CAMDEN — The amazing thing to realize is that, before last season, Smyrna High hadn’t beaten Caesar Rodney in football in 42 years.
But the Eagles seem to have come light years since then.
Like everyone else in the Henlopen Conference Northern Division, CR was no match for Smyrna as the Eagles ran away to a 52-14 victory over the Riders on Friday night.
Smyrna (4-0 North, 7-1 overall) led 38-0 after the first quarter and 52-0 at halftime in taking another step closer to wrapping up the program’s first North title.
The Eagles have now had six of their eight games go to running clocks in the second half.
Or consider this, Friday’s 52-point total was actually Smyrna’s second lowest output of the season.
“Hard work pays off,” said junior quarterback Nolan Henderson, who threw four touchdown passes. “We put in a lot of work and it’s showing itself here.”
Henderson said the thing keeping the Eagles motivated right now is “the doubters, the people that don’t think we’re for real.
“We just want to go out every week and prove that we’re here,” he said. “Every day we go out and just try to chase perfection. In the playoffs we’re going to have to be perfect. We’re not going to be able to make a lot of mistakes.”
“They’re big, physical and fast,” said CR coach Dan Candeloro. “They’ve got a nice scheme. For what they’re trying to do, they have the skill to do it.
“Fortunately, for them, anything they want to do, they can do with the skill they have. It’s hard to defend, it doesn’t matter what you’ve got.”
Henderson completed 12-of-18 passes for 305 yards while also running for a touchdown. His four TD passes included a 60-yarder and a 70-yarder.
Senior Donte Ritchie caught two of the scoring passes, finishing with four receptions for 79 yards. After hitting three players with TD passes Henderson admitted it’s difficult sometimes trying to keep everybody happy.
“There’s times when most of them are open,” said Henderson. “After the play they’re like, ‘Why didn’t you throw it to me?’ But it’s a good problem to have when you have a lot of receivers open.”
Sophomore running back Will Knight also had one of his typically productive days. He scampered 56 yards on the first play from the scrimmage before scoring on a one-yard run on the next play — just 33 seconds into the contest.
Knight ran for 106 yards and the TD on 11 carries, went 70 yards on the scoring pass from Henderson and even threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Jared Gillis just before halftime. He also ran for four more two-point conversions giving 31 two-pointers and 25 TDs on the season.
With 212 total points, Knight is averaging 26.5 points per game by himself.
Smyrna now has seven wins in a season for the first time since 2004 — which is also the last time it made the state tournament.
“We’re just a very goal-oriented group of guys,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy. “The kids have just done a great job. The coaching staff does a phenomenal job of saying, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing or what the outcome of the last game was. We continue to push them and work toward those goals.”
The Riders were able to get some offense going in the second half as sophomore QB Jared Wagenhoffer completed 13-of-23 passes for 161 yards. Six of those receptions went to former quarterback Brian Lewis for 126 yards.
The two hooked up on a 19-yard TD pass in the third quarter. Junior Nhaighere Wills added a 10-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.
“We came out at halftime and wanted to put a nice drive together, do something positive and we did that,” said Candeloro. “We’ll go from there.”