DOVER — On a frosty night at Dover High School, the Howard Wildcats created its own heat with a sizzling offense and a stout defense. Howard scored on its first three possessions and kept Archmere from generating any offense on the way to a 42-6 victory for the DIAA Division II football state championship on Dec. 19.
It was the second consecutive title for the Wildcats, who were the No. 2 seed in the tournament. They also won in 2015. The top-seeded Auks were making their first appearance in the state championship game since 2010.
Kevin Ignudo had three touchdowns for the Wildcats while adding two interceptions on defense. Keshaun Watson and Tyair Spencer each scored twice. About the only thing that didn’t work for Howard was the two-point conversion. The Wildcats missed all seven attempts.
The Auks opened with possession but ended up turning the ball over on downs, putting the Wildcats’ offense in business at midfield. The razzle dazzle came out on first down, as quarterback Donovan Cartwright hit Spencer with a pass, and Spencer lateraled the ball to Ignudo, who took it in for an apparent touchdown. A penalty, however, negated the score, setting the Wildcats up on the Auks’ 35.
That didn’t bother Howard. They went to the ground, eventually reaching the Auks’ 14. Ignudo carried for seven yards on first down, and Watson went the final seven on second down with 7:30 left in the first.
After a three and out by Archmere, the Wildcats went to work again. The drove 63 yards on nine plays. The key on this drive was a leaping 28-yard reception by Ignudo on a fourth and five to set Howard up at the Auks’ 2, and Ignudo ended it with a one-yard dive.
Ignudo’s first interception, on which he narrowly brought a foot down in bounds, got the Wildcats started on their next possession. This drive included a 13-yard run by Ignudo on third and 12, and it ended with Spencer bouncing on his way to a 14-yard score that pushed the defending champ’s lead to 18-0 with 7:56 to go in the half.
Archmere’s best chance in the first half came after an interception by Scott Lucarelli at the Wildcats’ 36, but Ignudo ended that threat with his second interception at the Wildcats’ 6.
A blocked punt by Mike Brock set the Wildcats up at the Auks’ 28 four minutes into the third. Four Ignudo rushes later, it was 24-0.
After that, the Wildcats went to the big plays. Cartwright found Spencer in stride for a 54-yard touchdown pass for a one-play scoring drive. The Wildcats forced an Auks punt, and again on first down, backup quarterback Rashaan Matthews Jr. did the honors, hitting Spencer in stride for what ended up as a 72-yard score.
The Auks finally found a bit of offensive success after that. They embarked on a drive that included a long run by quarterback Chris Albero and a one-handed catch from Declan Pearson that resulted in a first and goal from the Wildcats’ 7. On third down from the 5, Albero rolled to his left and found Michael Mallamaci in the end zone with 10:07 to go.
Howard was pinned deep in its own territory after the kickoff and a penalty on first down, but Ignudo capped his big night with a 91-yard touchdown run that began up the middle and moved to the left sideline.
Howard finished with an 8-0 record. The team’s lowest winning margin was 21, which came against Red Lion in the DIAA semifinal.
The Auks wrapped up the season at 8-1. The school has reached a football state championship game in each of the five decades the state has sponsored the event.
All photos by Don Blake.