Sub-.500 seasons were likely the last things that Selbyville Middle School athletes were expecting when their football team went 3-3-1 and their boys’ basketball team fell 3-9 on the season during the 2006-2007 school year. But, this year, they proved that a lot could change — be it cooperation, attitude or a little extra persistence — as both football and basketball proudly went undefeated. Yes, undefeated. Not even the New England Patriots managed that.
The Indians of Selbyville Middle School enjoyed a 7-0 football season against tough match-ups, including Seaford and Sussex Central, and proved superior on the hardwood against rival teams such as Laurel and Woodbridge.
“These guys played amazing this year,” said SMS football and basketball head coach Jesse Bare. “The way they responded, listened and worked to get it perfected was just unbelievable.”
Bare, a teacher at SMS who has been coaching youth leagues for nearly eight years, said he’d never seen such an inspiring turnaround between seasons as he witnessed this past year.
“This year was definitely about them,” he said. “They really came together.”
Perhaps more impressive than the records themselves, though, was the fact that 12 of these students contributed their time, charting the rosters and anchoring their teams in both undefeated sports. Eight eighth-graders and four seventh-graders managed to balance schoolwork with extracurricular activities, excelling in their performance on and off the field and court.
Dawand Handy, Jamie Jarmon, Patriel Bratton and D’Andre Santiago, all finishing up their eighth-grade year at SMS this May, proved they could turn things around under pressure.
The football team, which kicked off their season in mid-September at Cambridge, hit a high note and didn’t let go, tallying victories all the way through their last game of the season on Nov. 1, capturing Delmar, 48-14. The Indians even managed two shut-outs on the season, against Woodbridge and Sussex Central.
This isn’t even the first time SMS has come through with an undefeated season, registering perfect records in 2005 and 2004, too.
“It was really good having Coach Bare there with us,” said Jarmon, who was this year’s starting quarterback. “He really brought out a lot of maturity in all of us. We were able to come together and really play well with each other.”
The football team’s offense this year made a few adjustments following last year’s less fortunate season. Swapping the number of backs and wide receivers, the Indians found what worked and went with it every time.
“We’d really push ourselves at practice,” said Jarmon, “and we came out with a good game plan.”
Both the basketball and football teams would scrimmage the coaches, keeping their skills at their peak.
“It was mostly laid-back,” said Jarmon. “We always had fun out there.”
“When we were all out there, we kept a positive attitude all the time,” said running back Handy. “The biggest reward was probably the payback — coming out this year and beating all those teams we lost to before.”
Last year marked the first year that sixth-graders could participate in sports, which had prevented this year’s eighth-graders from joining teams upon their arrival in middle school. Needless to say, they’ve made their presence known this year.
The basketball team outscored their opponents more than 22 points on average, as they toppled through games from December to January. They even held their opponents to under eight points in four games — quite an impressive feat for any team in such a fast-paced sport.
Patriel Bratton and seventh-grader Marquel Knight each led the team with total points, finishing with 78 points apiece on the year. The two averaged 7.1 points per game, as did Santiago, who finished with 71 points. Handy, close behind, chalked up 67 points this year, averaging 6.7 points each game. At 6 feet, Santiago — the tallest on the basketball team — pulled down an impressive 81 rebounds in the past season.
This past week, the team faced off in a game of hoops against the faculty, falling just shy — 60-59 — though Bare insisted, it was the best performance that he’s ever seen from them.
As spring sports roll around, many of the athletes will keep in check on the track and on the diamond. Jarmon plans to return to baseball this spring, while Handy, Bratton and Santiago will stay loose, running track. Next year, the four hope to be hitting the fields and courts as freshmen at Indian River High.
As for Bare, he may be saying so long to a few of his star athletes, but he’s looking forward to another successful season.
“We’ve got a solid group of guys who will be back playing both sports again,” he said. “It’s awesome to see these guys work together and play off each other. I wish the best for them as they go on and play at IR. I know they’ll be great there.”