A mix of established dynasties and sometimes complete guesses find their way to the top of our 2019 Fall Preseason Delaware High School Sports Rankings.
Teams like Salesianum soccer and Cape & Delmar field hockey are the types of powers you can start with and feel pretty confident they've got a good chance to be there at the end, but with all of the transfers in football these days, how exactly will things shake out there?
We give it our best guesses, but the beautiful thing about high school sports is teams will settle these things on the field. With the new calendar, the games begin on Wednesday!
6) Sussex Tech
7) Sussex Central
8) William Penn
10) St. Georges
Transfers, injuries, graduations, expectations: There’s a lot to digest in Division 1 to say the least… Hodgson gets the nod at No. 1 as a motivated squad who appear motivated by last year’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the Salesianum semifinal that took away any chance of a late tie, but having a 3rd year quarterback in CJ Henry is why they start at 1 for me… Salesianum would have started at 1, but QB Gabe Puzzangara suffered an injury at the end of preseason that moves them down a slot for me into a close battle with Dover for No. 2. Both teams have fantastic RBs in Andrew Watkins and Javon Peace who should challenge defenses all year… Next up are two question marks in Middletown and Smyrna. How will Smyrna react after seeing their 3-year run at state titlists end, LB Debo Williams being back healthy is a major plus for a talented team that certainly was better than a 3-6 team… From there, the race for the No. 6 seed in Division 1 has typically gone down to the wire, and any of the collection of teams listed in the bottom 5 could certainly make a case, especially defending-champion Sussex Central who lost a lot of key players to graduation.
GAME TO WATCH: No. 3 Dover at No. 1 Hodgson (Saturday, 10:30am) – Last year Hodgson put themselves on the path to a perfect regular season by defeating eventual-champion Sussex Central in a downpour. Hopefully Hurricane Dorian stays far enough offshore to allow for excellent conditions for this Flight A/Henlopen North encounter. Dover needs to find a replacement for QB Jordan Magee to try to keep teams from loading the defensive box against Peace. That said, Dover has a fantastic offensive line, and this would not be an upset either way, and this could be a preview of a coming attraction in November. (Others: Smyrna at Middletown – It doesn’t seem so long ago the Harvest Bowl wasn’t played because it wasn’t seen as competitive, now it’s a Week 1 staple, Caesar Rodney at Appoquinimink – The winner here has a chance to sneak up towards 7 wins, which could be important for the lower seeding in the tournament)
3) Tower Hill
8) Saint Elizabeth
9) Saint Mark’s
10) Delaware Military Academy
Troy Haynes (#FightLike4) and an extremely successful senior class has graduated, but there’s a culture around Bridgeville/Greenwood that has started to attract top athletes from neighboring districts to join the program. Two years ago, then-head coach Ed Manlove talked about having 37 freshman come out for his team after they won their first title, they should see the fruits of that blossom this fall… After that, the Independent powers of Friends and Tower Hill sit there. Tower Hill argued all year they were underrated as we waited for a result that proved their point. 10-3 and 14-6 losses to Friends certainly backed up their argument, and both teams return their senior cores. Tower Hill could be 8-0 going into the game, although they at least added Saint Elizabeth to their schedule this year for difficulty, and Delcastle for points, QB Wyatt Nelson gets one more go-around for the Quakers, who have come quite close in recent years, and everyone in the state will be glad to see a healthy Bob Tattersall back on the sidelines this fall… The middle of the rankings, much like Division 1, really do jumble together. Delmar would have been ranked higher (perhaps even No. 1), but out-of-state transfers cost them a quarterback and lineman that would have been difference makers, David Hearn will get this group together… Caravel won their last 5 games after their schedule finally relented, the question of talent or strength of schedule will come to light immediately (see below), while Howard’s Dan Ritter always seems to be right there on the tournament edge... Archmere is another team that took a very (as in after practices started) hit with a transfer out, as they need to break in a new quarterback as well. .. After that, I think you can throw a blanket on teams like Saint Elizabeth, Saint Mark’s, DMA, Laurel, Brandywine, and A.I. duPont who should be competing for the final couple of slots in the postseason.
GAME TO WATCH: No. 5 Caravel at No. 1 Woodbridge (Friday, 7:30) – Is Caravel for real? Did Woodbridge reload, or will they rebuild? These are the intriguing questions under the lights for these two programs. Caravel follows this game with CR, Laurel, and St. Georges, so getting some momentum, if not a win, will be important. Woodbridge hands the keys to the offense to Laurel-transfer Dalton Purdue (Others: Archmere at Mount Pleasant – The Auks go point-hunting against a previous Division 2 contender who moves up to Flight A this year, Conrad at Saint Mark’s – One of the few All-D2 games this week involving teams with playoff aspirations, A.I. duPont at Friends – Felt like this would have been a better game for last year’s schedule, but the Tigers could do Flight B a favor with a win here)
3) Saint Mark’s
6) Tower Hill
7) Newark Charter
8) Wilmington Charter
10) Red Lion
Traditionally one of the toughest sports to call each year, as the talented club teams in Delaware really spread out their talent among the various high schools, the snowplow parenting thing not in play here, and makes for a rather exciting product as a whole… Padua gets the nod at No. 1 after bringing back most of their key players, including wicked-hitting Jessica Molen, but she’s hardly their only offensive weapon: Mackenzie Sobczyk and Grace Palaypay make opponents play when they over-commit to the outside… Auks should be right there, as Julia Kochie, Mackenzie Popp, Abbi Kates, and Lauren Edmiston make for a sensational senior class… Ursuline looked to be building to their own all-star senior class, but injuries may be a concern again for UA, they’ll be deep and talented.. Saint Mark’s Swiss Army Knife Savannah Seemans is back for her senior year of filling every check on a box score, Abbi Thibodeau’s improvement will be a key to the Spartans, who gained a lot of varsity experience last year only graduating 2 seniors…. The wild card will be Conrad: Basketball stars Julie & Stefanie Kulesza are both playing this year, bringing state-championship basketball athleticism onto the volleyball court, and is Alyssa Faville clutch? Remember she hit the winning basket, and she’s probably better at volleyball defense than basketball defense, and that’s saying something… After those 5, the next 5 look to be trying to play the spoiler roles, and make the semifinals at the BOB more of a lock than they’ve been in recent years.
GAME TO WATCH: No. 8 Wilmington Charter at No. 6 Tower Hill (Friday, 5:15) – The only Top 10 matchup of the opening weekend is a great litmus test for life after Madeline Matheny (Charter) and Maddie Sachs (Tower Hill).
1) Cape Henlopen
4) Wilmington Charter
Padua went 14-1 last year, and only graduated 3 seniors, the bad news is they lost a combined 11-0 to Cape Henlopen in their two meetings. Simply getting a goal would be progress, but it’s the same program that once stunned Cape to a 3-0 lead in a state semifinal before a 4-3 Vikings win. It might take a similar surprise to rock the Vikings’ championship run… A new era at Polytech begins with Torrie Huk taking over for Lynn Richardson, losing Lacy Bayley will be big, but Madison Lloyd figures to play a bigger role as a sophomore
GAME TO WATCH: No. 5 Concord at Archmere (Thursday, 3:45) – It’s not an all-D1 game, but with a lack of those in the mix this week, a chance to showcase what is usually one of the better upstate games each year, with this year’s battle going on the quicker turf, Concord’s usually-stout defense will be tested.
3) Tower Hill
4) Lake Forest
5) Indian River
Delmar’s dynasty is alive and well. The biggest question coming out of the southern-most high school in Delaware is how many collegiate players is this program going to spawn?... Caravel said goodbye to Blue Hen Sydney Keld and keeper Karli Cauley, but Caitlin St. leger is back, and showed last year she can be a scoring threat, but there will be more pressure this year…. Sarah Zungailia enters her senior year for a Tower Hill team who has to shake off last year’s quarterfinal upset by Mount Pleasant… Lake Forest returns Elle Wood and Maycee Collison who scored in last year’s tournament win over Ursuline... and Indian River didn’t have any seniors on last year’s 9-5-1 team, who should take a step forward in the Henlopen South this year… Expect Mount Pleasant, Ursuline, and others to have their say before the year is out in what is now a 12-team playoff field.
GAME TO WATCH: Lake Forest at Caravel (Wednesday, 7:15) – The first varsity day of the year features prime Top 5 matchup as two teams try to find their footing quickly. This could determine a bye in the tournament.
3) Caesar Rodney
4) Cape Henlopen
5) Wilmington Charter
Salesianum is nationally-ranked, and while high school National rankings are notoriously flimsy, they play other regionally-ranked teams that let you know this is a solid group and will again of the largest target on their back of any program in the state… On their heels is Appoquinimink, who has taken full advantage of the fertile soccer programs in the Middletown area, and while Matt Meadows graduates, Midfielders Colby & Cody Niggebrugge are back to make things difficult for opposing midfields… Spencer Ott will be another player taking an increased role for Caesar Rodney, who figure to again be pushed by Cape Henlopen for Henlopen North dominance.
GAME TO WATCH: No. 3 Caesar Rodney vs. No. 5 Wilmington Charter (Saturday, 11:30 at Dover)The showcase of the DAAD Upstate/Downstate Challenge
1) Wilmington Friends
3) Indian River
While not as unpredictable as volleyball, D2 Boys Soccer has been a wide open affair since they broke apart from Salesianum…. Last year’s tourney saw one side of the bracket need OT and PKs in the quarterfinals, and then Caravel and Friends went to OT in the championship… We’ll start with the Quakers at No. 1 for the first time, as Oryem Kilama, Jack Taylor, and Evan Arai will try to make up for the loss of their 4th captain Tim Farley to graduation… All-American Candidate Andrew Rosenbaum should have the Auks right there in play, although they lost a little more in graduation… Speaking graduation, Caravel lost most of the core of their group, although it’s a program that has certainly rebuilt more often than reloaded over the years… Brandywine had a perfect regular season, only to lose to IR in the quarterfinals in a tough draw, but despite returning many of the same players, none of the teams ranked above them appear on their schedule, so they could be an unknown again going into the tournament.
GAME TO WATCH: No. 2 Archmere at Sussex Tech (Saturday, 1pm) – There’s no solid All-D2 game, so we’ll take our first look at Archmere as they go against a perennial Henlopen North contender who fell just outside of our Top 5.
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
2) Wilmington Charter
3) Caesar Rodney
3) Wilmington Friends
5) Newark Charter
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
2) Wilmington Charter
4) Caesar Rodney
2) Saint Mark’s
3) Mount Pleasant
5) Newark Charter