Playing for pride
Playoffs out of reach for Yellowjackets
Newark High played Appoquinimink to a scoreless stalemate in the first quarter last Friday night, but after that, it was all Jaguars.
The Jags pounced on the Yellowjackets early in the second quarter, scoring 13 points in under a minute on two consecutive rushing touchdowns, the second after a fumble recovery.
Newark’s chances of a comeback were hampered when freshman quarterback Amir James, who started under center, left the game early in the second quarter after taking a big hit and then was not allowed to return due to precautionary measures for a possible concussion. James was replaced by sophomore Joe Hodges, who was still hobbling after suffering an injury in the St. George’s game.
“While we were in the first quarter, we started to move the ball with Amir, and our offense was starting to set the tone for the game,” senior captain Dayton Swanhart said. “Once he went down [with an injury] we had to change up how we were calling plays since Joe wasn’t 100 percent. We were already pretty injuryplagued, and it was another hit to that list of people.”
Senior captain James Jordan also pointed to injuries as making a difference.
“We lost our momentum when our third-string quarterback went out with an injury,” Jordan said. “We were very limited personnel-wise and what plays we could call due to the injuries. So naturally we began to slow down and lose the spark we had.”
Newark never regained that spark on offense, and Appo added three rushing touchdowns in the second half to improve their record to 4-3 with a 36-0 victory.
Playoffs out of reach
Newark’s fifth loss eliminated the Yellowjackets from playoff contention for the seventh consecutive season. The last time Newark reached the postseason was when they advanced to the championship game in 2011 led by three future Division 1 players – Taylor Reynolds, Xavier Griffin and David Grinnage. On a side note, Grinnage, who is playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, caught his first NFL pass in last week’s game against the Cowboys.
For this year’s senior class, knowing they’ll never experience a football playoff game is a frustrating way to go out. However, the captains are determined to make sure the team battles until the end.
“This team wants to win,” Swanhart said. “Playoffs obviously are always a goal, but the team came into this year with the mentality we want to show we aren’t a team that’s going to just lie down. The other captains, along with myself, try to remind them we’re here to play football and to just play a game where you leave everything on that field every single game. Especially with the seniors, emphasizing these are our last games some of us will ever play.”
Jordan echoed those same feelings.
“Even with the playoffs out of reach, I know this team wants to win out,” he said. “Everyone’s personal goals require them to play their hardest no matter the wins and losses. I have faith my brothers will play 100 percent every play these last three weeks because that’s who we are as a team and a family.”
Here come the Cavaliers
Newark celebrates “Senior Night” tonight when the Yellowjackets face their toughest opponent yet. The Middletown Cavaliers, ranked No. 1 in every media poll, will look to get back on the winning track following a 52-7 loss to national powerhouse IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
“Coming off a blowout loss to IMG, and being our senior night, we all know Middletown will be coming to our field with the mindset to win,” Swanhart said. “We’re going to need a great week of practice and be ready to play our best game of football we have this year.”
Jordan summed up the Cavaliers in five words: “They are a great team.” Kickoff is 7 p.m.
The Buzz from the Hive will be posted online each Monday morning during the high school football season and also in Friday’s print edition. It will include some game analysis and exclusive quotes from Newark High football coach Barry Zehnder and select members of the team after they’ve had a chance to watch game film, evaluate their performance, and begin preparation for the next game.
Senior captains James Jordan (4) and Dayton Swanhart (11, far right) say the Yellowjackets are playing for pride now that the playoffs are out of reach.