Familiar faces end up in new places in downstate football

Benny MitchellHeadlines, Sports

After two years away from football Jed Bell will lead the Milford Buccaneers, photo by Benny Mitchell

Two new faces will roam the sidelines when high school football kicks off in September. Well maybe two not so new faces, but familiar faces in new places.

After eight seasons Sean Strickland will leave Milford High School and take over at his alma mater Caesar Rodney. Strickland led Milford to the 2017 Division II state finals.

The Riders had 65 athletes participating in their Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association (DIFCA) spring team camp. Strickland said he was pleased with the turnout since the athletes he shares with baseball, lacrosse and track were still competing in their respective state tournaments.

New Caesar Rodney head coach Shaun Strickland will take over the Riders after eight seasons as the head coach at Milford, photo by Benny Mitchell

“Being back as CR is absolutely surreal. The first day just standing at midfield and blowing the whistle realizing I am back home, it was truly a dream come true,” Strickland said.

The move to Caesar Rodney will take Strickland from Class AA to Class AAA competition this fall. He said the spring camp is very important to help his approach to get back to basics.

“These kids are hungry and the coaches are eager, so getting the basics down and focusing on discipline and the little things will make the new offense and new defense much easier to grasp,” Strickland said.

The alumni theme continued when Milford selected Jed Bell as their new head football coach this spring. Bell left his position at the DIAA last winter and took over as the Milford athletic director just prior to the beginning of the spring sports season.

It has been a two year coaching hiatus for Bell who last coached at Woodbridge High School leading the Blue Raiders to the state finals in 2019 and a state tournament appearance in 2020.

“It’s exciting. Coming home you walk on the first day and it feels like you never left. You are connected to the community because you grew up here.” Bell said.

The Bucs have welcomed 54 athletes out for their DIFCA spring team camp.

The landscape of Delaware high school football has changed in the two years Bell was absent from the sideline. The DIAA moved to a three tier system to replace the former two division system, but Bell was well aware of what took place as he served as the assistant director of the DIAA and played a part in the restructuring.

Milford moved from Division I to the new Class AA, which is the largest of the three classes.

“What I like about the new system is that our District will be just like the old Henlopen South. We will see Delmar and Woodbridge again. Plus the Lake Forest game will go back to week 10 like it always should have been,” Bell said.

Statewide there were 12 new head football coaches hired this year. Several moved from one school to another while some were promoted within the ranks of their respective coaching staffs.

“12 of 45 (26%) of Delaware high school football teams have new head coaches. Incredible that so many big name 3A schools made changes in the same year,” said Marty Sheehan of the Delaware High School Football podcast.

Sheehan and partner Jon Buzby host a weekly in-season podcast focusing only on Delaware high school football. Sheehan began following the coaching carousel last fall when several head coaching positions began opening.

Sheehan said he is excited to see what some of these new coaches bring to their new teams.

“A lot of folks are anxious to see what Matt Carre does with the Seahawks. I am most excited about Sallies and CR,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan believes that Caesar Rodney is a sleeping giant.

“The number of kids in the program is well over 100, sometimes a new voice can make a big difference and Strickland may be the key to getting the program back on track,” Sheehan said.

Salesianum alum Gene Delle Donne was named head coach after two seasons as offensive coordinator and added former Blue Hen and NFL player Paul Worrilow as his defensive coordinator.

“It sounds like Delle Donne is going to put his stamp on the team right away with a more open offense plus he has assembled a first class coaching staff,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan said he will keep his eye on McKean and Milford this year as well.

“I am excited to see what Avery McMullen and his staff will do with QB Makeevis Rogers at McKean and Jed Bell is a proven winner. With him being in the building full time and connecting with these kids the Bucs future looks bright,” Sheehan said.

Listed below are the 12 coaching changes around the state.

Tatnall – Benjamin Ireton

Delaware Military – Matt Carre

Salesianum – Gene Delle Donne

Christiana – Brian Wood

Mt. Pleasant – Jeff Allen

Glasgow – Ricky Brown

First State Military – Jeffrey Braxton

Milford – Jed Bell

Hodgson – Dave Collins

Caesar Rodney – Shaun Strickland

McKean – Avery McMullen

Dickinson – Duben Word

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