SMYRNA — Even coach Mike Judy has to admit he’s amazed sometimes by what his Smyrna High football has accomplished.
“I’m blown away,” said the Eagles’ second-year head coach. “I’m still not used to it.”
Again on Friday night, it looked like there was no stopping Smyrna as it put up a 58-21 victory over Sussex Central in a Henlopen Conference Northern Division matchup.
For the Eagles (3-0 North, 6-1 overall), who were averaging 52.3 points per game before the contest, it was the fifth time they’ve scored at least 56 points this season.
Will Knight led the way again, running for four touchdowns and five two-point conversions. The sophomore running back ran for 168 yards on 20 carries, caught five passes for 71 yards and even completed a pair of passes for 36 yards.
Quarterback Nolan Henderson also made his share of big plays, completing 21-of-25 passes for 309 yards and a TD as Smyrna moved one more big step closer to capturing the program’s first North championship.
But that’s not to stay that the Golden Knights (2-2, 3-4) didn’t go down without a fight.
After falling behind 22-0 in the first 10 minutes, Central closed within 28-21 late in the third quarter.
Quarterback William Wells hit a wide-open KiAnte Sturgis with a 56-yard touchdown pass before John Morris scored on a three-yard run. When Kenrique Nocks added the two-point conversion, Central was back within 28-21 with 2:30 left in the half.
Unfortunately for the Knights, that was more than enough time for Smyrna.
The Eagles drove 63 yards on eight plays with Henderson rolling to his right and finding Brandon Bishop behind the defense for a 28-yard scoring pass with 26.7 seconds left. The TD gave Smyrna a more-comfortable 34-21 lead at halftime.
Earlier on the drive, the Eagles converted on a fourth-and-one at their own 46 on a Knight 14-yard run.
“It was huge,” Judy said about the touchdown. “Momentum for our team is what’s most important.”
“We were determined,” said Knight. “We just had to fight through adversity. We lost the first half as a team and we just had to come out and fight harder. We made too many mistakes.”
Smyrna shut out Central fom there, outscoring the Knights 24-0 in the second half.
Sturgis finished with 101 yards on 18 carries for the Knights. For the second straight week, though, it was some big plays by the Eagles’ defense that helped open the game up.
On Central’s first drive, the Knights reached the Smyrna five. But on fourth-and-goal from the six, Smyrna lineman Jeff Campbell got his hand on a pass and the ball richochetted into the hands of senior Jamal Powell for a drive-ending interception.
The Eagles also made a pair of fourth-down stops later in the contest to keep the Knights from getting back in the game. Sophomore defensive lineman Anthony DelRe made several crucial tackles.
“Teams know that our offense is going to be hard to stop,” said Judy. “So I think the game’s are won and lost when it’s our defense against their offense.”
It was the Eagles’ second straight victory over Central after snapping a four-game losing streak to the Knights last year.
Of course, Smyrna is doing a lot of things it hasn’t done before. With six wins, the Eagles already have more victories in a season than they’d had in at least the past eight years.
But Smyrna also still has three North games remaining. Judy’s not going to believe the Eagles have the title wrapped up until they actually do.
“It’s not over until the last game,” he said. “We are not looking past anybody or looking forward to anybody. We are just taking it one game at a time.
“We talked to the kids about, you wanted to come out and make a statement that we’re for real. We’ve already done that. Coming into this game, it wasn’t about making a statement, it was about who’s standing in your way right now.”