MILLTOWN — A season’s worth of wear and tear, coupled with some soaking rains in the previous 24 hours, left the playing surface at the Graveyard at Saint Mark’s High School soft, with standing water visible in spots. Add in a blustery, cold wind, and that was bad news for the offensive attacks of both Saint Mark’s and Wilmington Friends when they met the night of Dec. 2 in a DIAA Class 2A football semifinal, as neither school could get their offenses going.
But the Quakers, seeded third, took advantage of a short field in the third to grab a lead on their way to a 14-0 victory over No. 2 Saint Mark’s and a berth in the state championship game next Saturday. They will meet the top seed, Caravel, at 6 p.m. at Delaware Stadium.
The Spartans had the first shot on offense, and with the wind at their backs, they gained five yards on first down when quarterback James Campbell hit his brother Jude with a pass. But their running backs could not find their footing, and a talented Friends defense eventually forced a punt.
Friends chewed nearly six minutes off the clock on their first drive, but they came away empty. As has been the case for the Quakers all season, quarterback Robby Tattersall was the focus of the offense, but although he picked up positive yardage on nearly all his carries, the plays did not go for the type of big yardage the Quakers had gotten accustomed to in 2022.
That first drive ended at the Spartans’ 30 on an incompletion, and after a short Saint Mark’s possession, Friends took over at the Spartans’ 34 with 54 seconds remaining in the quarter. The Quakers converted a fourth down on a 4-yard pass to Jason Hughes into a stiff wind on the first play of the second, and they moved the ball inside the 10. The drive stalled, however, and on fourth and goal from the 2, Tattersall was stuffed by Luke DeKay and others on a rushing attempt.
The Quakers had another short field later in the half, but again they failed to convert. On this drive, Spartans defensive back Donovan Artis broke up a pass on fourth down from the Saint Mark’s 19.
Saint Mark’s finally held the Quakers to a three and out on the opening drive of the second half, but Tattersall’s punt was muffed by the Spartans, and Friends fell on the ball at the Saint Mark’s 25. Playing with the wind at their backs, the Quakers moved the ball effectively. Tattersall picked up nine yards on two carries, and Andrew McKenzie got the last yard for a first down at the 15.
Tattersall went to the air frequently in the red zone to finish the drive. He hit Hudson Zawadzkas for 8 yards on second down, then dumped a ball to McKenzie for the first down at the 3. Two rushing attempts did not get the ball into the end zone, but after a penalty Tattersall rolled right on third down and hit Ishmael Dobson with a 6-yard touchdown pass.
Wilmington Friends forced the Spartans into a three and out, and a punt into a stiff wind allowed the Quakers to take over at the Spartans’ 36. Tattersall finally got free on his feet, running for 12 yards on first down, then four more. After an incomplete pass, Tattersall took matters into his own shoes, going up the middle for a 20-yard score.
The Spartans had the ball twice in the fourth quarter with the win at their backs, but they were unable to crack the Quakers’ defense.
Tattersall finished with 120 yards rushing on 31 carries, and he completed 10 of 19 passes for 85 yards. Defensively, Tyler Maheshwari and Phil Crock had five tackles. The Quakers (12-0) will be seeking their first state championship since 1984 when they take on the Buccaneers.
Saint Mark’s completed a 10-2 season. It was the deepest the program had gone in the state tournament since reaching the Division I semifinals in 2014.
All photos by Jason Winchell.