After winning only 3 games last season, the Riders responded this year with a 7-3 record and nearly a trip to the State Championship Game.
The Riders season ended last week, falling to Middletown in a shootout 35-28. CR went toe-to-toe with the best team in the state and nearly pulled off the upset on enemy turf.
While they came up a bit short, this Riders squad may not be done.
Like any high school squad, they will lose plenty of seniors who contributed a lot to their success this season. Aaron Briggs, Adrian Trammell, Shaquille Stratton and Devon Horton all made an impact for the Riders this season, and all will be lost to graduation.
However, the Riders still have the quarterback who got them there, Alex Kemp.
Kemp – only a junior – showed some serious growth this season and will enter his senior campaign with some big-game experience under his belt.
Also, wide receiver Kendall Wicks who made some huge plays down the stretch for CR, will be back for his senior season leading the way as Kemp’s potential number-one weapon.
And even though the Riders will lose the majority of their backfield, there are plenty of underclassmen ready to battle it out for playing time.
Defensively, the Riders will have some battles at linebacker and in the secondary. At times this season the Riders defense played strong on the other side of the ball, forcing turnovers and shutting down team’s major offensive threats.
While we can’t be sure what the defense will look like, they’ll surely need some players to step up and help to build and identity for next season.
With the maturation of Kemp and the rest of his offensive weapons, and a tweaked defensive group, there’s no reason why the Riders won’t find themselves back in line for a Henlopen title and perhaps another deep run in the tournament.
One of the most important intangibles for the Riders this season was their fearlessness. CR took on some tough competition this season, including Middletown on a big stage, and didn’t back down to any of them. They entered games with great game plans, and the confidence that comes with a team who expects to win every game they play.
After their loss to Middletown, Head Coach Mike Schonewolf’s statement exemplified his team’s mentality since the beginning of the year.
"We talked with our team and we said to each other that we were going to commit to 48 minutes of football,” said Schonewolf. “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.”
The Riders may have come into this season under the radar, but they left it with nearly the entire state’s attention.
Going into to next season, the Riders aren’t going to sneak up on anyone. This is especially true within their own division, which still boasts tournament team Sussex Central, and of course the always dangers Dover Senators.
As a successful season ended with a bitter taste, the Riders will have an opportunity to flex their muscle early next season.
The Riders open the season against the two teams competing in this Saturday’s Division I Championship. First, they’ll travel to Salesianum before hosting Middletown the following week.