Smyrna High football preview: Eagles feature 10 returning starters from 9-3 team
After falling to Middletown and Glen Elg, Maryland to start the 2019 season 0-2, the Smyrna High School football team righted the ship and sailed through the rest of the regular season.
The Eagles won eight straight games to qualify for the Division 1 state tournament as the #3 seed. In the first round, Smyrna cruised past #6 Salesianum 52-32, but in the semifinals the Eagles fell to #2 Middletown 48-28.
The biggest challenge to the Eagles and all teams this season is an invisible opponent – the coronavirus. Until several weeks ago, the 2020 fall sports season was in jeopardy, but the Delaware Board of Education voted 4-3 to permit the games to continue after the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association outlined a plan for fall sports.
“I was happy for the kids,” said Smyrna head coach Mike Judy. “They desperately needed the outlet. The decision set forth a long and arduous road to safely play and practice, but we tackled that and are doing great.”
“There have been many changes with the day-to-day logistics of practicing, but our team has successfully navigated those issues and is doing great while attending to the details of staying safe,” he said.
Those changes have included “masks on constantly, social distancing when possible” and “short bursts of activity followed by distancing.”
Because the first day of practice approved by the DIAA was more than a month later than the traditional starting date, the football season has been shortened to seven regular season games.
Judy said the latest information he has received is that there will be a Henlopen Conference Northern Division champion crowned this year. The Eagles’ schedule includes all Northern Division opponents plus a non-conference game against Salesianum.
The Division 1 state tournament will be held, but plans are for only a four-team tournament instead of the usual six teams. Smyrna is in Division 1 for schools with larger enrollments. Division 2 is for schools with smaller enrollments.
With seven returning starters on offense but just three on defense, Smyrna should be among the favorites to qualify for the tournament after an 8-2 regular season in 2019 and a win in the first round of the tournament.
The strengths of the team, Judy said, are speed, athleticism and depth.
“The kids are fast and we are deep in potential contributing players,” he said.
What are the areas they’re working to improve?
“We are always trying to get better at the basics of blocking and tackling, limiting our turnovers while causing more from the opponent,” Judy said.
Aidan Sanchez, senior, quarterback
Devin Smith, senior, wide receiver
Gordon Fletcher, senior, offensive line
Wayne Knight, junior, running back
Devin Demoe, junior, wide receiver
Tyler Downward, junior, offensive line
Yamir Knight, sophomore, running back
Kody Dean, senior, defensive line
Erik Larson, senior, linebacker
Rob Wiley, senior, linebacker
Players new to the starting lineup include:
Jermaine Earl, senior, wide receiver
Gavin Porter, senior, linebacker
Ziantey Carson, senior, defensive back
EJ Statham, junior, defensive line
Terrell Anderson, junior, defensive line
Nate Lescinzak, junior, linebacker
Troy Hicks, junior, defensive back
Denim Smith, sophomore, wide receiver
Note: The starting lineups weren’t finalized as of Oct. 19, the Sun-Times deadline for this special football preview section.
Spectators limited to guests of players
While Smyrna High School football games have always been large community gatherings, this year will be different because of coronavirus restrictions.
Fans won’t be able to walk up to the stadium and buy a ticket. In fact, only two guests per player will be allowed, and no visiting fans will be permitted.
SEE FULL POLICY:Smyrna School District policy for fall sports spectators
Smyrna High 2020 football schedule
Friday, Oct. 23 home vs. Dover, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30 at Cape Henlopen, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 6 at Sussex Central, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 13 at Abessinio Stadium vs. Salesianum, time to be announced.
Friday, Nov. 20 at Milford, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 27 home vs. Sussex Tech, 7 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 4 home vs. Caesar Rodney, 7 p.m.
Results against these opponents in 2019
Smyrna 36, Dover 26 at Dover
Smyrna 54, Cape Henlopen 14 in Smyrna
Smyrna 20, Sussex Central 7 in Smyrna
Smyrna 18, Salesianum 10 in Smyrna
Smyrna 42, Milford 0 in Smyrna
Smyrna 28, Sussex Tech 0 in Smyrna
Smyrna 44, Caesar Rodney 23 at CR
State tournament, first round: Smyrna 52, Salesianum 32 in Smyrna