DOVER — Drew Blackwell scored two goals, including the eventual game-winner in the 53rd minute, to lift Salesianum to a 2-1 win in a DIAA Division I boys soccer semifinal on Nov. 13 at Dover High School. The Sals will meet Caesar Rodney for the state championship on Saturday at Dover at 7 p.m.
Blackwell’s second goal came after some sustained pressure by the Sals and a good second effort from the senior. He took a pass from Max Lebbern and drove through two Force defenders before sending a shot off the left post. The ball rebounded right back to Blackwell, who deked around Charter goalkeeper Owen Freeman and sent a sharp-angle shot into the middle of the net.
Sallies kept possession for most of the remainder of the contest, limiting the Force to just a few forays into the offensive zone. Despite holding on to the ball, however, they were unable to push an insurance goal past Freeman.
In the 63rd minute, Callaghan Walsh fed Ethan Hinds a few feet from the net, but the ball eluded Hinds. Freeman added a save in the 66th and another in the 71st off a Sals corner kick. Jake Ross sent a pass into the crease a minute later, but the ball was tipped wide left.
The best opportunity for the Force to equalize came in the 75th. Ceydrick Chigbu took a free kick 70 yards from the Salesianum net, sending a high, arching kick into a maze of gold and white shirts 30 yards from keeper MJ Graham. It rattled around for a few seconds before the Sals were able to clear.
The Sals had the best of the chances in the first half as well on a night that felt more like mid-February than mid-November. The Force kept an extra defender back, clogging the passing and shooting lanes, and several Salesianum shots never made it through the box. The Sals earned a few corner kicks, but nothing came of them, while Charter got a chance here and there. It was a bit different than the teams’ meeting on Oct. 22, a 4-0 Sals win.
“They were way more compact defensively, and it was a better field for them to play on as well. Our game plan was to get around them, and they had a good solid three in the middle,” Blackwell said.
Blackwell finally got the Sals on the board in the 29th minute. He lined up to take a corner kick, spotted and opening and snuck the ball past Freeman.
“They left the front post open, so I just hit it there, and it hit off the post and one of the defenders and went in,” he said.
It didn’t take the Force long to answer. Ben Danyo broke free down the right side of the field in the 31st, beating a defender and sending a laser short-side past Graham to make it 1-1. The goal energized the Force, who quickened the pace and had a few chances as the first half wound down.
Charter nearly took the lead in the 49th minute, but Graham stoned a Force attacker from 15 yards out to keep it tied.
Before knowing who Saturday’s opponent would be, Blackwell said that would not affect how the Sals approach the final. “We’re just going to come out and play our game.”
The Sals had played Appoquinimink in each of the last three finals, but the Jaguars dropped a 2-1 decision to Caesar Rodney in the nightcap at Dover. The Riders and Sals met for the championship in 2014, a 2-1 Sals victory. The schools also played for the 2004 title, won by the Sals.
Final statistics were not available early Thursday morning. The Sals improved to 16-1.
Charter finished its season with a 12-5 record.