10 local sports stories to watch in 2019
With the 2018 sports season officially behind us, it’s time to look at what I think are the Top 10 stories to watch in 2019, in no particular order.
UD’s latest basketball sensation: On a guard-dominant team, UD freshman Ithiel Horton might just be the best of the lot. The Roselle Catholic product has earned CAA Rookie of the Week honors twice and is second on the team in scoring at 13.7 points per game. The last two Blue Hen freshman sensations ended up transferring – Kory Holden to South Carolina and Ryan Daly to St. Joe’s – after their sophomore seasons. Let’s hope Horton doesn’t do the same.
Newark High moving to Flight B: When Christiana and Glasgow high schools made the move to Division II, it helped some teams but not others. Barring an unforeseen significant increase in Newark High’s population during the next few years, the Yellowjackets might be in Flight B for good. Let’s hope Newark teams have more success than in recent years, which in many sports will mean finishing with a .500 record or better.
Delaware Stadium renovations: Ground has already been broken for the newest athletic complex renovations that will include a modern press box, refurbished seating in three sections of the west stands and the creation of the Whitney Athletic Center, a state-of-theart health, wellness and education center for student-athletes. The changes should help both recruiting and game-day attendance.
Blue Gold Game schedule change: For the first time in the annual all-star game’s history, kickoff will be on Friday night. The committee made the move for a variety of reasons, but mainly hoping that it will attract a larger crowd by avoiding Saturday’s Firefly traffic and allowing beachgoers to attend the game and still have their feet in the sand first thing Saturday morning. I like the move. Time will tell if fans do.
UD football: A new offensive coordinator from CAA rival Towson University’s staff has been hired to try and catapult the UD offense into the upper echelon of the CAA. Even if Jared Ambrose can do that, the Hens will still need to keep pace on the defensive side of the ball after losing their two best players, Nasir Adderley and Troy Reeder. The Hens narrowly missed the playoffs in 2017, barely made it in this past season, and will need to improve on both sides of the ball to have a game on Thanksgiving weekend in 2019.
Who will coach Newark football: With Barry Zehnder’s unexpected resignation, the Yellowjackets are trying to figure out who will be the next football head coach at Newark High. Whoever it is will have a steep hill to climb. The Yellowjackets have not made the playoffs since appearing in the 2011 state championship game and have only reached the .500 mark twice (2014 and 2015). The one incentive for interested applicants is Newark’s move to Division II. However, even that doesn’t guarantee success. Just ask St. Mark’s.
Newark’s football move to Division II: With all due respect to the other Yellowjacket teams, the football team is the one that fans will follow most closely with the move to Flight B and Division II. Newark’s 2019 schedule includes all Division II teams — all of the Flight B teams as well as St. Mark’s and Lake Forest. District rivalries will be renewed in Week 1 (Glasgow) and Week 10 (Christiana). Finishing .500 is a realistic goal in 2019.
Philly pro teams: Big things are expected from all four teams for the first time in a while. Can the Phillies stretch their playoff contention one more month into September? The Flyers will have a new coach and promising young goaltender. The Eagles backed into this year’s playoffs without their top quarterback, so is another Super Bowl title on the horizon when he returns? The Sixers’ biggest question right now is if Markelle Fultz will ever come close to the expectations placed on any first-overall draft pick, and if so, will it be in a Sixers uniform? The second question is, regardless of the answer to the first, can the Sixers become an elite team in the Eastern Conference?
Donte DiVincenzo: The Newark-born first-round NBA draft pick has seen his playing time with the Milwaukee Bucks cut in half since he suffered a quad injury in late November. In his first game back, he had a solid game against Charlotte (8 points in 11 minutes) but then was relegated to the G-League. Now he is back with the Bucks and it’s not his injury that is limiting his minutes, rather it’s just more that he’s not needed in the current rotation. By this time next year, we should know if DiVincenzo is a legitimate first-round selection.
Christina state championship drought: Unless a team wins it all in the spring, the end of this school year will mark 10 years since a Christina School District high school won a state championship in any sport. With 71 state championships between the three schools, led by Newark’s 39, the last titles won at each school were when Christiana’s indoor and outdoor boys track teams won titles in 2009, Glasgow captured the state championship in boys track in 2008, and Newark’s boys swim team won it all in 2005. With all three schools now competing in Division II, will the drought continue?
Before 2019 is over, there’s no doubt there will be a Top 10 sports story not mentioned here. Let’s just hope it’s a positive one.
Happy New Sports Year!