Dover High beat McKean 34-16 at Delaware Stadium Nov. 30.
Dover High School’s Unified Flag Football team won the state championship for the first time in school history Nov. 30. The undefeated Dover team beat McKean at the University of Delaware with a final score of 34-16.
Starting quarterback Julian Dixon (9) threw two touchdowns and ran for one. His first touchdown went to Steven Powell (10), and his second went to Zachary Brown (2). Brown later ran 35 yards for the fourth touchdown.
McKean scored first to start the game at 8-0, but the Senators snagged the lead for the rest of the game, scoring twice before halftime. Smyrna was the only team to better 20 points against Dover this year.
Head coach Gavin Schukoske said their undefeated record and championship title speaks to their strong defense.
“The big key was our focus on defense. We really bought into the old saying that defense wins championships,” Schukoske said. He brought in assistant coach Mike Denman as an offensive coordinator this year, which he said allowed him to hone the defense.
Unified flag football started at Dover High in 2017, and the team has lost only three games since then, Schukoske said.
Their first year, the Senators lost to Smyrna in the state semifinals and last year they lost to Seaford in the first playoff round of. This was the first time that both Dover and McKean made it to the final championship game.
“It’s been an incredible journey, watching this team grow,” Schukoske said.
Unified sports programs are a partnership between the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association and Special Olympics Delaware designed to make a way for students with disabilities and special needs to play on sports teams.
At Dover High, the flag football team has a ratio of three special education to two general education students.
“That’s the goal of unified sports: to give [students] the opportunity to show people that they’re more than just a label,” Schukoske said.
Community support has made the championship win more special, he said.
Board of Education member Sean Christiansen organized the Dover Fire Department, Dover Police Department and Saint Francis EMS to escort the team as they left and returned to Dover. This was the first championship escort in Dover since 1988, Christiansen told them.
As for the students? They are holding their heads high, Schukoske said.
“These athletes are amazing. They really showed our community and our school that anything is possible with hard work and determination,” he said.
As the fall season ends, Dover High unified sports turns to basketball, and they plan to take another shot at a state title, Schukoske said.