LEWES – Salesianum spent the first half of their season-opening football game moving the ball up and down the field at Cape Henlopen’s Legends Stadium, taking a 28-6 lead into the half. The score did not change during the third quarter, and the Sals appeared to be on their way to a comfortable victory.
But the host Vikings scored two quick touchdowns in the fourth quarter, cutting the Salesianum lead to eight, but the Sals managed to run some clock, and they ended Cape’s final drive with a game-sealing interception in a 28-20 victory on Sept. 2.
The game marked the first start at quarterback for Conor Campbell, and the senior did a good job managing the offense in the first half. He led a balanced Salesianum offense, running most of the night out of the shotgun, and using a multitude of weapons. The Sals struck first in the opening quarter, taking over at the Cape 41 with 6:48 to go. A pass interference call advanced the ball to the 25, and Cooper Brown took over after that. He ran for 15 yards on first down, giving the Sals a first and goal at the 10. Brown then carried for four yards before Campbell hit Lukas Ryan for five more. Brown ended the drive with a one-yard plunge into the end zone, and James Collins added the extra point for the 7-0 lead with 4:05 left.
After holding the Vikings, the Sals took possession at their own 49 late in the first quarter. They moved the ball steadily downfield, with Andrew Ransome taking the ball to the four with runs of nine and 21 yards as the first ended. Campbell did not waste any time in the second, finishing the drive with a touchdown scamper four seconds into the quarter.
The Vikings’ Chancler Johnson returned the kickoff to the Sals’ 41, but after some negative plays, Cape faced a third down and 24. A targeting call on the Sals, however, kept the drive alive. Jordan Baines, the senior running back, gained 12 yards on two plays to give the Vikings a second down at the Sals’ 17, and Thomas Messick took a pitch from quarterback Hank D’Ambrogi and went around the left end for a touchdown. The extra point, however, was no good, and the lead for the Sals was 14-6.
Salesianum answered with a 73-yard drive. Brown contributed with a 20-yard run, followed by an eight-yarder that put the visitors at the Cape 27. Two plays later, on first down at the 14, Campbell hit Deuce Rzucidlo cutting across the middle for a score with 5:07 left in the half.
The Salesianum defense helped extend that lead by another touchdown before the half ended. The Sals’ defensive front chased D’Ambrogi throughout the first half, and the quarterback fumbled the ball on a sack. Sals end Nathaniel Ray picked up the loose ball and returned it to the Vikings’ 26. Campbell wasted no time, scrambling for all 26 yards into the corner of the end zone with 2:33 to go for the Sals’ final points.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, but Cape came close. The Vikings moved the ball from their own 15 to the Sals’ six, taking more than six minutes off the clock. On fourth and one from the six, Salesianum stuffed the Vikings, who nearly fumbled, and the ball was turned over on downs. Another Cape drive ended when Aidan Lucey intercepted a pass at the Salesianum 33.
Cape Henlopen was able to finish a few drives in the fourth as they chipped away at the lead. First, Baines ended the team’s first drive of the quarter by going untouched into the end zone from 20 yards out. The two-point conversion was no good, and the score was 28-12 with 8:02 to go.
Sallies fumbled the kickoff return, giving the Vikings possession at the Sals’ 15, which prompted a lot of noise from the home crowd. D’Ambrogi scrambled up the middle on the first play, reaching the end zone with 7:48 to go. Baines added the two-point conversion to get the home team back to within eight points.
The Sals, primarily behind running back Sean Curley, moved the ball swiftly upfield and into Vikings territory, but the drive stalled, and they were forced to punt, giving Cape one last shot beginning at their own 13. A double-reverse flea-flicker ended with D’Ambrogi running out of bounds, and on second down, the quarterback threw behind the line of scrimmage to a wide receiver, and his pass downfield was intercepted by Jaiden Mason, sealing the Sals’ victory.
Salesianum (1-0) will host defending state champion Sussex Central next Friday at 7 p.m. at Abessinio Stadium.
The Vikings (0-1) travel to Woodbridge next Friday, also at 7 p.m.
All photos by Mike Lang.