Cooper Brown was the beneficiary of dominant offensive line play on his way to a five-touchdown night at Abessinio Stadium in a stunning 41-21 victory over Hodgson. The junior tailback had a night that was reminiscent of legendary Salesianum backs of the past two decades like Nick Dominelli, Sal Viscount, Ryan Kilpatrick, Colby Reeder, and most recently Andrew Watkins. He ran the ball hard and rarely went down on the first contact. The bulk of his scoring went down in the opening quarter as he scored all three of Salesianum’s touchdowns in the quarter, as the offense looked unstoppable.
While he highlighted the first half of play, it didn’t start out as domination by Sallies. In fact, this night was looking to be going in the other direction at the start. Only two plays into the game, senior standout quarterback CJ Henry of Hodgson connected on a 53-yard touchdown pass to London Bright to give the Silver Eagles an early 7-0 lead. That was the best the Hodgson offense looked for the remainder of the opening 24 minutes, as they trailed 27-7 at the break.
The second-half saw a more balanced Hodgson offensive attack. That commitment to the run game netted them a nice 80 yard 3rd quarter drive to trim the Salesianum lead down to 27-14 with time remaining before the fourth. The fourth and final quarter saw Sallies begin the drive with a short field. They pounded the ball down Hodgson’s throat with Brown and found themselves at the 5-yard-line with 4th and goal. The Sals had a decision to make, as they do have a quality kicker in Colin Brady. The field goal would extend the lead to 16 points with under 10 minutes remaining. They elected to go for it and try to extend their lead to three scores. A play action pass fell incomplete as quarterback Ryan Rzucidlo could not connect with an open Brown down around the goal-line. It looked as though Hodgson had the stop they needed to keep their comeback alive. However, they could not execute back to back scoring drives as the Salesianum pass rush, led by Micah Wing, sacked Henry on a crucial 3rd down. After this, the ground and pound of the Salesianum running game closed this game out as Brown would add his final two touchdowns on back to back drives.
One could not help but to notice something was off with the defending champs’ offense on this night. They were missing open passes, being careless with ball security, struggling to contain an extremely aggressive Salesianum pass rush, and seemed to abandon the run in the first half. The latter two being the biggest reasons. Henry is a gifted passer, there is no denying that. However, on this night he just did not have the time to pick apart a Salesianum secondary that gave up a ton of big plays to Smyrna last week. It was a bit of a head-scratcher to see Hodgson be so pass-heavy in the first half with two weapons at the running back position in Reggie McNeil and Joshua Ames. And it wasn’t as though they weren’t able to run the football. McNeil and Ames were getting chunk yardage of 8, 9, 10 yards per carry on their limited attempts. Because of this, the Salesianum pass rush was able to pin their ears back and caused negative plays the entire half. If it wasn’t Wing or James Yelbert, then it was Jack Healy or Nathaniel Ray wreaking havoc.
Looking ahead for both teams, playoff chances still are available.
Hodgson (4-1) will take a long hard look at their first-half tape and try to make adjustments ahead of their huge Flight A matchup next week against Middletown (4-0), which will be streamed by Delaware Live/302 Sports. Look for them to recommit to the run game next week and be more balanced taking on a Cavaliers team that hasn’t lost a home game in 27 tries and is coming off a technical “bye week” with this week’s game against William Penn being cancelled.
Salesianum (3-2) kept its slim playoff hopes alive with this must-win. They also will go on the road next week in a tough matchup with Sussex Central (3-2), which is coming off a 35-0 win over Sussex Tech. This game will also be streamed by Delaware Live/302 Sports.
Patrick Garyantes, 302 Sports & Delaware Live