Decatur Outlasts WiHi, 28-23

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BERLIN- Stephen Decatur’s varsity football team outlasted Wicomico last week, 28-23, to keep its faint state playoff hopes alive with a familiar roadblock in county rival Snow Hill standing in the way.

The Seahawks capitalized on a few miscues by WiHi and took care of business on their end to beat the Indians, 28-23. Delonte Tate was again the catalyst for the Decatur victory, rushing for one touchdown, but perhaps more importantly, picking off two Wicomico passes and returning them for touchdowns including one in a critical moment in the game.

Tate gave the Seahawks the lead at 14-10 about half way through the third quarter with a touchdown run, but Wicomico answered with a long drive of its own deep into Decatur territory. Wicomico had been successful running the ball on the long drive, but returned to the passing game in the red zone and Tate made the Indians pay for it.

Tate picked off a pass at the five-yard line and returned it for a touchdown to extend the lead for the Seahawks, who went on to win the all important game, 28-23, despite a late rally by the Indians. Decatur has now won three straight and Tate has been right in the middle of each of the big wins.

Against Easton three weeks ago, the big senior rushed for 236 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-0 blowout of Easton. A week later, Tate returned three interceptions for touchdowns in a 48-7 rout of Parkside. Last week against WiHi, Tate did a little of both, rushing for one score and returning two picks for touchdowns.

With the three-game winning streak, Decatur improved its overall record to 5-4 on the season, including a 3-1 mark in the conference. Perhaps more importantly, the win over Wicomico kept Decatur’s state playoff hopes alive. The Seahawks are currently in fifth place in the state Class 3A-East region with 42.56 total points. The top four teams in the region reach the playoffs, and just ahead of Decatur in the standings is another Bayside Conference team in Bennett with 46.22 points. Decatur and Bennett are the only Eastern Shore teams in the Class 3A-East region.

Essentially, for Decatur to sneak in and steal the last playoff spot on the last weekend of the regular season, the Seahawks will have to beat county rival Snow Hill on the road tonight and hope Wicomico can give them a little help by beating Bennett tonight. If the Seahawks fall short on the final weekend, they will likely look back to 14-13 loss to Bennett in midseason during which they were undone by a series of miscues.

Meanwhile, Decatur has to take care of business against Snow Hill to have any chance, which appears to be a monumental task. Snow Hill has been dominant at times this season with a record of 7-2, but appears to be at least somewhat vulnerable this week. The Eagles lost to Cambridge-South Dorchester, 28-13, last week.

Decatur always plays Snow Hill on the last weekend of the regular season with mixed results in recent years. Last year, Decatur needed to beat Snow Hill in its final game to secure a spot in the state playoffs and beat the Eagles, 35-23, to earn its first-ever Class 3A-East berth. In 2007, the same scenario played out with a different outcome.

Again, Decatur needed to beat Snow Hill to make the playoffs, but fell to the Eagles, 30-27, in double-overtime. Each team scored on its first possession from the 25-yard line in overtime, but Decatur failed in its second attempt and Snow Hill kicked a field goal to win the game and send the Seahawks home early that season.

In 2006, Decatur beat Snow Hill, 13-7, but the Eagles beat the Seahawks, 26-13, in 2004 behind a big game by Bennie Tate, who had transferred to Snow Hill from Decatur that season. The year before, in 2003, it was Tate, playing for Decatur, who led the Seahawks to victory with an option pass for a late touchdown.

Tate is now the leading rusher at SEC powerhouse Auburn University, but his name is forever linked to the long rivalry between Decatur and Snow Hill. Tonight, it remains to be seen if a different Tate, Decatur’s Delonte, can write his own chapter in county feud.

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