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Ne­wark Char­ter wins sec­ond-straight flag foot­ball cham­pi­onship

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JON BUZBY JonBuzby@hot­

A game that didn’t start out well for Ne­wark Char­ter ended in smiles and cel­e­bra­tion on Tubby Ray­mond Field as the Pa­tri­ots ral­lied from eight points down to de­feat Smyrna 27-8, win­ning the Uni­fied flag foot­ball state cham­pi­onship on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

“It feels great. These kids worked re­ally hard for this,” a ju­bi­lant head coach Jake Sch­nei­der said shortly after hav­ing the tra­di­tional cooler of ice wa­ter dumped over him. “Tip of the hat to Smyrna be­cause they could have eas­ily taken this thing home tonight too. But I’m happy for our club. I thought it was awe­some.”

The Uni­fied cham­pi­onship, a part­ner­ship be­tween Spe­cial Olympics Delaware and the Delaware In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion, is now in its sec­ond year. Each team has three Spe­cial Olympics ath­letes and two uni­fied part­ners (peers with­out dis­abil­i­ties) on the field at the same time.

This is Ne­wark Char­ter’s sec­ond year as cham­pion. Last year, the Pa­tri­ots de­feated McKean 35-28 to win the school’s first-ever DIAA cham­pi­onship.

In Satur­day’s game, Ne­wark Char­ter quar­ter­back Kee­gan Cahill was “sacked” in the end zone on the first play from scrim­mage. On the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion, Smyrna quar­ter­back

Olyvia Smith zipped a touch­down pass to Sara Miller to give the Ea­gles an 8-0 lead.

“Fall­ing be­hind 8-0 was some­thing that hadn’t hap­pened to us all sea­son and it was a rough way to start the game,” Cahill said. “I told the guys to not look at the scoreboard and to just play our game and have fun and it would all work out.”

The Pa­tri­ots didn’t panic. On their next pos­ses­sion, Cahill quickly led his team across mid­field for a first down. He then handed the ball off to Eric An­der­son on a half­back sweep, and the se­nior run­ning back scam­pered around the left edge and down the side­line for a 14-yard touch­down to put the Pa­tri­ots on the scoreboard.

“It feels great. I got the best touch­down ever,” an elated An­der­son shared as the postgame cel­e­bra­tion erupted around him. “Kee­gan did awe­some and handed it to me and then I scored a touch­down and that was the best.”

The con­ver­sion at­tempt was no good, but Casey Wil­son pulled the Smyrna quar­ter­back’s flag in the end zone on the Ea­gles’ next pos­ses­sion for a safety to even the score at eight apiece.

“Our de­fense played in­cred­i­ble, and I think the turn­ing point of the game was when Casey forced a Smyrna safety and got our of­fense the ball back,” Cahill said.

The vet­eran sig­nal-caller didn’t waste the op­por­tu­nity, hook­ing up with Lu­cas McCully on a 40-yard pass and run for a score to put the Pa­tri­ots ahead for good, 14-8, head­ing into half­time.

“We didn’t get the ideal start we wanted but the de­fense picked us up and after that we were all good,” Sch­nei­der said.

Ne­wark Char­ter’s de­fense con­tin­ued to shine in the sec­ond half. Ben Scan­nell picked off a Smyrna pass on the Ea­gles’ first pos­ses­sion, set­ting up a 13-yard scor­ing strike from Cahill to Anuj Shah to ex­tend Ne­wark Char­ter’s lead to 20-8.

“It feels great be­ing here cel­e­brat­ing with my friends,” Shah said shortly be­fore the tro­phy pre­sen­ta­tion. “Now that we’re state champs, I can’t ask for any­thing else. It’s been a ver y unique ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing on this team for the first time. I got to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing most peo­ple don’t ever get to ex­pe­ri­ence and I’m grate­ful to be part of this.”

Ryan Walsh and Isa­iah An­der­son thwarted Smyrna’s next two pos­ses­sions with in­ter­cep­tions.

“Every­body con­trib­uted to the win, that’s what made the game fun,” Isa­iah An­der­son said. “It feels pretty good win­ning our sec­ond cham­pi­onship. I want to thank the fans and every­body for com­ing out and sup­port­ing us.”

Shah scored his sec­ond touch­down on the Pa­tri­ots’ last of­fen­sive se­ries of the game, and Eric An­der­son’s pass to Cahill on the 2-point con­ver­sion put the ic­ing on the cake of the school’s sec­ond state cham­pi­onship.

“I’m go­ing to get a big tro­phy,” Pa­tri­ots cen­ter Han­nah Tressler said, smil­ing ear to ear.

“It was a lit­tle bit harder than last year,” Cahill ad­mit­ted. “Smyrna is a great team, but we came through with the win and it was a great ex­pe­ri­ence.”

As he did all sea­son long, Cahill made it a pri­or­ity to get ev­ery player’s hands on the ball.

“Get­ting ev­ery­one in­volved is what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s re­ally im­por­tant to me to get them in­volved in this state ti­tle game with this big at­mos­phere around us.”

For Sch­nei­der, it was also a sec­ond state foot­ball cham­pi­onship. His first came as a player on the St. Mark’s team that de­feated Mid­dle­town in 2010 for the Di­vi­sion I ti­tle.

“This one feels a lot bet­ter,” Sch­nei­der ad­mit­ted. “I mean, just to lead this group from start to fin­ish and top if off like this, you couldn’t ask for any­thing bet­ter.”

In ad­di­tion to those men­tioned above, play­ers in­clude Ryan Walsh, El­lis Dorr, Tyler Manel­ski and Kyle Mullen. Matt Da­ley is the as­sis­tant coach.


Ne­wark Char­ter’s Han­nah Tressler cel­e­brates after the Pa­tri­ots won their sec­ond-straight DIAA Spe­cial Olympics Uni­fied Flag Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship on Satur­day.


Ne­wark Char­ter play­ers cel­e­brate after win­ning their sec­ond-straight DIAA Spe­cial Olympics Uni­fied Flag Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship on Satur­day.


Ne­wark Char­ter’s Eric An­der­son cel­e­brates after scor­ing a touch­down in the DIAA Spe­cial Olympics Uni­fied Flag Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship on Satur­day.

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