We played them tight for a couple of years but were also on the wrong end of the whopping stick as well. This is a different squad, I think they can handle adversity very well.”