As I walked on the field before the game, I nearly slipped and fell several times. I knew then the rain-drenched conditions at the “graveyard” would play a pivotal role in the semifinal between Wilmington Friends and St. Mark’s. Any advantage the home team Spartans might have had with their “speedy” running backs was neutralized. T-J Martin carried the ball five times in the first half for 1 yard, while Donovan Artis had one attempt for minus one yard. They both struggled to gain a “foothold”, losing the ability to make precise moves and accelerate. The Quakers from the “woods of Alapocas” leaned on quarterback Robby Tattersall with his 6-5, 210 pound frame, and he would lead the way to a 14-0 victory.
Both teams played exceptional defense in the opening half as the game was scoreless. The best scoring opportunity came with 10:00 left in the 2nd quarter when the Quakers had a first-and-goal at the 8 yard line. Tattersall ran for a yard on first down, and dove inside the five on the next play to set up 3rd-and-goal at the 3. Donovan Artis wrapped up Tattersall around ankles with Mas Paoli hitting him up high to make it 4th and goal at the two. The Spartans “goal-line stand” was complete when Tattersall ran right into the arms of Luke DeKay short of the one yard line, thus turning the ball over on downs.
Tattersall ended the first half with 17 carries for 50 yards, and completed 7 of 13 pass attempts for 53 yards as he personally out gained St. Marks with 103 yards to 7. The Spartans managed just 12 plays against the Quakers defense.
The third quarter began with the Spartans forcing Wilmington Friends to punt after a “three-and-out”. That’s when the momentum quickly shifted as the punt caromed off the helmet of return specialist Paoli and bounced right into the arms of Colin Harron at the St. Marks 25. Seven plays later, Friends had a 2nd and goal at the one yard line. Once again DeKay came up with a stop on Tattersall to force 3rd and goal as the Spartans “D” would not quit. After a procedure penalty backed up the Quakers to the 6, it looked as though the game would remain scoreless. On the next play, Tattersall rolled right and found 6-6 Ishmael Dobson open in the endzone for the touchdown. Alessio Christianetti-Walker’s PAT was good for a 7-0 lead with 4:43 left in the third quarter.
St. Mark’s went three and out on the ensuing possession, punting into the strong wind and the Quakers took over at the 36. It took just four plays for Friends to score again as Tattersall ran in from 20 yards out for a two-score advantage, 14-0.
Entering the 4th quarter, Wilmington Friends had executed a total of 46 offensive plays to just 16 for the Spartans. The best chance St Marks had to get on the board came with 5:00 left in the game when Chase Patalano converted a 4th down pass to Tahj Johnson for 19 yards and then connected with Logan Klein for 24 yards. However the drive stalled and the Quakers ran out the clock to gain the win.
The Quakers limited the Spartans to 52 yards of offense with Patalano accounting for 43 of those yards on the 2 fourth quarter passes. Meanwhile, Tattersall rushed for 129 yards on 32 carries, and completed 11 of 21 passes for another 87 yards. He touched the ball on all but 3 of the Quakers 56 plays in the game. Needless to say, he was our NFHS / 302 Sports Player-of-the-Game.
Spartan head coach Joe Wright and his team finished a fine season at 10-2, as they refused to go quietly into the night.
Wilmington Friends will meet Caravel for the 2A championship next Saturday at Delaware Stadium with kickoff scheduled for 6:00. Both enter the game unbeaten at 12-0. The Quakers last appearance in the title game was 2018, while the Buccaneers will be making their 1st appearance since 2012. You can view all of the championship action next Saturday on the NFHS network – powered by 302 Sports.
Share this Post