SMYRNA — Salesianum’s football team fell into a 30-point hole in its DIAA Division I football first-round game on Nov. 16 before beginning the long road back against third-seeded Smyrna. They were able to close the gap, but the Eagles’ offense proved too potent. Smyrna posed a 52-32 win to advance to the semifinal round next week against Middletown.
The Eagles took the opening kickoff and immediately showed what kind of night they were going to have on offense. Starting at their own 15, they showed their prolific running and passing attacks and penchant for big plays. Facing a third and 10 from their own 41, quarterback Aidan Sanchez found Wayne Knight for a 42-yard gain to the Sallies’ 17. A few plays later, Knight caught an eight-yard scoring pass. Knight added the two-point conversion for the 8-0 lead just over two minutes in.
The Sals appeared to have scored when Rasheen Caulk returned an interception 53 yards to the end zone, but a penalty brought the ball all the way back to the Eagles’ 47. That possession ended with a missed field goal.
Smyrna doubled its lead before the quarter ended. Taking over at their own 20 after the miss, the Eagles traveled the 80 yards in a minute and 25 seconds. The drive included a 47-yard pass to Yamir Knight to the Sals’ 14, followed by a scoring strike from Sanchez to Devin DeMoe. Wayne Knight again added the two-point conversion.
The onslaught continued on the Eagles’ next drive, which was 73 yards. It ended when Sanchez hit Mekhi Jackson in the corner of the end zone with a 19-yard pass. The game appeared out of reach when, with 4:38 left in the half, Sanchez scampered 25 yards for a touchdown. Even with a failed conversion, the Eagles had a commanding 30-0 lead.
But the Sals responded. A short kickoff, coupled with a personal foul call on Smyrna, set the Sals up at the Eagles’ 26-yard line. On second down, Andrew Watkins escaped the defense for a 26-yard touchdown run.
Salesianum’s defense forced a quick punt, giving the offense another chance. Quarterback Dylan Mooney found James Johnson for a 69-yard gain, putting the Sals inside the Eagles’ five. That pair hooked up again on third down, as Johnson stretched to pull in Mooney’s pass to make it 30-14 with 36 seconds left in the half.
Taking the second-half kickoff, Sallies got the offense in gear again. Mooney kept flinging the ball, connecting with Johnson for 23 yards and Caulk for 27. The drive ended when Mooney found a wide-open Caulk in the end zone from three yards out. The two-point attempt was no good, but the deficit was just 10 at 30-20.
The Sals had a chance to cut the lead to seven points late in the third, but they could not. A drive stalled inside the Eagles’ 10, and Hunter Simmons came on to attempt a field goal for Salesianum. He hit from 26 yards out, but Smyrna was called for offsides, moving the ball inside the 5. Again, the Sals kicked a field goal, and again the Eagles jumped offsides. The penalty put the ball at the Smyrna 2, and this time the Sals went for the touchdown. But Eagles lineman Debo Williams blew into the backfield and sacked Mooney at the 7, ending the drive.
The Eagles went on a 93-yard drive that included a pass from Sanchez to DeMoe for 43 yards to the Sals’ 15. Yamir Knight scored on a run, and the two extra points increased the lead to 38-20 with 8:28 to go in the game.
Caulk got six of those points back for the Sals on the first play after the kickoff. He caught a Mooney pass in stride and streaked to the end zone for a 57-yard touchdown. The point after was blocked, but it was 38-26.
Smyrna had some first-play magic of its own up its sleeve. They began their drive at their own 26, and on first down, Wayne Knight blew down the right sideline for a 74-yard run to the house. He also ran for another two points to build the Eagles’ lead to 20. It was the third touchdown in 42 seconds.
Each team would score another six points. The Sals Josh Johnson caught a six-yard pass from Mooney with 5:11 left, and Sanchez found Jackson for a TD from 26 yards out with 1:39 to go.
The Sals finished the season 6-5. Smyrna (9-2) won its ninth straight.