10 lo­cal sports sto­ries to watch in 2019

Newark Post - - LOCAL NEWS - By JON BUZBY [email protected]­mail.com

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!

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