DEPTFORD – After struggling through a 1-9 season last year, the Sterling High School football players were pretty sure of one thing.
They didn’t want a repeat of the many frustrations they went through again this year.
So, as running back Damire Hutchinson put it on Friday night, the players took it upon themselves to do what they could to “change the losing culture.”
“We worked hard all off-season and the coach has been really hard on us at practice,” Hutchinson said. “But it’s all paid off. All the sprints, all the reps – we had a lot of fights -- it’s all come together right now.”
Hutchison spoke after he and teammate Greg Harris scored two touchdowns each to lead the Silver Knights to a 40-10 win over Deptford in West Jersey League interdivision game.
The victory moved Sterling to 3-0 this season, and left them looking forward to a showdown game next week against highly regarded West Deptford, also 3-0.
Harris led the offense on the ground with 146 yards on 17 carries, but Hutchinson was a one-man wrecking crew.
He not only complemented Harris with 59 yards, but he blocked a punt that set up a touchdown and he was responsible for numerous tackles and an sack on defense.
“I’ve been preparing for this all week,” Hutchinson said. “I never take a team lightly, so I prepare like I’m playing in the Super Bowl every time.”
Sterling coach Dan Harris appreciates the effort his players have put in so far this season. Neither he nor his players were happy with the way things went last season.
He lists a couple of reasons for this year’s improvement.
“Experience,” he said when asked to define the difference between the seasons. “Another year in the weight room, the kids buying into that. It’s just the mentality.”
Now he feels he has to guard against over-confidence.
“We’ve done a lot of good things and we just have to keep it rolling,” the coach said. “We can’t have a let down at any moment during practice and we’re just focused on that right now.”
Greg Harris agreed that the Silver Knights can’t rest on the things they’ve already accomplished. He knows there is a lot of football still to be played, and his says the team wants more.
“I’m not going to say this is satisfying because we’re definitely still hungry,” he said. “We’re getting better every week – our margin of victory keeps getting bigger and bigger -- but we just have to keep going. We want to win the conference and we have a big game coming up.”
Greg Harris recalled the disappointment of trying to get things going last season.
“Every game we went in there trying to get a win, but it was just game after game of getting let down,” he said. “But this is a new start – a new team. We’re just going to keep building on what we have and we’re going to get better every week.”
It took a while for Sterling to get started against Deptford, but once the Knights got rolling they proved impossible to stop.
They led only 12-3 at the half thanks to both of Hutchinson’s touchdown runs, a 2-yarder in the first quarter and a 22-yarder in the second.
But Sterling kept unfurling a punishing ground game, and eventually the Deptford defense began to wear down.
“The main aspect of us is we really practice on running through arm tackles,” Hutchinson said. “Another aspect of it is in the weight room. We do a lot of lower body stuff, just keeping out feet running.”
That was evident as the Sterling runners were able to rip off numerous big gains, while controlling the ball and the line of scrimmage.
Harris eventually helped them extend the lead with the first of his touchdown runs, a seven-yarder in the third quarter.
He later tacked on an 11-yard scoring run and Joel Deaney (79 yards on 9 carries) added another running touchdown with a 10-yard bolt.
Sterling closed out its scoring with a 30-yard pass from C.J. Barrett to Chris Roe to run the score to 40-3. However, Deptford Khian Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for Deptford’s only touchdown.
Deptford’s Darius Dowd also had an exceptional game with 107 yards on 21 carries.
Silver Knights 40, Spartans 10
Deptford 0-3- 0- 7---10
S: Damire Hutchinson 2 run (kick failed)
S: Damire Hutchinson 23 run (pass failed) Deptford: FG Jake Lynch 38
S: Greg Harris 6 run (Anthony Barikian kick)
S: Joel Deaney 10 run (Anthony Barikian kick)Sterling: Greg Harris 11 run (Anthony Barikian kick)
S: Chris Roe 30 pass from CJ Barrett (Anthony Barikian kick)
D: Khi'on Smith 90 kickoff return (Jake Lynch kick)