Home Local Sports Solid defensive effort leads Salesianum football past defending champion, No. 1 Middletown:...

Solid defensive effort leads Salesianum football past defending champion, No. 1 Middletown: Photo gallery

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Ahmaad Foster of the Sals grabs Middletown quarterback Austin Troyer for a sack. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

MIDDLETOWN — Middletown High School congratulated Bill DiNardo for earning his 300th win as a high school football coach before the Cavaliers hosted Salesianum on Oct. 14. After all, DiNardo won 136 of those games while the head man at Middletown, where he coached for 17 years.

He thanked the crowd by leading Salesianum, where he is in his 19th season as coach, to a 31-21 victory over the defending Class 3A state champions. It wsa the Sals’ fourth straight win and DiNardo’s 303rd.

The Sals, currently ranked fifth in Class 3A by Delaware Live/302Sports, set the tone early defensively. The top-ranked Cavaliers’ first four drives ended with a punt, interception, punt and interception, respectively, and they capitalized on both turnovers to take a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. James Collins booted a 29-yard field goal late in the first quarter after a drive made possible by an interception by R.J. Johnson.

The defensive front of Sallies pressured Middletown quarterback Austin Troyer all night, and that led to their next score. Troyer tried to hit a receiver downfield while under heavy pressure, and Jacob Ziegler picked off the pass at the Cavs’ 40 and took it back to the end zone with 10:08 left in the half.

Mikey Pearson set the Cavaliers up to begin their comeback two minutes later. He returned a Sals punt nearly 50 yards to the Salesianum 22, with Josh Urban making a touchdown-saving tackle for the Sals. That merely delayed the inevitable, as Pearson and Joshua Roberson split four carries, with Roberson covering the final 11 yards over the left side to get seven points back midway through the second.

The Cavs regained possession on the first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, with Pearson recovering a Sals fumble at the 10 and returning it to the 3. But the Salesianum defense rose to the occasion, holding Middletown on four rushing attempts. They forced an 8-yard loss on fourth down, regaining possession.

But the Cavaliers’ defense forced the Sals to punt, and the home team embarked on a 37-yard drive to take the lead with 1:20 left in the half. Troyer hit Ty’renne Hynson for 13 yards on first down. A few plays later, Troyer connected with Pearson over the middle for a 12-yard score.

Lukas Ryan put the Sals in a position to respond by returning the kickoff to the Sals’ 49. Quarterback Ryan Stoehr found Hunter Balint on first down for an 18-yard reception. A personal foul on the Cavaliers gave the Sals a first down on the 16, but a holding call on third and 4 pushed Sallies back to the 28, facing a third and 21. Stoehr wasn’t bothered, hitting a leaping Ben Anton in the front of the end zone to put the Sals back on top, 17-14, with just 30 seconds left in the half.

The Sals added to their lead on their second possession of the third quarter. Beginning at their own 15-yard line, Stoehr and Ryan connected for a 41-yard catch and run over the middle on first down. Stoehr ran for eight yards, and after not gaining anything on a run, he hit Jasir Gaymon for 16 yards to the Cavs’ 20. The next play was also over the middle, with Nate Ray pulling in a touchdown catch.

The defenses took over for a bit until Middletown forced the Sals to turn the ball over on downs at the Cavs’ 29 with 9:46 remaining in the game. A penalty and two plays later, the Cavaliers had first down at the Sals’ 22. The third play of the drive was a pass from Troyer to William Garrett in the corner of the end zone, making it a three-point Sallies lead once again.

Middletown forced the Sals to punt, and a penalty on Sallies gave the Cavs the ball at the Salesianum 46. The Cavaliers appeared to have taken the lead on a 46-yard touchdown pass, but a holding penalty negated the score, and, coupled with an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction, the Cavs found themselves facing a second down and 37. They ended up punting the ball, and the Sals took advantage.

Andrew Ransome capped a 43-yard drive with a 4-yard rushing touchdown with 2:26 remaining, pushing the lead back to 10. Stoehr and Ryan were involved in the key play, an 11-yard reception on a fourth down.

Final statistics were not available early Saturday morning. Salesianum (5-1) visits William Penn on Oct. 22 at 1 p.m.

Middletown (3-2) travels across town on Oct. 22 to meet St. Georges at noon.

All photos by Mike Lang.