Spartans start football conference title defense at Woodbridge

STATEWIDE — We’re already one month into the football season, difficult as that is to believe.

For many teams that means it’s time to begin Henlopen Conference play, and while it’s hard to say week four is the most important one of the season, for some squads it might very well be.

Sussex Central, for instance, is 1-2 so far this season. A loss to rival Sussex Tech this week might not officially eliminate the Golden Knights from Division I playoff contention, but they will certainly have a monumentally difficult task in getting there without a win over the Ravens.

Lake Forest fullback Amir White carries a handoff up the middle for a short gain before being stopped by Dover defenders Karim Beatty (left) and teammate Melvin Jackson. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Lake Forest fullback Amir White carries a handoff up the middle for a short gain before being stopped by Dover defenders Karim Beatty (left) and teammate Melvin Jackson. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Central’s district-mate Indian River, off to a 0-3 start, can almost assuredly kiss a Division II playoff berth goodbye if it is upset by Seaford. Delmar, also 0-3, needs a win over rival Laurel this weekend as well. The one-win Bulldogs are in a little better shape thanks to their two losses coming against Division I opponents.

Lake Forest is a couple plays away from being 3-0 but instead sits at 1-2. The losses came to Hodgson and Dover so the Spartans will still get some bonus points there but they need to win Friday’s game at Woodbridge (2-1).

Milford will not begin Southern Division play this weekend and instead the Buccaneers will travel north for a nonconference bout versus undefeated Conrad. While expecting the Bucs to go from consecutive 1-9 seasons to Division II playoff team might be a bit much, a 2-1 start likely has the Milford faithful excited. Lose here and those playoff hopes take a very big hit as Milford would probably have to win the South to earn a spot.

Let’s look at this week’s games.

Lake Forest at Woodbridge:  Which team does better coming off a difficult loss?

We’ll find out Friday in Bridgeville when Woodbridge hosts Lake Forest. The Blue Raiders ran out of time last weekend during a comeback attempt at Wilmington Friends, falling 28-23. Lake fumbled on a two-point conversion attempt that would have given the Spartans a huge win over Dover.

Both teams lost a lot of talent from the season before due to graduation, but while Lake – coming off an undefeated regular season – brought back some key players, Woodbridge is sending out maybe head coach Ed Manlove’s youngest team ever. Yet it’s the Raiders who are 2-1 and the Spartans 1-2.

Still, Lake’s more experienced, and at this point probably better, players should be enough to move both teams to 2-2. Look for Lake’s defense to keep Woodbridge in check while the Noah Feague-Johnson led offense puts up four touchdowns in a 27-13 win.

Milford at Conrad: It seems oddly familiar, Milford traveling up above the canal to meet a solid team a week after dominating an overmatched one. And last time it didn’t work out too well for the Buccaneers, who moved the ball but couldn’t cash in with touchdowns in a lopsided loss to Delaware Military Academy.

Will this weekend’s game against undefeated Conrad go any differently? It’s hard to see Milford’s strong running game – led by sophomore DJ Bowman, junior Dominyc Hovington and freshman Rahshawn Price – being kept out of the end zone by many D-II teams. Yet it’s also hard to go against history. Conrad 28, Milford 14.

Sussex Tech at Sussex Central: A season after winning its first outright Henlopen North championship, Sussex Tech gets to work this week in defending the title. Fittingly the Ravens’ opponent is Georgetown rival and former North powerhouse Sussex Central.

Tech, after winning its week one game by just a point over A.I. duPont, has steamrolled a pair of Division II opponents the last two Fridays, defeating Indian River and Laurel by a combined 78 points to stay undefeated.

Central, meanwhile, began the season with a shutout victory over Laurel but has lost its last two games on the road at Interboro (Pa.) and Queen Anne’s (Md.) by convincing margins.

There’s no doubt based on that, and Tech’s recent success versus Central, the Ravens will enter the game the more confident of the two teams. The Knights, however, can counter that confidence with desperation, because as stated before a loss on Friday really hurts their playoff chances.

If healthy, Central’s defense won’t let Sussex Tech pile up 55 points like the Ravens did versus Laurel, but it’s hard to see the Knights completely stopping Pat Griffin, Justin Hill and crew either. Therefore the question is can Central’s struggling offense score enough points for it to win this game?

The guess is no as Sussex Tech moves to 4-0 with a 28-13 win.

Seaford at Indian River: Growing pains. That’s likely what first-year Indian River head coach Phil Townsend is experiencing after a 0-3 start to the season.

Of course, it didn’t help that the Indians’ first three opponents – Linganore (Md.), Sussex Tech and Cape Henlopen – are three of the best teams IR will see all year.

Fortunately for Townsend and his squad, they host another struggling team, Seaford, Friday.

For both teams this game perhaps represents their best chance to pick up a victory this season, although the Blue Jays will likely be at least an even toss with Red Lion later in the year.

Just based on recent history, it’s hard not to go with IR here, so let’s pick the Indians 21-6.

Picks for the remaining games involving Henlopen teams are as follows: Smyrna 42, Dover 28; Caesar Rodney 28, St. Georges 27; Cape Henlopen 54, Polytech 0; Delmar 20, Laurel 13.

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