The Sussex Central and Selbyville Middle School football programs have enjoyed a competitive rivalry over the years and even decades since they began playing each other. Over the last seven years, each team has won twice and tied three times which in turn has fueled a deep, mutual respect for one another. But next season, Sussex Central ceases to be and will divvy its students between Millsboro and Georgetown Middle Schools and it is unclear at this point what will be left of this longstanding rivalry. In the meantime, Sussex Central and Selbyville Middle had one more game to settle the score when they faced off on Oct. 25.
Both teams coaches decided to put their undefeated records on the line and play the game despite sloppy field conditions, which was the result of the beginning stages of a three-day down pour, as opposed to reschedule it to a later date and for those who braved the elements surely didn’t leave disappointed.
Selbyville (6-0) dominated the time of possession behind a diligent ball-control offense in which running back Patriel Bratton ran for 127 yards on 20 carries and scored the lone touchdown of the game with less than a minute remaining in the first half and followed it up by punching in a two-point conversion for the eventual 8-0 win.
Selbyville strung together drives of nine plays or more three times which prompted Indians offensive coordinator Tim Clausen to give his offensive line credit for their ability to run the ball in the winning effort.
“Our line did an outstanding job,” Clausen said. “They’ve been undersized all year but they opened up holes for us to run through all day.”
In addition to Bratton’s yardage, the Indians offensive line made way for quarterback Jamie Jarmon who added 31 yards including 14 yards on the final drive to end the game and another 20 yards between Marquel Knight and Patrick Kraushaar respectively.
Sussex Central (5-1) on the other hand, had only one drive of nine plays or more and struggled offensively.
Combined they had only 40 yards rushing and committed three costly turnovers.
Quarterback Jesse Long fumbled a first quarter handoff attempt which Selbyville’s Darwand Handy recovered and translated into the game-winning touchdown.
Heading into the half, Sussex Central’s head coach Lance Keeler sought to rally his disparaged players on with the thought in mind that they were only down one score.
“We were a little down heading into halftime but I told them, ‘we’re not going to let eight points beat us,’” he said. “And I was proud of them for the way they battled in the second half. Unfortunately, some plays didn’t go our way but those things happen sometimes when you play on the road.”
The plays Keeler referred to was a 40-yard touchdown pass from Long to receiver Trenkale Brunson which he fumbled into the end zone in an attempt to score and resulted in a touchback and a 53-yard punt return by Deshawn Shepard that was called back for a block in the back.
So instead of having the ball inside the Indians five-yard line, Sussex Central started back at their 48-yard line with four minutes remaining in the game. But two plays later, Long tried Brunson again though this time, Knight came down with the interception which allowed the Indians to run out the clock for the win.
Clausen mentioned that they elected to play into the wind in the first half with the thought in mind to limit Central’s throwing chances by making them throw into the wind in the second half.
“We were hoping that ball would hold up in the wind if they decided to throw it,” he said.
But before the Indians marched off the field triumphantly, they had to convert an important fourth-and-three situation at their own 41-yard line.
Selbyville called a pass play that would allow Jarmon throw it if the play was open or so he could run for the first down.
Knight got open and made the catch which he turned into a seven yard gain and kept the chains moving. Clausen mentioned that even with three minutes remaining that they didn’t want to punt the ball back to Central because their punt return team was so dangerous so converting that first down was of the utmost importance.
“We didn’t want to punt because of their wall but our defense was playing so we felt confident that Jamie could make the short pass or could run for the first down and we got seven yards,” Clausen said. From there we were able to protect the ball and run right at them to end the game.”
The loss marked the first time in five years Sussex Central had lost a road game.
“You have to give Selbyville credit,” Keeler said, “they out-played us.
“They’re a very disciplined and well-coached team but to go on the road you have to be the superior team and we weren’t.”
Keeler mentioned that he wasn’t sure how dividing the current Sussex Central Middle School into two new schools would affect the rivalry they’ve enjoyed over the years but was able to shed a positive light on the situation.
“It’s definitely going to be different,” Keeler said of the Selbyville-Central rivalry. “We’ll basically be in a situation where we had 1,100 kids and now have 550 and the pool of the student body we’ll be able to pull players from will be smaller. But looking at the positives, so many more kids will be able to get out on the field an gain valuable experience.”