More disciplined Golden Knights look to make deep playoff run

GEORGETOWN – Sussex Central High’s football program has accumulated a 15-5 record with a pair of DIAA state tournament appearances over the past two seasons.

Both of those seasons ended with a one-and-done in the Division I bracket, including a tough 12-7 first-round loss a season ago.

The consecutive first-round playoff losses both came at the hands of William Penn High.

Isaac and Isaiah Barnes will be returning for their senior seasons, with Isaac leading the offense under center and Isaiah leading the charge defensively at safety.

“My ultimate goal is for our team, as a whole, to get better every week and for us to be playing the best ball we’ve ever played by the end of the season,” Isaac said.

As the starting quarterback and a mainstay on the defense as well, Isaac recognizes his team’s need for a more disciplined squad to begin the regular season.

“We’re cutting down on the talking against other teams, we have to stay more disciplined this year,” he said. “We can’t have as many penalties as we had last year – that really killed us. Everyone’s positive and we’re just focused on getting better every day.”

Behind Barnes, Central has a crowded backfield with a handful of guys, led by senior RB Zion Reed, who could see ample playing time.

The backfield depth will allow head coach John Wells to keep his running backs coming out of the backfield with fresh legs.

“There’s quite a bit of depth back there,” he said. “We’re very high on the backfield and it also gives us versatility to be able to keep guys fresh.

“Whether it’s substitution or rotation or it’s one-way players, I think the backfield affords us flexibility. I don’t think there’s a drop-off from one to the other, so for us I think it’s about what’s the greatest value to the team.”

Reed will enter the season as one of the team’s four captains, alongside the Barnes brothers and two-way junior starter Domonique Smith (TE/CB).

Along with Reed, Central currently has seven juniors listed at RB on the team’s official roster: Deshaun Bratten, Kasim Lewis, Jaden Savage, TyJhir Sheppard-Parker, Noah Simmons, Javon Toppin and Shihiem Williams.

Freshman Jeremiah Wilson and sophomores Terence Johnson, Skyler McVicker, Jymeir Moore, Phillip Stratton and K’Tai Tilley have also been listed as running backs for Central.

“There’s a lot of depth in our backfield,” Isaac said. “Compared to last year, it’s great. We have speed, size, we have it all.”

Isaac’s go-to target in the passing game will likely be his brother Isaiah at receiver.

Defensively, the team’s depth is primarily located in the secondary.

“Depth is the great thing with our secondary, it’s Isaiah, it’s Dom, it’s Jaden Savage, Javon Saffold, Shihiem Williams, TyJhir Sheppard, so we’ve got some nice depth there also,” Wells said.

“I’d like to be a little thicker in the linebacking corps, but we’re playing some sophomores and juniors there. We’re young in a lot of spots.”

With a handful of tough teams in the Henlopen North, Wells knows his squad has their work cut out for them from the opening kick-off Friday, Sept. 7.

“We have lofty goals, the kids know that when they come in here,” said Wells. “We’ve been blessed with good athletes but it’s a tough conference.”

The team opens the season with a road game against Hodgson Vo-Tech, an out-of-state home game against Queen Anne’s (MD) and a road game at Caravel Academy before opening conference play vs. Dover High Friday. Sept. 28.

“It’s going to be a dog fight every week, but we want to compete in the conference, we want to be in the mix,” Wells said.

“I just want to win, that’s it,” Barnes simply stated.

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

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