The Sussex County Warhawks semi-pro team drop to 0-2 after they lost a 12-8 heartbreaker to the Wilmington Raiders Feb 28.
“It was a real nail-bitter. It’s a shame, too, because we dominated the entire game until the last couple of minutes,” said team owner Tina Dennis.
After struggling offensively against the defending Diamond Football League champion New Castle Saints the previous week, the Warhawks finally kicked it into gear.
The Warhawks only mustered 40 total rushing yards last week, but exploded to gain 152 yards against a top-ranked Raiders team. Quarterback Jason Rust struggled to complete 9-23 passes for 107 yards and one touchdown, and a disappointing three interceptions, but led the team in rushing with 76 yards.
Head coach Butch Yocum had to make some personnel changes in the backfield to maximize his team’s effectiveness.
“I replaced our little scat-back Elmer Young with a bigger back this week. Darnel (Strand) did pretty good in there for us, picking up 51 yards on 14 carries,” said Yocum.
The passing game was somewhat ineffective and the Warhawks failed to convert on manageable third-down conversions.
“I told Jason on the phone that when we are 3rd and 6, and a slant is called, you can’t check out of the play and go deep. Touchdowns are nice, but converting first downs builds confidence and keeps the ball rolling,” said Yocum.
Defensively, the Warhawks controlled the line of scrimmage-limiting the Raiders scoring opportunities. The Warhawks allowed one touchdown early on a missed tackle, but there weren’t many of those. Linebackers Tremond Conway and Albert Haynes led the team with eight tackles apiece in the contest.
The Warhawks were forced to stay in a 4-3 base and 5-2 base defenses due to a lack of players participating in practice.
“We only had seven guys show up for practice so we had to keep it simple and limit our substitutions,” said Yocum.
The Warhawks defense collected three sacks, two defended passes and a forced fumble, followed by a recovery.
“If you look at the statistics — we blew them out of the water! It wasn’t until they went to a hurry-up offense that we got beat,” said Yocum.
With 2:56 remaining in the game, the Raiders quarterback completed a staggering five forth-and-long conversions on their way to scoring the winning touchdown.
Fearing a repeat of getting torched on the long pass in their season opener, Yocum suited up as the starting free safety for most of the game. “I played most of the game at free safety and they didn’t get anything over-top of me until I came out,” said Yocum.
“Overall-I can’t be upset about how my guys played. Honestly, I think we have one of the better teams in the conference. Even the Saints acknowledged how much we have improved in only a week. All we have to do is win a game here and there and we’ll be in contention,” said Yocum.
The Warhawks travel to Camden Wyoming to play the Kent County Fire March 12 at 11 a.m.
“To win, all we have to do is execute. If we execute we can hang with any team in the conference,” said Yocum. “Right now our team looks 500 percent better. We’re looking like a football team,” said Dennis.