WILMINGTON — Seaford High returned to the postseason for the first time in more than 25 years but will have to wait a little longer to rediscover the taste of a playoff victory.
The Blue Jays fell 15-12 to Tatnall School in the Class 1A football state tournament finals on Saturday after the Hornets rallied in the second half. Seaford, who finished the season at 7-3 overall, led 12-3 at halftime before Tatnall scored 12 unanswered to escape with the victory.
“We’ve got to learn to win,” said Seaford coach Mark Quillin. “We’ve come a long way at Seaford and this is our first playoff experience. We’ve got to keep grinding and we have a lot of kids coming back. The positives outweigh the negatives for this season.”
Tatnall, seeded third, advanced to play the tournament’s second seed St. Elizabeth in the semifinals next weekend at a time to be determined.
Seaford was playing its first postseason game since 1994 when it lost in the opening round of the former Division II tournament. The Blue Jays haven’t won a playoff game since 1993, when it reached the Division I championship game.
Saturday’s game swung Tatnall’s way late in the third quarter after it looked like Seaford had sealed it.
Seaford forced a turnover on downs with a goal-line stand, stopping the Hornets on the one-yard line. Seaford thought it had scored a 99-yard touchdown on the next play with a Careen Bolden pass to Aviyon Matthews but it was whistled back for a holding penalty, sending the Blue Jays back to their own one-yard line.
This time, the Blue Jays ran the ball and fumbled, which was recovered by Tatnall’s James Saintfleur. The Hornets needed one play for a touchdown, a rush by Nasir Obey with 1:41 left in the third quarter.
“We called the perfect play for it and they called a hold,” Quillin said of the situation. “But hey, you’re going to call what you’re going to call and we’ve got to play better. We should have finished it off.”
Tatnall kept up the momentum by recovering another fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Rahshan LaMons put Seaford in the lead for good with 7:44 remaining in the game.
Seaford had two more possessions to try to take the lead but could not cross midfield on either as they turned it over on downs.
The Blue Jays were led by sophomore Jazonte Levan who scored a nine-yard rushing touchdown and Bolden, a freshman who had a 42-yard punt return touchdown. Seaford nearly had a third touchdown in the first half but fumbled on the Tatnall four-yard line with a minute left in the second quarter.
Sophomore Tymere Davis blocked a punt and senior Dalton Hignutt recorded an interception for the Blue Jays. Hignutt was one of only two seniors on the Blue Jay roster along with Jyrell Thomas.
“It’s been a great year for us with a lot of young kids,” Quillin said. “We’ve had great support from the community which I think is coming back and that’s what Seaford needs. We got a lot of support which has been a blessing.”
“We haven’t had a bad practice all season really,” he added. “That was the biggest thing was just teaching kids how to practice correctly. They were kind of a mess when I first got here but we’ve got in a rhythm where the kids are realizing what the level of football is that you’ve got to play to be competitive.”
It was the first year of the new Class 1A after the state broke into three different divisions, which Quillin said has been beneficial to the Blue Jays.
“The whole realignment has helped schools like Tatnall and Seaford, some of us who are trying to get back on our feet after some tough times,” Quillin said. “It gave us an opportunity to have a game like today.”