Will Knight powered Smyrna's offense as the Eagles battled back from a 20-8 second-half deficit to hand Middletown its only loss of the season, 30-27.
The Smyrna Eagles cemented their place in Delaware High School Football history Saturday afternoon, winning their third-straight DIAA Division I Football State Championship over Middletown, 30-27, at Delaware Stadium.
Smyrna overcame a 20-8 deficit in the second half to earn their three-peat, led by standout Will Knight who finished the game with three rushing scores and a touchdown pass.
“This is a special team,” Knight said after the game. “To be able to come back as alumni and say that we were a part of this is a blessing.”
Smyrna took an early 8-0 lead, cashing in on a Middletown fumble on the game’s opening kick-off, when Knight scored on a 2-yard run while also adding the two-point conversion.
The Eagles lead remained at 8-0 until late in the first half when Middletown orchestrated a drive deep into Smyrna territory, capped off by a six-yard connection from quarterback Drew Fry to Nicholas Johnston cutting the Eagles’ lead to 8-7 at halftime.
On the opening kickoff to start the second half, it was Middletown’s turn to capitalize on a special teams turnover when they recovered a Larsen Wilson fumble giving the Cavaliers the ball in Smyrna territory. A few plays later, Fry would find Esaias Guthrie on a 35-yard touchdown pass to give the Cavaliers a 13-8 lead with just over 10 minutes to go in the third quarter.
With just under five minutes left in the third, Middletown would force another big turnover.
Smyrna quarterback Isaiah Wilson fumbled a fake handoff which fell right into the arms of Johnathan Smith who took it to the house 38-yards for a touchdown increasing the Middletown lead to 20-8.
The Eagles would answer just seconds later on their next possession - Knight took a direct snap and rolled out throwing a 41-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Whaley, pulling Smyrna to within six points at 20-14.
In the fourth quarter, still trailing 20-14, Smyrna put together an impressive offensive drive finished off by a nine-yard rushing score by Knight, followed by yet another two-point conversion for Knight to give Smyrna a 22-20 lead with about six minutes remaining.
Later in the quarter Middletown was in Smyrna territory on a drive that started from their own 11-yard line when Fry was stopped short on a fourth and four to go, giving the ball back to the Eagles with under three minutes to go.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Knight busted out one of his signature long runs, breaking loose for a 79-yard score down the sidelines to give Smyrna a 10-point lead, 30-20.
The Cavaliers wouldn’t go away, however, as Fry would lead them down the field before finding Kenneth Edelin on an 18-yard touchdown pass to cut the Smyrna lead to 30-27.
Middletown’s on-sides kick try would be recovered by Smyrna and three kneel-downs by Knight would seal the Eagles’ third-straight Division I state title.
The Eagles were successful most of the day running the “earthquake” formation on offense, stacking up bodies along the line and wearing down the Cavaliers along the way. Despite trailing at the half, Smyrna stuck with their gameplan and it paid off.
“We knew they were going to make some adjustments after last season, so we just stuck to the gameplan,” said Smyrna Head Coach Mike Judy. “We went into halftime and felt really comfortable with some of the adjustments we made - put kids a position to make plays, defense made some stops, special teams made some plays - it was a well played game all-around.”