The Sussex Central Golden Knights came in to the DIAA Division I football playoffs as the #4 seed, but will leave as state champions. On Saturday afternoon on a brisk cold day at Dover High school the Golden Knights defeated the #1 seed Middletown Cavaliers by a score of 28-19.
Sussex Central would score first in the championship game as fullback Dion Stephens took the handoff in the endzone from 4 yards out. Central converted a big fourth down and three during on a counter play to Jeremiah Wilson to help keep the drive alive. After a successful extra point the Golden Knights would take an early 7-0 lead. Neither team would go on to score for the rest of the first half.
Middletown would strike first in the second half with 7:04 left when Colby Chambers hit Zachary Caldwell for 25 yards on fourth and nine to tie the game up at 7-7. Middletown would hold the knights offensive on the next drive forcing them to punt the ball away. Middletown would get the ball deep in their zone to start the next drive. Chambers would take the snap out of the shotgun formation drop back for a pass over the middle but the pass was tipped up and into the hands of Sussex Central’s Alton Davis for an interception, the second turnover for the Cavaliers. Sussex Central would take the ball after the interception run a few plays before finally punching it in on another Dion Stephens touchdown run concluding the scoring of the third quarter at 14-7.
Middletown again would get the scoring started in the fourth quarter as they did in the third. Chambers would hit Caldwell in the flat for another twenty five yard touchdown pass. However while taking the ball into the endzone Caldwell would be flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty for taunting. That would push the extra point back fifteen yards making the attempt a thirty five yarder. Middletown did get the snap off and down but the Golden Knights got a good rush blocking the extra point making the score 14-13.
Sussex Central would strike less than a minute later. Phillip ”Big Play” Stratton would break off a 60 yard touchdown run breaking away from all Middletown defenders. His score would make the score 21-13 with 9:37 left on the clock. Then with 6:06 left in the game Middletown was not able to convert on a 4th and 14 allowing the Golden Knights to take over on downs at their 40 yard line. Middletown did force Sussex Central to punt on the next drive giving the Cavaliers another chance to tie the game up. However Middletown quarterback Colby Chambers with 2:02 left would drop back to pass, but the Golden knights rush would force him to scramble around as he did he fumbled the football as Dion Stephens jumped on the loose ball recovering it for a Cavaliers turnover.
After the turnover Sussex Central would strike again as quarterback Zimir Gardner took a bootleg off the left side 41 yards for a touchdown pushing their lead to 28-13 with 1:46 left in the game. Middletown would come right back with a touchdown of their own as Colby Chambers hit Zy’Aire Tart in the corner of the endzone as Tart made an amazing catch for the touchdown bringing the score to 28-19 with 1:24 left in the game. Middletown was unable to convert the extra point as the kick bounced off the right upright leaving the Cavaliers with a two score deficit.
The Cavaliers would try an inside kick on the ensuing kickoff however it was unsuccessful. Sussex Central would only need to convert one first down to run the clock out en route to another state championship. The win would give the Golden Knights their second state championship in 3 years. Sussex Central would finish their season with a 6-2 record, but the Division I football state champs.