WILMINGTON — B.J. Alleyne ran for two touchdowns and threw for another, but his biggest contribution to Salesianum’s 24-14 win over Middletown on Nov. 24 may have been the prevention of a touchdown.
The Sals were trailing the Cavaliers, 7-3, but were driving early in the second quarter, looking to take the lead. On second and 10 from the Middletown 26, quarterback Brady McBride ran the ball right, but he lost the handle, and the Cavs’ Jacobi Rodgers scooped it up and took off along the left sideline. He appeared to have an easy path into the end zone, but Alleyne somehow closed the gap and finally brought Rodgers down at the Sals’ 12. From there, Middletown went in the wrong direction, eventually giving up the ball on downs and coming away with no points.
The top-seeded Sals answered later in the first half and are advancing to their first DIAA football championship since 2018. They will take on No. 6 Cape Henlopen, who stunned the second seed, Sussex Central, 46-14, in the other semifinal.
Middletown, the fifth seed, and the Sals put on a stellar defensive effort early in the game. The Cavaliers were finally able to break through late in the first quarter. They mixed the run and pass to drive 78 yards, with Makai Walker picking up 49 of them on the second play of the drive with a run up the middle. Quarterback Austin Troyer then hit Matt Priestly at the Sals’ 13, and on third and 10, Troyer launched a tremendous fade pass to Aviyon Matthews in the corner of the end zone for the 7-0 lead.
Jasir Gaymon put the Sals in business with a kickoff return to the Middletown 13. The offense lost a few yards before Colin Maradick hit a 32-yard field goal with 55 seconds left in the quarter.
The Sals’ defense clamped down after that first touchdown. They did not allow another point until the fourth quarter, figuring out for the most part how to stop Walker and getting consistent pressure on Troyer. The front line of R.J. Johnson, Andrew Semmel and Ahmaad Foster was particularly effective, sacking or hurrying Troyer most of the night.
Salesianum took the lead for good after taking over at the Cavaliers’ 47 with 3:59 left in the half. Alleyne lost three yards on first down, but Gaymon caught a pass on the next play for 18 yards. Gaymon and Alleyne each carried for eight yards before Alleyne shot up the middle for a 17-yard score.
The Sals added to the lead late in the third quarter, needing just four plays to go 65 yards. The first was a 14-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Stoehr to Hunter Balint at the Salesianum 49. Alleyne lost two on the next play, then got one back to set up a third down and 11 at the Sals’ 48. Stoehr pitched the ball to Alleyne, who looked downfield and hit receiver Billy Neumann on the run for a 52-yard touchdown.
Middletown got that score back on its next drive with some help from the Sals. The Cavs faced a second down and 33 after a bad snap, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Sals got it back to third and 17. Troyer and Priestly connected for a 12-yard pass, and on fourth and 5, the Sals jumped offside to get the Cavaliers a first down. Troyer eventually scored on a keeper from 2 yards out, cutting the Sals’ lead to 17-1 with 8:41 to go.
Sals kickoff returner Nick Strusowski helped change the momentum quickly, however, racing down the right sideline to the Middletown 29. Alleyne carried the first three downs for a total of 16 yards. On third and 5, Stoehr kept the ball and got to the 2, and Alleyne took it in on the next play. The drive took a minute and 21 seconds.
Middletown had two more possessions, but the Sals’ defense ended both with interceptions. The first came from Jake Ziegler in the end zone that snuffed out a long Cavaliers drive, and the other belonged to John Casale, sealing the win.
Alleyne finished with 31 carries for 123 yards and the two rushing touchdowns. The Sals (11-1) and Cape Henlopen will meet for the DIAA Class 3A championship on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. at Delaware Stadium at the University of Delaware. Tickets will be sold through the University of Delaware ticket portal, and the NFHS Network will have the live stream.
Middletown finished the season 8-4.