Golden Knights earn playoff spot with Week 10 shutout victory

DAGSBORO — Needing a win to have a shot at hosting a playoff game, Sussex Central delivered a 35-0 shutout over Indian River last Thursday night to cap the 2017 regular season.

The victory pushed Central to 8-2 on the season and dropped Indian River to a 1-9 campaign.

It was also enough to earn the No. 4 seed and a home first-round match-up once the 2017 Division I state tournament bracket was released Sunday morning.

Central will play host to No. 5 William Penn Friday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m.

Coming off a 24-21 upset loss to playoff-bound Caesar Rodney a week prior, Sussex Central’s defense walked in to Indian River and forced a trio of turnovers (two fumbles, one interception) to record the team’s first shutout of the season.

Running back Ja’Ron Curtis takes off down the field in Central’s shutout victory over Indian River to cap the regular season (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

Four of Central’s five touchdowns came from the team’s backfield, with four different running backs scoring a touchdown.

“We need more footballs, because we can’t keep them all happy,” Wells said, jokingly, of his crowded backfield. “They’re all good kids, and they want the rock and they want to perform. But they’re teammates, so they block for each other and they run hard for each other.”

Central’s offense scored all five of its touchdowns on just six possessions in the first half to pull ahead 35-0 at the break.

An interception from Central junior Isaiah Barnes on Indian River’s second offensive drive of the game set up senior running back Drew Morris with a 12-yard touchdown run to get the scoring started.

Quarterback Isaac Barnes would hit Isaiah Barnes in stride for a deep touchdown pass as time expired in the opening quarter. A successful two-point try would put Central ahead 15-0.

Consecutive rushing touchdowns from sophomore TyJhir Sheppard-Parker and junior Zion Reed would give Central the 28-0 advantage with 5:18 remaining in the opening half.

Reed credited his offensive line’s blocking for his 64-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, putting him at 12 for the season.

The official 2017 DIAA Division I football state tournament bracket.

With just seven seconds to spare in the second quarter, Ja’Ron Curtis put the dagger in IR with the team’s fourth rushing touchdown of the game.

With backups in for much of the second half, Sussex Central’s defensive unit was able to step up and preserve the shutout against Indian River’s starters.

Central’s defense made a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter, stopping IR’s offense short at the one-yard line to seal the team’s eighth victory of the season.

“It just builds our confidence,” Reed said of Central’s backups preserving the shutout. “Having them going out there and shutting them out, that just shows we have heart.”

“That’s a lot of pride, for them to go out there, knowing they’re playing against older boys,” Wells said. “It was pretty neat to see how hard they were playing. A lot of freshmen were out there, so that’s a good thing for us.”

No. 4 Sussex Central will host No. 5 William Penn Friday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Division I state tournament’s opening round.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.