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Defense, ground game carry Sals in shutout of Caesar Rodney

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For The Dialog

 

WILMINGTON – Salesianum used a great defense and a solid rushing attack on offense to defeat the young Caesar Rodney football team, 24-0, on Sept. 16 at Baynard Stadium. It took the Sals, ranked third in the state, a while to get going, but they handled the Riders.

Sallies’ Michael DiNardo returned the opening kickoff 58 yards to give his team the ball at the CR 20, but they turned the ball over on downs. The Sals finally got the offense rolling on their third possession. Nicholas Merlino had some key plays during the drive, and quarterback Zach Gwynn contributed an 18-yard run. Merlino finished things off with a 3-yard run to make it 7-0 with 1:09 left in the first quarter.

sals-cr2The Sals had an opportunity to extend the lead late in the second quarter. A short punt by the Riders gave Salesianum the ball at its own 45 with 56 seconds to go. Gwynn hit DiNardo for a 22-yard gain with five seconds remaining, setting up a 35-yard field goal attempt. The kick was partially blocked, however, and the margin was a single touchdown at the break.

Salesianum held the Riders to start the second half, and another short punt set the Sals up at the Caesar Rodney 38. Gwynn had a 15-yard run, and Merlino scored his second touchdown of the night from 11 yards out to give the hosts a 14-0 advantage with 7:57 left in the third quarter.

The defense forced another punt, and this time, Mike Drake returned it 38 yards to the Riders’ 21. This drive ended with a 25-yard field goal by Cooper Urband and a 17-0 lead. Drake struck again with 36 seconds to go in the third stanza with a pick-six interception return from 27 yards out to seal the win.

The Sals (2-0) travel to top-ranked Smyrna next Friday for a rematch of last season’s Division I state championship game. A large crowd is guaranteed, so arriving early is encouraged. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Caesar Rodney (0-2) hosts Glen Mills (Pa.) at 7 p.m. on Friday.