and Jason Winchell
For The Dialog
CLAYMONT – Archmere is often overlooked when discussions of Delaware’s great football programs take place, but the Auks quietly have turned in consistent performances season after season. Last year was another such effort, as Archmere started slow but won its last five games, finishing 7-3 and just missing the Division II playoff.
In fact, over the last four seasons, the Auks are 33-13, earning a trip to the championship game in 2010 and playoff berths in 2011 and ’12. Senior two-way starter J.M. Nocket would like Archmere get the respect he believes it deserves.
“I do take a little bit of offense when people say, ‘I don’t think of Archmere when I think of Delaware football’ because as crazy as it sounds, Archmere football embodies what Delaware football is all about,” said Nocket, a wide receiver, safety and punt returner. “Coach (Jerry) Ambrogi does a great job of instilling in us that with tradition and with loyalty and with brotherhood, you can go a long way even when you don’t have the biggest guys.”
Ambrogi said the 2014 Auks have the potential to live up to the teams of the recent past, but he will be working with an offense that returns just two starters.
“We’re going to have to come together pretty quickly to have the same kind of success we’ve had the last few years,” he said at a recent scrimmage.
Junior Chris Dewees takes over at quarterback after spending two seasons on the junior varsity. Ambrogi said Dewees is very athletic and could make things happen if given time. Nocket, described by his coach as the team’s biggest “home run” threat, has full confidence in his new quarterback.
“He’s a dual-threat quarterback. He’s very accurate, very mobile. He’s got good arm strength. I think if the team can rally around him, we can make a run,” Nocket said.
Defensively, the Auks bring back most of their starters, including leading tackler Matt Gallagher and imposing nose tackle Kenan Hilyard.
“For us, the defense is going to have to carry us early on until the offense gets its legs underneath it,” Ambrogi said.
One thing Archmere has going for it, he added, is the intelligence of his players. That allows the coaching staff to change game plans on the fly, sometimes as abruptly as during a timeout, and his players can make the transition seamlessly.
“I think that makes a big difference, and our tradition makes a difference. I think the kids understand what’s expected of them. I think success breeds success, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue that this year,” he said.
Archmere, which usually carries one of the smallest rosters in Delaware, has seen a bump in the number of boys coming out this season. Between varsity and junior varsity, the Auks have about 70 players. Nocket said the intensity in the weight room this summer was better than he remembers in previous years.
“Last summer … we weren’t as intense, we weren’t working as hard. We graduated a few really good players, a lot of really good players. That kind of motivated us to say we’ve got to get bigger, we’ve got to get stronger, we’ve got to replace these guys,” he said.
The Auks will need the extra muscle to attack the schedule they will face. They open at Philadelphia Catholic League foe Conwell-Egan and also have Division II powerhouse Caravel and Eastern Shore playoff contender Queen Anne’s County to contend with.
“There’s no gimmes on our schedule this year. We’ve got our work cut out for us to try and rival our success the past few years,” Ambrogi said.
No matter the schedule or the relative youth of the roster, Nocket said the approach is the same each year at Archmere. “We all have the same goal in mind, which is the state championship. We’re just coming out to play our hardest and be the biggest and fastest we can.”
Sept. 6: at Conwell-Egan (Pa.), 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: vs. Brandywine, 2 p.m.
Sept. 20: at Tatnall, noon
Sept. 27: vs. Queen Anne’s County (Md.), noon
Oct. 4: vs. Caravel, 2 p.m.
Oct. 11: vs. Appoquinimink, homecoming, 4 p.m.
Oct. 18: at Conrad, 11 a.m.
Oct. 24: at Lake Forest, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1: vs. Delaware Military Academy, noon
Nov. 7: at St. Elizabeth, Baynard Stadium, 7 p.m.