BERLIN- Stephen Decatur’s varsity football team’s shot at a post-season berth and a winning season slipped away last weekend with a disappointing 21-14 loss to county rival Snow Hill.
For the Seahawks, playing Snow Hill on the last weekend of the regular season has become a time-honored tradition with both team’s post-season fate’s usually on the line, adding more drama to what is naturally a big rivalry. This year was no different as Decatur entered last Friday’s game with Snow Hill in need of a win to keep its state playoff hopes alive.
For a while, it appeared the Seahawks would take care of business on its end, leading 14-7 at the half. Decatur received the ball first in the third quarter, but could not move the ball much and was forced to punt. Snow Hill’s Keith Jackson received the punt at the Eagles’ 15-yard line and dashed for a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14 early in the third quarter.
The Seahawks responded with an impressive drive on their next possession and appeared poised to retake the lead. Behind the strong running of workhorse running back Delonte Tate, the Seahawks drove to the Snow Hill 10-yard line. Decatur went back to Tate again, but the typically sure-handed running back was hit near the goal line and fumbled the ball back to Snow Hill.
It appeared Tate was down on the four-yard line when the ball popped out. The Decatur running back was still on the ground with the ball lying next to him when the Snow Hill defender picked it up. A few seconds went by as the referees appeared uncertain what to call before Snow Hill’s Kyle Wharton ran over and pulled it from Tate’s hands. The whistle did not blow and Snow Hill had the turnover.
The Eagles then went on a methodical, 14-play, 88-yard scoring march that resulted in a one-yard touchdown dive by Deron Ames that put Snow Hill on top for the first time in the game at 21-14. Decatur had a few opportunities down the stretch, but did not find the end zone again and the Eagles held on for the 21-14 win.
Going into the game, Decatur knew it had to beat Snow Hill and hope Wicomico could upend Bennett in another Bayside South match-up. The Seahawks entered last weekend’s action trailing the Clippers by about four points for the fourth and final spot in the state Class 3A-East standings. A win by Decatur coupled with a loss by Bennett would have secure the final playoff spot for Decatur.
Bennett lost to Wicomico, but the Seahawks couldn’t get past Snow Hill, so the Clippers back their way into the 3A-East region tournament. Meanwhile, Snow Hill, with a 7-2 record going into the Decatur game had already secured its playoff berth in the 1A-East region, but solidified its position with the win over the Seahawks. In the end, Bennett finished with 49.22 points to secure the fourth and final playoff spot in the Class 3A-East region tournament, while Decatur finished close behind with 47.67 total points despite falling to the Eagles.
The loss to Snow Hill ended the season for Decatur, which always seems to face the Eagles in the season finale with its post-season hopes on the line. Last year, the Seahawks hosted Snow Hill with their season on the line and beat the Eagles, 35-23, in the final game to earn their 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.
The Eagles finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and earned a number-two seed in the state 1A-East region. Snow Hill will host number-three Havre de Grace tonight in a regional semifinal. Lurking on the other side of Snow Hill’s bracket is top-seeded Joppatowne, which finished a perfect 10-0 this season.