Warhawks hard in opener

The Sussex County Warhawks semi-pro football suffered a crushing 37-0 defeat to the defending Diamond Football League champion Saints on Feb. 25 in their season opener.

“Those boys out there were the best team we’ll see all season,” said Warhawks head coach Butch Yocum.

The Saints have gone 27-4-1 in three seasons, winning the division championship every year. The Saints went to the league championship their first year in the league and last year were able to win it all.

From the initial kickoff to about the middle of the first quarter neither team blinked-each playing a conservative style of football.

Warhawks kick returner/cornerback Darnell Strand looked like he was shot out of a cannon when he ripped off a 65-yard opening kickoff deep into Saint territory. The Warhawks inability to score with great field position proved to be the fundamental reason their offense sputtered.

Both teams initially attempted to set the tempo running the ball, but neither was very effective. The Warhawks totaled a meager 40 rushing yards, with quarterback Jason Rust leading the team with 22 yards on three carries.

The Saints fullback broke the silence as he pounded through the Warhawks defense for a tough 7-yard touchdown run, putting the Saints ahead 7-0.

From that point on, the Warhawks shut down the Saints running game and twice stopped them from scoring from within their own 2-yard line. Warhawks linebacker Tremond Conway was credited with both goal-line stops as apart of his four tackles. Their bend-but-don’t-break defense kept them in the game until the Saints started taking some shots to distance themselves from the Warhawks.

Saints quarterback Darryl Johnson torched Strand twice for long touchdown passes to wide receiver Jethroe “Tick” Tickles in the first half.

Down a few touchdowns, the Warhawks were forced to pass the ball to attempt to trim the lead. Rust utilized a number of quick passes, screens and tight end pops to complete 15 of 25 passes for 121 yards and an interception. The Warhawks duo of receivers Dedrick Jones and Andre Matthews combined to snag nine passes for 75 yards, while their tight ends caught three balls for 30 yards.

“Our line played great tonight. Jason had plenty of time to throw, but he’s so short that he has a hard time finding the receiver,” said Yocum.

This became evident when the Saints switched to a zone defense and Rust was unable to find the open receivers in the middle of the field.

The Warhawks travel to Wilmington on March 5 to play the Kent County Fire. The game will be held at Eben Park and kickoff will be at 5 p.m.