This year’s DIAA Division I high school football state title game had a fresh start even before Salesianum and Middletown took the field on Saturday night. The state championship was hosted by the University of Delaware for the first time since the mid-70s and for the first time in two years, someone other than the Middletown Cavaliers took home the title.
On Saturday night, Salesianum defeated Middletown 23-7 to unseat the Cavaliers as state champions.
A year removed from falling to Middletown in the championship, 27-0, Sallies earned another shot at the powerhouse and took full advantage.
“Coming back from Delaware State (University) last year, we had a mission,” said Sgro, about last year’s title matchup in Dover. “It was a tough fought game and we were all feeling it in the fourth quarter, the line played awesome tonight, and as a team we made all the plays we needed to.”
Both Salesianum and Middletown started strong on defense, as the play was kept predominately in between the 20s. Salesianum was able to take a 3-0 lead after a quarter of play and the seesaw field position battle continued until late in the half would the Middletown offense struck.
Cavalier standout signal caller Darius Wade found Dennis Berger in the back of the end zone for a 33-yard strike to put Middletown in the lead 7-3 with just 1:13 left in the half. Wide out Chris Godwin took the snap under center who tossed the ball to Wade lined up as a wide receiver, before Wade launched a strike over Berger’s shoulder just as he passed the goal line.
The Sals would bounce back quickly.
On the very next play from scrimmage after the Cavs’ score, Salesianum quarterback Matt Sgro connected with Bryan O’Neil down the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown to give Sallies a 10-3 lead into the break.
In the second half, the Salesianum defense stepped up, shutting down the explosive Middletown offense. Three separate Cavalier drives stalled inside the red zone, resulting in failed fourth down conversions.
Salesianum capitalized on each of their defense’s stops, as Troy Reeder capped off two straight drives with touchdowns.
Early in the fourth, Troy Reeder picked up a huge first down on a third-and-seven from the Middletown 23 to help a long Salesianum drive keep going. Later in the drive, Sgro powered forward for a first down on fourth down setting up a three-yard touchdown by Reeder to put Sallies up 17-7 with just over seven minutes remaining.
After another hold by the Salesianum defense, the offense finished the job. Once again, Sgro picked up first down on fourth down deep in Cavalier territory to keep the clock running, giving Salesianum a chance to put the final dagger in Middletown.
One play later, Reeder scored from 11 yards out to wrap things up for Salesianum.
After suffering through a long off season, Salesianum was given a chance at redemption and walked out of Tubby Raymond Field as the Delaware high school football state champions.
Talking with players after clinching the state title, there was a clear message Sallies wanted to send Saturday night, and that was to finish.
Penn State bound running back Troy Reeder capped off his high school career with a spectacular performance in the championship game. Reeder rushed for 130 yards on 25 carries, finding the end zone twice.
“We just finished today, that’s the difference between a good and great team,” said Reeder. “We responded in the situations we needed to and we finished.”
Sgro finished 9-14 for 138 yards passing while rushing for 60 yards on the ground.
Meanwhile, the defense continually stopped Middletown in the red zone.
“They played four quarters and played four downs,” said Salesianum Head Coach Bill DiNardo. “Last year we couldn’t do that. Last year we played good in spots but we couldn’t finish. Tonight we finished.”