WILMINGTON — For the second consecutive week, the Salesianum football team displayed a potent offense in the first half, taking a 28-6 lead into halftime against Sussex Central on Sept. 10 at Abessinio Stadium. But unlike in their first game, when they let Cape Henlopen climb back into the it, the Sals continued their strong play on both sides of the ball throughout the second half in a convincing 42-13 victory.
Conor Campbell led the potent Sallies offense, throwing five touchdown passes. The shortest of them was the first, a 20-yarder to Micah Wing. Wing also caught the longest, at 51 yards.
The win over the reigning state champions boosted the Sals’ record to 2-0. Salesianum avenged a loss to the Golden Knights last year. Before that, the last game between the schools came in the 2018 state championship, won by Central.
The Salesianum defense set up shop in the Sussex Central backfield all night, and that paid off early on. The second Central punt originated deep in their own territory, and the Sals took over at the Golden Knights’ 48 midway through the first.
They went right to work. On first down, quarterback Campbell hit Deuce Rzucidlo with a short pass, and he ended up picking up 20 yards. Cooper Brown ran for 13 yards on first down, and the Sals appeared to have scored on the next play, but a penalty wiped out the TD. No problem. Campbell found Micah Wing on a screen pass on first down at the 20, and Wing went untouched into the end zone for the 7-0 lead.
Wing got the credit for the Sals’ next score, but he had help. Central started at its own 20 after the kickoff, but they were unable to move the ball. On third down, quarterback Zimir Gardner was under heavy pressure and scrambled back toward the goal line. Several players had a hand on him, but Wing got credit for the sack and safety that made it 9-0 with 1:55 to go in the first.
They didn’t take long to strike once more. Sallies started at the Golden Knights’ 45 after the free kick, and on first down, Campbell hit a streaking Nate Ray at the 30. Ray did the rest, reaching the end zone with 50 seconds left in the quarter. The point after was wide, making the score 15-0.
A 50-yard pass completion by Gardner set Sussex Central up at the Sals’ 20. Kristopher Shields picked up 11 yards on a first-down run on the final play of the quarter, and on the very next play, he went off right tackle for the touchdown. The Golden Knights’ PAT also missed.
Later in the second, the Sals benefited from another big play. After a punt gave them the ball at the Central 39, Campbell went for it on first down, and he was successful. He hit Sam Dumas in the right side of the end zone. This time, the extra point hit an upright, making the score 21-6 with 4:59 to go until the half.
Again, the Sals shut down the Golden Knights’ offense, and they gave the ball back to the offense at the Central 33. Campbell hit Ray on first down at the 10. Brown ran the ball three times from there, with the last carry taking him into the end zone.
Sussex Central was able to capitalize only once in the second half. A long run by Shields gave the visitors the ball at the Salesianum 34. The Golden Knights had a first down at the 20 when Gardner threw two incomplete passes, but he connected with Trazmeer Willis in the back of the end zone on third down, cutting the Sals’ lead to 28-13 and giving the fans who traveled up from Sussex County a reason for optimism with 6:01 left in the third.
But the Sals answered immediately. Beginning at their own 17 after a penalty on the return, the drive started with a 22-yard pass to Dumas, and it ended a few plays later when Wing caught a pass in stride from Campbell and ran it in for a 51-yard score.
Campbell and Dumas connected for the final touchdown of the night with 10:47 left. That drive was made possible when the defense caused a Golden Knights fumble.
Final statistics were not available early Saturday morning. The Sals host St. Georges on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.
Sussex Central (1-1) will be back in New Castle County on Sept. 18 for a noon start at Hodgson.
All photos by Mike Lang.