Wilmington Friends Football

Rob Tattersall got a call in August that could have changed the course of Wilmington Friends' 2018 football season.

It was from his father Bob, who asked him if he would take over his football program this season while the 78-year-old underwent heart surgery.

(VIDEO | Highlights of Friends' regular-season victory over Woodbridge)

"When my father asked me if I would take over, it was 'okay, let's just get it done,' Bob Tattersall reminisced before Saturday's Division 2 Championship Game against Woodbridge. "I really haven't had a chance to sit back and think about. It's been do what needs to be done and moved on. The staff is great, everyone is in place, so we didn't have to reinvent the wheel. We just did what my dad did, and moved on."

Moving on has been extremely successful for the Quakers, who bring a 10-1 record into Saturday's rematch of both a 2016 Championship Game victory by Woodbridge, and Friends' 24-21 regular season victory earlier this year on Jacob Jaworski's last-minute field goal.

One of the biggest challenging facing Rob was simply the numbers games. Wilmington Friends is one of the smallest high schools in Delaware, and that lack of enrollment translates over to his football team, can can barely practice 11-on-11 at this point.

"It's been a long-running thing here where kids hadn't played until their senior year. Now they've stepped up, they're playing one-way, but they're contributing a lot and really performing at a high level. We're down to 24 players, so practicing is tough, but having the ability to sub players in and out really helps.

"Kids get tired, and we're asking them to do a lot. In 2014, which was our first year in the state tournament after a while, my dad said we had to get as many one-way players on the field as possible. We really had to push some kids and tell them its your turn to step up. That's been the trend here for the past five years, and some kids have really made some strides."

One of those players is Peyton McNeill, who will play his final competitive football game Saturday before going to Lafayette on a Lacrosse scholarship next year, McNeill said playing Woodbridge resembles looking into a mirror.

"They play a lot like us. They don't make a lot of big mistakes. They run the ball hard, they play smart, and they play aggressive."

Woodbridge and Friends are extremely familiar despite being 80 miles apart. This will be the 6th meeting between the two programs, with Woodbridge holding a 3-2 edge.

Bob Tattersall says the familiarity brings a coaching challenge.

"The biggest thing is confidence for our kids. From a scheme point, we know what they do, and they know what we do, and we're both going to make some changes and adjustments. But for teenage boys to have confidence to know we've done this, that's the biggest takeaway."

That confidence can also translate to game management. The Quakers have trailed in 6 of their 11 games, including last Saturday's victory over rival Tower Hill.

"This past weekend at halftime, it was let's figure out what we need to do and go forward. Being behind doesn't scare us, it isn't where we want to be, but our kids have the confidence to just do their jobs and we'll get where we need to be."

Where they first wanted to get was Delaware Stadium, where they'll play Woodbridge at 6 p.m. Saturday night.

The best news for Rob? His father has been at every game since the opener, and while Bob has given his son lee-way to run his team, he remains a vocal presence, when needed.

"He's in my ear, and there's times I have to tell everyone to be quiet, because I want to hear what my dad has to say."

When compared to heart surgery, the allocation of credit for football victories seems moot, but Rob wants nothing of taking credit for his dad's success.

"This is my father's, I'm just the driver of the ship. He's the captain. We're doing everything he would have done. It's a tough subject for me, but these are his wins. We're doing what he does, we're running with his practice plans, we're doing everything he's guided us to do."

For senior end Liam Harron, the news about his coaches' surgery wasn't going to derail the hope of finishing what has been a great run by their senior class.

"We were all very concerned when we heard about Coach T, but we had complete confidence in our T. He's been a coach for us for a while, and he's done a great job taking over along with the other coaches, and making sure it's not a distraction as we practice."

Bob Tattersall plans to be at Delaware Stadium, and if he gets his way, he'll have another huge grin on his face as his son hoists a championship trophy with their team.

QUAKERS NOTES: Bob Tattersall is in his 50th year connected to Friends football, but this is just the Quakers' 3rd championship game appearance, they defeated Claymont in 1984 before the Woodbridge loss in 2016... QB Wyatt Nelson hobbled into the end zone for Friends' final score against Tower Hill, but he is expected to play... Nelson is completing 59% of his passes for just over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns... McNeill has 20 total touchdowns, including over 1,200 rushing yards, he also has 3 interceptions... Jake Jaworski hit game-winning field goals against both Woodbridge and DMA.