WILMINGTON — St. Elizabeth’s football team faced its biggest challenge on Oct. 28, but the formula for success did not change. Quasim Benson rushed for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns as the Vikings defeated fellow unbeaten Wilmington Charter, 48-10, at Abessinio Stadium.
The victory assured the Vikings of first place in District 1 of Class 1A. They likely will be either the first or second seed in the eight-team state tournament.
Before that, however, there is the matter of the regular season. And they were sure not to take the Force lightly.
St. Elizabeth pinned Charter deep in their own territory on the Force’s first possession, forcing them to punt from near the goal line. Chris Caracter fielded the ball on a bounce at the Force 43 and returned it to the 25. Benson did the rest. He took the ball on first down untouched up the middle, and after a missed extra point, the Vikings led, 6-0.
The next Vikings possession began at their own 10. Three Benson rushes later, St. E’s had a third and inches at their own 33. Benson took the handoff and went left, got about 10 yards downfield and cut back to the right on his way to the end zone for another touchdown. The attempt for two points failed, and with 2:42 left in the first, the score was 12-0.
The Vikings’ defense continued its impressive play, forcing a three and out and getting the offense back on the field near the end of the quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, with second and nine from their own 35, Benson struck again. He went off right tackle and down the right sideline. The extra point made it 19-0 with 11:50 to go until halftime.
Charter’s offense got going after Benson’s fourth touchdown extended the lead to 26-0. The Force started at their own 43, and on first down, quarterback Roman Paoli hit Kalen Shahan along the sideline for 14 yards. He rolled right on the next play, and with a few Vikings closing in, Paoli flung the ball downfield, connecting with Brady Harach, who carried a defender the final few yards into the end zone to get the Force on the board with 6:53 to go until halftime.
They followed with a successful onside kick at the Vikings’ 43. The drive stalled, and Kyle Guarneri made a 27-yard field goal.
A second try at an onside kick was not successful, and the Vikings took over at their own 49. Benson ran for four yards on first down, and after a completed pass for no gain, he unleashed perhaps his best run of the night. From the Force 47, he carried toward the left sideline. He came to a stop around the Charter 17, cut a step to his right, stopped again, cut back to the left and streaked into the end zone.
A Gavin Andrews interception set up the Vikings at the Charter 26 late in the half, and Mikey Downes scored on a two-yard dive with 32 seconds left before the break, extending the lead to 41-10.
Downes added his second score of the night late in the third, rushing eight yards up the middle for the final tally of the evening.
St. Elizabeth improved to 8-0. They play their final regular-season home game on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. against Polytech.
The Force (7-1) conclude the regular season on Nov. 5 at Christiana. Kickoff is at 11 a.m.