Following the Sussex Central Middle School football team’s convincing 26-0 win over Selbyville on Nov. 2, all of the Golden Knights players surrounded their respective coaching staffs — current and future — for an end-of-the-season talk.
One by one, the middle-school and varsity staff stepped to the forefront to congratulate them on a job well done and spoke their piece about the past and the future — and, more directly, offered each of them open invitations to continue their journey as Golden Knights of the gridiron.
Those 50 sets of eyes never broke their gaze when one of their coaches praised them for a season and game well-earned. And when they were asked a question, 50 young men responded in unison with respect and discipline.
It was this discipline that led Sussex Central Middle School to a 7-1 record this year and it’s the same discipline that’s put their varsity program in a position to contend for a state championship in 2006.
“It was real exciting to see them play at such a high level,” Sussex Central head varsity coach John Wells said. “The defense stepped up and the special team made some big plays early and made it easy for the offense.”
Golden Knight running back and linebacker Deshawn Sheppard returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. Defensive back Cody Combs intercepted an Andy Bokinsky pass and took it 38 yards for a second score toward the end of the first quarter, to give Sussex Central a 12-0 advantage.
The Indians were held to less than 30 yards of total offense, including tallying 10 plays of zero gain or less. Each of their six drives resulted in three-and-out possessions or turnovers, and they had only two first downs all game.
The Indians mounted an 11-play drive to end the third quarter but turned the ball over on downs on a thwarted reverse play.
The Golden Knight’s offensive line made their opponents pay and gashed open huge lanes for their running backs — including Brandon Hall, who took advantage of the Indians’ stalled drive five plays later by scoring his second touchdown of the game on a 30-yard scamper. Hall gained 61 of the Golden Knights’ 101 rushing yards on five carries, and fullback George Dunn added 32 yards on seven carries.
“Our line is big, powerful, and works very hard in practice,” Sussex Central offensive line coach Goldberg said. “The heart and soul of our team definitely starts with the line. They really stepped up and opened some nice holes.”
With seven seventh graders in “key positions” Selbyville assistant coach Tim Clausen knew his team would have to play flawless football to beat the Golden Knights.
“We knew Sussex Central had a good team going in,” Clausen said. “They didn’t have a weakness and they played a textbook game.”
“Some [people] are comparing them to their 2004 team that did so well,” he noted, referring to this year’s roster. “And you need great players to put a great team on the field. But you also have to give credit to their coaching staff — they really do a great job preparing their players,” Clausen added.
For many of Sussex Central Middle School’s Golden Knights, six and half months separate them from officially becoming members of the high school program. But center Matt Skidmore is already there and a part of the team.
“I bleed blue and gold — always have, always will be,” he said. “And, hopefully, all the talent we’re bringing to the high school can help win what every ninth-grader wants — a state championship.”