Caesar Rodney's football won't win the state championship this season, but the team gave a superb effort in nearly derailing the to-seeded and undefeated (11-0) Middletown Cavaliers Friday night in the DIAA D-1 semifinal game at Billings Stadium. Anyone who witnessed the game will remember the Riders heart and determination throughout the well-played contest. The Riders fell 35-28 but gave the home team the battle of the season for the entire 48 minutes. It was Middletown's smallest margin of victory of the season, but gave the defending champions a return ticket to the title match next Saturday night.
"We talked with our team and we said to each other that we were going to commit to 48 minutes of football, we're going to play every play as hard as we can play and I think our guys did that and I'm proud of them. They said they were going to do something and they did," said Caesar Rodney coach Mike Schonewolf.
With Middletown leading by only seven with 3:36 left in the fourth quarter, the Riders stopped the Cavs potent offense. Unfortunately for CR, that's when the Middletown defense kicked into high gear, stopping the Riders on a fourth and ten yards to go situation to guarantee the slim victory.
"Defense wins championships, and that's what we've talked about. At some point in time you've got to put it in the hands of your defense. I would have liked to have gotten a first down and put the ball in the end zone (late in the game) but we didn't do that. If you're going to play championship football you'd better be able to come up big defensively in moments like that," said DelPercio. The Cavaliers struck quickly in the first quarter. After forcing the Riders to punt on their first possession, Middletown took over at their own 37. On the first play from scrimmage, senior Chris Godwin raced 73 yards around the right side, then cut back to the left, for a touchdown. Josh Leach's extra point kick made the score 7-0 at 9:20.
Surprising to many in the packed house, Caesar Rodney came right back and scored at the 8:52 mark when junior Robert Holmes rumbled in from one yard out. Two minutes later, The Cavs regained the lead at 14-7 on Godwin's second touchdown of the night. But again the Riders counterattacked and tied the game at 14-14 with 9:56 left in the second period, this time on a 2-yard run by senior Devon Horton. Not to be outdone, Middletown's Jamar Baynard scrambled 43 yards for a touchdown and a 21-14 lead at the half. Baynard, who wasn't feeling well, left the game temporarily, but came back to amass 209 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. "I just had to pound it out and not let anything get to me," said Baynard. "I wasn't surprised. We've been working hard since January, and when we get into a fight, we've just got to step it up."
Page 2 of 2 - Midway through the third quarter, Middletown's Darius Wade ran eight yards for a 28-14 lead. CR counterpunched again, and closed the gap to 28-21 at 4:44 when junior quarterback Alex Kemp hit Naquan Watkins on a 60-yard TD bomb. Then, Baynard scored what proved to be the winning touchdown with 46 seconds left in the period for a two-touchdown cushion.
The battle raged in the fourth quarter and CR cut the lead to 35-28 with 4:53 remaining, when Kemp hit Seth Brosius with a 21-yard TD pass. Then as the clock would down to double zeroes, the Middletown defense finished the job by shutting down the Riders when it was most important to the game, and the season."It was a war, it was a battle and we didn't expect anything less than that. That's an outstanding football team and they were here for a reason, but I couldn't be happier the way my guys responded. When we needed to make a play, that's what we did, and that's what we take pride in," said Middletown coach Mark DelPercio. The Cavaliers advanced to the title game for the third consecutive year to play the winner of the St. Mark's –Salesianum game to be played Saturday night. The Championship game will take place Saturday December 1st at Delaware State University's Alumni Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.