Defense, Yoder kick send Dover to state semis

By Andy Walter
Posted 11/27/21

MIDDLETOWN — In theory, a 20-yard field goal is about as simple as it gets.

But try adding in a bitter, blustery wind and the weight of a team’s fate riding on the kick. Suddenly …

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Defense, Yoder kick send Dover to state semis


MIDDLETOWN — In theory, a 20-yard field goal is about as simple as it gets.

But try adding in a bitter, blustery wind and the weight of a team’s fate riding on the kick. Suddenly it’s not quite that easy.

“I knew I could do it,” said Dover High sophomore Brandon Yoder. “We practice those all the time. You go through the situations — game on the line. I was just ready for it. ... It’s just snap, hold, kick, at the end of the day. You’ve got to put it through.”

Pressure or not, Yoder did his job, booting a 20-yard field goal with only 2:15 remaining to give the fifth-seeded Senators a dramatic 9-7 victory over No. 4 St. Georges in the DIAA Class 3A state quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon.

While the field goal was pretty simple, nothing else was easy about the win, which sends Dover (7-4) to a rematch with top-seeded Smyrna (9-2) next weekend in the Class 3A semifinals.

Trailing 7-6, Dover — which earned the program’s first state tournament victory since 2013 — had almost run out of chances on the cold, windy afternoon.

However, on a second down from the Senators’ own 24, quarterback Jordan Moran threw up a deep ball for Elijah Sessoms. The Hawks’ defender had inside position on the big tight end.

Looking like the basketball player he is, Sessoms jumped over top of the defender, pulled in the pass, regained his balance and kept sprinting downfield. He was caught at the St. Georges’ five but not before picking up 71 yards on the play.

“I just tried to go up and make a play,” said Sessoms. “The defender was right on me. When I came down with the ball, I was just so tired — I’d been playing all day.”

Senators’ coach Chip Knapp said they drew up the pass play at halftime.

“They were pretty aggressive all day,” he said about the Hawks’ defense. “So we thought maybe we could get someone behind them. I told him (Moran), just throw it up to him. Give him a chance. They did a great job there. We needed something.”

Dover got to the three yard line on three straight running plays. That’s where Yoder made his field goal to give Senators the lead.

The contest was hardly decided at that point, however.

St. Georges (7-4) drove 39 yards to the Senators’ 24 with 44 seconds still left.

Earlier on the drive, a 29-yard pass completion — which would have been a TD — was called out of bounds. Then, on a fourth-and-two, Dover’s defensive line was waiting for the Hawks’ Gi’Vonni Sanchez and stopped him in his tracks for a one-yard loss.

The tackle, led by Jamir Richardson and Sir William Bauer, set off an exuberant Senator celebration. After taking a knee to run out of the clock, Dover’s players were soon jumping up and down in the end zone chanting ‘Dover, Dover, Dover.’

“You see that play enough, hopefully we’d be able to defend it,” Knapp said about the fourth-down stop. “We were pretty aggressive on it and the guys did a great job. When we execute, good things happen.”

“We just all came together and we swarmed him,” said Sessoms, who was also in on the tackle from his linebacker spot. “It felt great. It felt like a whole weight lifted off my shoulders. It’s a big relief. I’m just glad that we got the win.

“It means a lot ... it means a lot to the Dover community,” he added. ”This is a victory for everybody.”

In a defensive struggle in which the wind kept both teams from passing consistently, Dover didn’t score the game’s first points of the contest until the third quarter.

The Senators used a trick play, with freshman receiver John Parker starting around right end on a sweep but then pulling up and launching a 44-yard touchdown pass to Tyir Trott, who was open behind the secondary. A high snap on the PAT ended up with the kick being blocked, leaving the Senators’ advantage at 6-0.

“We talked about actually switching the two guys because Tyir is a former quarterback,” Knapp said about the TD pass. “But we decided to go with John. That was the best looking rep we did all year right there.

“We had to find some kind of spark. And that definitely was a spark.”

The missed PAT almost came back to haunt Dover, though.

A fumble recovery gave St. Georges the ball at the Senators’ 47 and led to a Sanchez 27-yard touchdown run. After starting QB Donovan Brooks was injured in the second quarter, Sanchez ran the ball a number of times out of a wildcat formation.

Julio Lopez’ extra-point kick gave the Hawks a 7-6 lead with 2:26 left in the third quarter.

Yoder, who missed a 24-yard field goal in the first quarter on a miss-hit kick, was glad he got the chance to redeem himself.

“It’s a great feeling, I don’t think it can be matched at all,” he said about the victory. “I was just so excited to see the defense get the stop there and end it.

“Even though I expect myself to make that one, it’s still a great feeling. ... It was definitely a hard-fought game and I definitely would have been kicking myself if I didn’t make that one.”

Extra points

After having two straight open dates, Dover was playing its first game since Nov. 5. ... Trott was the holder on the winning field goal while Connor Ridgway was the snapper. ... Tyron Abrams had an interception for the Senators, just as he did in Dover’s 21-14 win at St. Georges during the regular season. ... Moran scored on a one-yard sneak in the first quarter but the play was wiped out by a motion penalty. The drive ended with Yoder’s missed field goal. ... The Senators last played in the state semifinals in 2018 when they dropped a heart-breaking 21-20 decision to Sussex Central.

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