Jags and Cavs qualify for Division I football tournament which is scheduled to start Friday

Only six teams qualify for the Division I state football tournament and two of them are from Middletown.

Appoquinimink High School is in the Division I football tournament for the first time in the school’s short history, but it’s not the first time the Jags have played in the post-season. They qualified for the Division II tournament for schools with smaller enrollments back in 2010 with a 9-1 record. The Jags earned a first-round bye that season but lost in the semifinals to Archmere 31-24.

This year, the Jags finished 6-4, but on a roll, winning four of their last five games to make the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.

Their tournament hopes came down to the final regular season game at William Penn, a 14-0 victory.

“We knew going into the game it was a win and you’re in,” said Appoquinimink Head Coach Brian Timpson. “When Dover beat CR on Friday night, if we beat William Penn [Saturday] we would go to the playoffs. So the kids had to calm their nerves and play. And they did. I didn’t have to tell the kids they were in the playoffs because when the clock hit zero they knew and the excitement began. I congratulated them on their accomplishment. I told them to take in all the work and effort it took to get to this and enjoy the moment. “

Timpson said the foundation of the team is defense.

“Our defensive coordinator Fran Clark has done an outstanding job getting our kids ready each and every week,” Timpson said. “We have a very good front half on defense lead by Josh Parson and Ahmir Gibson.”

However, Timpson credits the team’s success to the drive and work ethic of all the players.

“From last winter in the weight room there was just a different feel about this team,” he said. “Last year we finished 3-7 but it was due to some key injuries. Others looked at us as a bad football team but the kids knew maybe if our QB didn’t get hurt in week three last year, it would have been different. So they believed going into this season. They worked to overcome and made sure this year had a different outcome.”

The team stumbled out of the gate, losing two of the first three games.

“We could have thrown in the towel but our leadership rose up and we went to Sussex Tech and won a huge football game as a team,” said Timpson. “That is how it has been all year. We have won as a team. Everyone contributes in practice, in preparation and in games.”

Now the Jags face a tough test Friday at Sussex Central.

“Obviously any team that is in the playoffs is a good team. However Sussex Central at 9-1 is a very good team,” said Timpson. “Their defense is very good. They give up [an average of] four points a game. They are very aggressive and fast on defense and have a talented offense that also has great team speed. I hope it will be a great defensive football battle.”

Middletown hosts Salesianum

Middletown High School missed out on a first-round bye after falling in the season finale to Hodgson 14-7 Saturday, but the Cavaliers still enter the tournament as one of the favorites, even as the No. 4 seed. After all, No. 3 Sussex Central lost to Hodgson 26-6, and No. 2 Dover lost to Sussex Central 21-0.

The Cavaliers’ other loss was in Florida to the fourth-ranked team in the country, IMG Academy.

Middletown opened the season winning their first six games, including a 34-7 win over their first-round tournament opponent, Salesianum.

Salesianum enters the first-round matchup with its usual strengths: a strong rushing attack and stifling defense. Sallies had Division I’s third-ranked defense behind Hodgson and Sussex Central and kept all but one opponent (Middletown) to 16 points or less, including three shutouts.