CAMDEN — After getting shut out last week against Middletown in coach Dan Candeloro’s first game, Caesar Rodney High was hoping to bounce back.
Unfortunately for the Riders, they were facing Salesianum, which was coming off a blowout win in week one.
The CR defense struggled to get Sallies off the field, as running back Colby Reeder ran wild. The Sals took the lead about two-thirds of the way through the opening stanza on their first offensive play and never looked back, en route to 45-20 victory.
The Riders trailed by just 13 points at halftime before the Sals took over in the third quarter. Nonetheless, the Riders (0-2) refused to quit.
“We played a tough game last week, we chased one of the best teams in the state and this week we came out and played a really good half of football,” Candeloro said. “We wanted to get better this week and I think we did a little better this week and we’ll get better next week.”
The game began with promise for CR. After the team’s opening drive stalled at midfield, the Riders were forced to punt, only to wind up moving forward with a fresh set of downs after the ball hit a Salesianum player and the Riders recovered.
After some success, a penalty and a sack backed them up, and the Riders punted, pinning the Sals (2-0) deep. On the ensuing play, however, Reeder took the handoff and outran the defense down the sideline for a 95-yard score.
After a bad snap on the extra point, the holder ran the ball in for 2, giving the Sals an 8-0 lead. CR answered with an 18-play, 78-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brian Lewis about 90 seconds into the second quarter. Running back Mike Clavier carried the ball for five first downs on the drive.
The point after was blocked to leave the score at 8-6, but that was not the most important part of the following play. Kicker Joseph Delgado was injured on the play and stayed down for about 10 minutes. Ultimately, he was carted off on a stretcher.
Candeloro said afterward Delgado likely had a broken ankle. Still, for what appeared to be a possible head or spine injury based on how medics and trainers were attending to Delgado, that news surely produced a sigh of relief from many.
After the delay, Salesianum marched down the field largely unencumbered by the opposing defense, and Reeder punched it in from 2 yards out. From there, CR was forced to punt, and the Sals took advantage, going 50 yards in four plays.
Up 22-6, it seemed Sallies was poised to blow the game wide open when Nhaighere Wills made one of the biggest plays of the game for Caesar Rodney. Fielding the kickoff at the 1, he quickly cut to the near sideline and sped down the field.
After freezing the kicker with a stutter step around the 40, he was left with nothing but green grass in front of him.
The 99-yard touchdown cut the Sals' lead to 22-12 with 2:44 left in the second quarter.
Sallies moved down to the CR 8, but facing fourth-and-1, the Sals jumped early, drawing a flag. Backed up 5 more yards, Sallies opted to kick a field goal and went into half leading 25-12 less than a minute later.
Although Candeloro was largely pleased with his team’s effort and execution in the first 24 minutes, the second half left something to be desired.
The Sals returned the opening kickoff 96 yards to the 1, setting up a TD run on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter.
The Riders then drove down to Sallies' 10 but ended up turning the ball over on downs. The Sals promptly marched down the field for another score, making it 39-12 with 5:05 left in the third.
They then scored again with six seconds left in the quarter, although the ensuing PAT was blocked.
With both teams playing a host of backups in the final period, CR showed some promise. The Riders got a touchdown pass from backup quarterback Jared Wagenhoffer, who found Bailey Deatley with 3:42 remaining.
The Riders threatened again, but time ran out, giving the Sals a 25-point win.
Sallies outgained Caesar Rodney 539 yards to 263, mostly on the ground. The Sals looked sharp, getting big plays on offense on both running and passing plays.
For the Riders, running back Najee Whitted led the way with 73 yards rushing. Salesianum’s Reeder had 173 yards on the ground to go with his four scores.
Candeloro singled out tackling as an area his team needs to improve in. The Riders take on Glen Mills, Pa. next week in their first road test.
“They’re well-coached, and we’re looking to get a little better, maybe three or four quarters,” Candeloro said.