DOVER — As a quarterback for the Dover High School football team, Ty Vitko is a playmaker on offense. But the play he made on defense Friday night was a difference-maker.
The senior stripped the ball-carrier and returned a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown that put the Green Wave up by two scores late in the third quarter, and that enabled them to close out a 28-18 win over Exeter at Dunaway Field.
Vitko also rushed for two TDs and passed for another as Dover improved to 4-3 in Division I with its third straight victory. In beating the Blue Hawks (3-4) for the first time since 2004, the Green Wave also kept their playoff hopes alive with two games left in the regular season.
“We talked tonight about the fact that we haven’t beaten a signature team in a couple years around here,” said Dover coach Ken Osbon. “We’ve been playing OK against the teams we match up to but I challenged the kids to take that next step and beat a quality team.”
Trailing 10-0, Dover scored twice in the final 3:15 of the second quarter to lead 14-10 halftime. Vitko’s theft and return down the far sideline in the final minute of the third quarter made it 21-10.
“Two of our guys had him wrapped up,” Vitko said. “I saw the kid turn towards me so I put two hands on the ball and it came right out.”
“He took it from him clean,” said Exeter coach Bill Ball. "That was the big play of the second half."
After the Blue Hawks pulled within 21-18 with 8:44 remaining in the fourth, the Green Wave answered on their next possession with a 1-yard sneak by Vitko for the clinching score with 5:57 to play. Luc Normandeau set up the touchdown with a 43-yard run to the Exeter 1 and Vitko scored on the next play.
Dover’s defense made several big plays down the stretch to protect the lead, including a fumble recovery by Evan Santello and an interception by Alex Bostrom. Santello sacked Exeter’s Ryan Grijalva on the game’s final play.
“This isn’t a team that quits,” Vitko said. “Our defense started getting us back on the field and we can create on offense.”
Vitko completed 10 of 15 passes for 130 yards, including a 46-yard TD pass to Dylan Murphy that sliced a 10-0 deficit to 10-7 with 3:15 left in the first half.
After forcing a three-and-out, Dover drove 69 yards to paydirt with Vitko skirting right end for the score from 4 yards out to put the Green Wave ahead to stay, 14-10, as time expired in the first half.
Vitko completed four straight passes to Willem Federico for 59 yards during the drive to put the Green Wave in position to take their first lead. Vitko’s fumble return made it 21-10 with 56.4 seconds left in the third quarter.
“Any time you find a way to score on defense against a team like Exeter, it’s a bonus because it’s difficult to score against their defense,” Osbon said.
The Blue Hawks answered early in the fourth quarter on a 9-yard run by Adam Gray and a two-point conversion pass from Grijalva to Cam Knight to pull within 21-18 with 8:44 remaining, but that’s as the close as they got.
“We were happy with what we were doing offensively, eating up the clock,” Ball said. “They made some big plays.”
Exeter turned two time-consuming drives in the first half into 10 points on a 26-yard field goal by Sam Wolff with 1:10 to go in the first quarter and a 1-yard run by Jason Edmiston with 5:46 left in the first half to cap a drive that was set up by a Dover turnover.
“We’re taking it one game at a time,” Osbon said. “We told the kids the playoffs start today and we took a step.”
GREEN WAVE 28, BLUE HAWKS 18
Exeter 3 7 0 8—18
Dover 0 14 7 7—28
Exe—FG Wolff 26, 1:10.
Exe—J. Edmiston 1 run (Wolff kick), 5:46.
Dov—Murphy 46 pass from Vitko (O’Doherty kick), 3:15.
Dov—Vitko 4 run (O’Doherty kick), :00.
Dov—Vitko 55 fumble return (O’Doherty kick), :56.4.
Exe—Gray 9 run (Knight pass from Grijalva), 8:44.
Dov—Vitko 1 run (O’Doherty kick), 5:57.
RUSHING—Exeter, Knight 13-78, Gray 15-67, J. Edmiston 13-63, Tucker 4-9, D. Edmiston 3-4. Dover, L. Normandeau 9-84, Vitko 8-29, Oroh 12-20.
PASSING—Exeter, Grijalva 4-8—39 (INT). Dover, Vitko 10-15—130 (TD).
RECEIVING—Exeter, Gray 2-21, Knight 2-18. Dover—Federico 5-67, Murphy 2-54, Parmer 2-9.