Eagles win fourth straight game to improve to 4-2 overall, 3-0 in the Henlopen Conference Northern Division
Correction: The Smyrna High School football team is 3-0 in the Henlopen Conference Northern Division. An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect division record.
The Smyrna High School football team won its fourth game in a row -- and third straight in the Henlopen Conference Northern Division -- with a 36-26 triumph at Dover tonight.
In a back-and-forth game, the Eagles led by six, trailed by one, opened an 18-point cushion and then held off a Dover comeback in a frantic fourth quarter.
Quarterback Aidan Sanchez returned to the lineup after sitting out for a game following his injury against Salesianum.
After the kickoff, the Eagles started at their 30 and Sanchez led a methodical drive down the field until the Senators' defense stiffened at their 18.
But on fourth down, Sanchez pitched the ball to running back Wayne Knight who passed to Makhi Jackson in the end zone for a 6-0 lead with 6:22 left in the first quarter. The two-point conversion run was stopped.
Smyrna's defense forced Dover to punt after three downs.
Starting on their 38, the Eagles started rolling again, with a 26-yard pass play from Sanchez to Knight, but a few plays later the drive stalled on an incomplete fourth-down pass.
The Senators took over on their own 32 and drove into Smyrna territory, but as the first quarter ended, they faced a fourth down.
Dover punted to start the second quarter and Smyrna took over on the 12-yard line.
Three plays later, Dover intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. The extra-point kick gave the Senators a 7-6 lead with 10:54 left to play in the second quarter.
Smyrna's next possession started at the Eagles' 37. With a combination of runs, passes and a pass interference penalty, Smyrna moved the ball into Dover territory, but eventually faced a fourth down with nine yards to go. But Sanchez picked up the key first down, running for 10 yards on a quarterback draw.
After Knight carried the ball for another first down, Sanchez passed to Jackson for a 15-yard touchdown and a 12-7 lead. The two-point pass was incomplete with 6:47 left until the half.
Smyrna tried an onside kick, but Dover recovered in Smyrna territory. The Senators drove to the seven yard line, but the Eagles' defense forced a fourth and seven. Dover lined up to try a field goal, but a false start pushed the ball back five yards. The Senators still went for the 29-yard field goal and it was good, cutting Smyrna's lead to 12-10.
Now Dover tried an onside kick, but the Eagles recovered at their own 40. Smyrna used a mix of runs and passes along with a late-hit penalty on Dover to move to Dover's 23-yard line. Then Sanchez passed to C.J. Smith for 18 yards to Dover's five.
From there, Knight punched the ball into the end zone two plays later for an 18-10 advantage with 1:45 left in the second quarter. Knight ran for the two-point conversion for a 20-10 lead that the Eagles carried into halftime.
In the third quarter, Gavin Sembly intercepted a pass for the Eagles, but their next drive stalled.
Dover's offense took over and drove to Smyrna's 15-yard line, but the Eagles' defense dug in and stopped the Senators, with Hugo Harp making a key tackle on fourth down.
After neither team could score in the rest of the quarter, Smyrna's offense started another drive, moving deep into Dover territory to the six. But a holding penalty and a false start pushed the Eagles back.
On second and goal from the 18, a face mask penalty against Dover gave Smyrna second and goal on Dover's nine.
Then Sanchez threaded the needle with a pass to Jackson in the end zone for a 26-10 advantage with 7:10 left in the game. The two-point pass from Knight to Espie Hart increased Smyrna's lead to 28-10.
Dover quickly responded with a big run followed by a touchdown pass and the two-point conversion run to make the score 28-18 with 5:37 left to play.
The onside kick was recovered by Smyrna at the Eagles' 46. Under pressure, Sanchez passed for a first down into Dover territory. A screen pass to Jackson moved the ball to Dover's 34.
Then a lateral pass that fell short was picked up by Dover and returned for an apparent touchdown, but an illegal block in the back brought the ball back, although Dover retained possession.
Dover's offense moved the ball several yards, but Smyrna's defense held when a fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 3:23 left to play.
After Smyrna took over, Sanchez surprised Dover on a read-option keeper and sprinted 44 yards to Dover's two-yard line.
On the next play, Knight powered into the end zone with 2:03 left, and the two-point conversion was good for a 36-18 cushion.
Dover bounced back with a scoring drive and two-point conversion with 54 seconds left to cut the lead to 36-26.
But Smyrna recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock for the victory.
The Eagles, 4-2 overall, 3-0 in the Northern Division, host Milford Friday, Oct. 18 for Homecoming at 7 p.m. The Homecoming parade in downtown Smyrna starts at 5 p.m.