CAMDEN — It’s not like Caesar Rodney High didn’t have chances to put the ball in the end zone.
The Riders drove down the field and had possession inside the 20-yard line twice in the first half, but just couldn’t quite finish the job.
The defense and special teams units did their job, picking off a pair of passes while allowing just one touchdown but it wasn’t enough as the Riders fell 6-0 to Appoquinimink High Friday night at Rider Stadium in a Class 3A clash.
“That was probably our best half of football this year,” CR coach Dan Candeloro said of the first half performance. “Every week you want to get better, so I thought we got better in that first half and then in that second half I think we were kind of chasing change — you can’t go chasing change in a 6-0 dogfight like that … credit to them, Appo did a good job.”
Following 20-7 and 45-14 losses in the first two weeks of the season, Candeloro is hoping the Riders (0-3) can build off the six-point loss as they travel to Smyrna High next Friday night.
Appoquinimink (1-1) senior quarterback Ryan vonBrandt completed 12 of his 22 pass attempts for 110 yards and a pair of interceptions while adding a game-high 118 rushing yards and one touchdown on 13 rushes.
Nearly all of those rushing yards came in the second half as Appo ran 12 QB draw plays in the last 24 minutes, including the game’s only score when vonBrandt trotted into the end zone from 21 yards out at the 2:47 mark of the third quarter.
“They put the ball in vonBrandt’s hands in that second half and he did his job,” Candeloro said. “Credit to them, that’s what you have to find, guys like him, and he did a good job.”
Julian Harris made plays on both sides of the ball for the Riders, rushing for 37 yards and catching a key 68-yard pass on offense while making tackles and recording an interception on defense.
Senior Brock Conner led the Riders in rushing, tallying 78 yards on 14 attempts.
Caesar Rodney’s first possession of the night led to a quick punt but the CR offense quickly drove the ball down the field and into the red zone on eight plays on the team’s very next possession.
Deciding to go for it on fourth down at the Jaguars’ 17-yard line, a high snap led to Appo’s front line smothering the ball-carrier for a loss on the play and a turnover on downs.
Appoquinimink’s offense answered with a long drive of its own on the ensuing possession until the Rider defense forced a turnover on downs at their own 37 halfway through the second quarter.
Caesar Rodney’s defense made another big play when sophomore Aiden Cain picked off a vonBrandt pass attempt at the two-yard line to halt the scoring threat with just 1:14 remaining in the half.
Instead of taking a knee and running down the clock at their own two-yard line, junior quarterback Andre Moore hit Harris down the right sideline on the drive’s third play for a 68-yard gain to set the Riders up at the opposing 20 with 17 seconds left.
One play later Appo’s defense returned the favor with an interception by Dillon Griffith as the two sides went into the break in a 0-0 deadlock.
Appoquinimink threw off CR’s defense from the very start of the second half, running three consecutive draw plays with vonBrandt to begin the third quarter.
Harris’ interception at the 8:17 mark of the third quarter put a quick end to the drive but vonBrandt’s success continued a few minutes later when he orchestrated a four-play, 56-yard scoring drive that he capped with his TD run.
The Riders offense struggled to move the ball throughout the second half, punting the ball on all four drives of the half.