While it took a while for both teams to get going, the Gold team topped the Blue team 22-19 in the 58th annual DFRC Blue/Gold All-Star Football Game at Tubby Raymond Stadium on Saturday night.
Early on both teams struggled to put points on the board as the feeling-out process began. The first score of the ball-game came after an errant snap ended up bouncing through the back of the Gold end-zone to give the Blue team an early 2-0.
During the next possession, the Blue team was able to drive down into field goal range and an Adam Szczerba 37-yard Field Goal gave the Blue team a 5-0 lead nearly half-way through the opening quarter of play.
St. Elizabeth's Andre Patton, who will play at Rutgers next season, intercepted Dover's Ian Gory late in the quarter but the Blue team was unable to capitalize and they headed to the Second Quarter with Blue up 5-0.
In the second, both teams found it hard to put points on the board as the defense at both ends stepped up. However, with just minutes left in the half, Gory found Appoquinimink's Malacchi Esdale for a 5-yard touchdown to put the Gold team on the board.
Cape Henlopen's Diaz Nardo plowed across the goal-line for the two-point conversion to give the Gold team an 8-5 lead at the break.
Nardo was a big part of the Gold team's short-yardage attack, giving the Gold team a unique option under center.
After ending the first half on a high-note, the second half didn't start the way they wanted.
Jesse June of Salesianum intercepted a Gory pass and returned it for a touchdown, after the extra-point the Blue team jumped ahead of the Gold; 12-8.
The Gold team would bounce back, putting together another methodical drive down the field, capped off by Gory to Sussex Central's James Booth touchdown pass, putting them back on top 14-12. The Gold team would add another score, tacking on a two-point conversion to go up 22-12 as the game headed to the fourth and final quarter.
Down 22-12, the Blue team needed to score twice, and quickly. With a little over 10 minutes remaining, the Blue team went with a read-option that opened up the middle of the field allowing the Blue team to gain chucks of yards. And while the clock kept moving Patton, who was electric all night out of the back-field, found a seam up the middle and scored to bring the Blue team within 3 points at 22-19.
The Gold team received the ball with just less than seven minutes remaining, needing only to run the clock out. Predominately, they ran the ball before surprising the Blue team with a pass just across midfield from Glasgow's Khari Ngozi to Milford's Nick Jefferson that went for 21-yards giving the Gold a first down helping to solidify the victory.
Page 2 of 2 - Darren Helwig of Smyrna took home the Lineman Award from the Gold team, while Patton received the game's MVP Award.
Afterward, both teams congratulated each other on a hard-fought game that after a slow start turned into a back-and-forth battle.
"Every time we needed to make a play they made a play," said Woodbridge's Ed Manlove, Head Coach of the Gold team. "When things seemed down and out, they stepped up and made the plays. We had a strong character team and a strong-willed team."
Down the stretch, the Gold team was able to control the time of possession, and capitalize on Blue team turnovers. And with the Blue team trailing by only a field goal, the Gold team was able to put together a 13-play drive to run out the clock. A feat not lost on Cape's Nardo, who like others, were caught off-guard by the college-length quarters. Though, afterwards Nardo reflected on the entire week and past few months leading up to Saturday's game.
"I'll remember this for the rest of my life, I'll remember all these guys, the whole week," said Nardo. "Getting this win is even better now."
"We just tried to keep going, it was a long game and I didn't realize it was going to take that long," joked Nardo. "We got the win so it's really all we can ask for."
The victory for the Gold team was their third in a row over the Blue team, but they still trail the all-time series which stands at 30-25-3 in favor of the Blue team.
Dover's Donovan Cain, who didn't find the end-zone, did rush for a game-high 62 yards. Gory finished 6-for-13 throwing for 138 yards in the victory.