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October 2, 2012
We've wrapped up the month of September and the playoff picture is becoming a little bit clearer in both Division 5 and Division 6, although there are sure to be some twists and turns before we get there as October promises to have some intriguing matchups across the entire Eastern Region landscape. Let's take a look back at last week's games, which featured seven games decided by six points or less . . .
#5 Ocean Lakes 21, #1 Salem 15: Overcoming a 386-yard performance from Salem QB Bucky Hodges, the Ocean Lakes Dolphins stayed undefeated as their defense, led by junior d-tackle Derrick Nnadi (10 tackles), came up with three red zone stops of the SunDevils. On offense, running back Brandon Simmons churned out 106 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, and QB Corwin Cutler threw for 116 yards and a touchdown to sophomore Jaason Lewis.
#2 Oscar Smith 38, Lakeland 9: With Lakeland driving down 17-9 in the third quarter, Oscar Smith defensive back Monty Fenner intercepted a pass in the red zone and from there the Tigers scored 21 unanswered points to run their Southeastern District winning streak to 50 games. Quarterback Dashawn Blow completed 18 of 29 passes for 173 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and halfback DeShawn McClease added 109 yards rushing and 2TD's on 15 attempts.
#3 Phoebus 19, Bethel 17: Playing their first game since the departure of Stan Sexton as Head Coach, the Phoebus Phantoms scored a fourth quarter touchdown to pull ahead of the Bethel Bruins and kept their record unblemished. In the absence of Tony Pittman, running back Da'Quan Lane enjoyed a career day with 216 yards and 2TD's rushing.
#4 Lake Taylor 56, Booker T. Washington 7: Not only did the Lake Taylor offense score six touchdowns, the Titans got an 89-yard kickoff return for a score by Aaron Chandler and Brandon Lynch recovered a fumble in the end zone for a defensive touchdown. Receiver Harry Freeman hauled in a pair of touchdown passes from Delmon Williams, and the Titans limited Booker T. to 26 total yards of offense.
#6 Western Branch 56, #10 King's Fork 14: In the first quarter alone, Western Branch running back Josh Marriner racked up 128 yards and three touchdowns on six carries to spark another Bruins rout of a Suffolk opponent. One week after blanking Lakeland 50-0, the Bruins also got two touchdown runs from Donte Shepard and a couple of touchdown passes by quarterback C.J. Thomas.
#7 Grassfield 45, Hickory 13: Every one of Grassfield's touchdowns went for at least 40 yards, beginning with an 85-yard fumble recovery return by Vincent Lowe following an interception. Paris Smith hauled in a 59-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake LaRussa, and running back Isaiah Harper had touchdowns of 90 yards on a kickoff return and 64 yards on a run.
#8 Granby 21, Wilson 20: The Granby Comets stayed undefeated, but not before getting quite a scare from winless Wilson, needing to halt a two-point conversion in the closing moments. Lawrence Harris ran for 95 yards and a touchdown, and hauled in a touchdown pass from William Smith, while Caleb Wilson picked up 85 yards on the ground and scored.
#9 Hampton 42, Denbigh 0: The Hampton Crabbers continued their winning ways with running back Marshawn Williams leading the way, scoring five touchdowns and rushing for 133 yards on 26 touches in a shutout of the Denbigh Patriots. Hampton's defense was extremely stingy, allowing only 46 total yards on 34 plays.
Cox 28, #11 Kellam 27 (OT): Cox defenders Austin Maki and Perry Schrader kept Kellam running back Cole Bava out of the end zone on a two-point conversion try in overtime as the Falcons knocked the Knights from the ranks of the unbeaten. Quarterback Tommy McKee completed all five of his passes for 55 yards to go with 17 rushes for 111 yard and three touchdowns.
#12 Norcom 19, Churchland 6: Behind 173 yards rushing and three touchdowns from starting running back Traquan Martin, the Norcom Greyhounds pushed its record to 4-2 overall, 3-0 in the Eastern District. Norcom caused four turnovers, two of them in the red zone, including an interception by Triquan Holman in the end zone.
#13 Kecoughtan 28, Gloucester 14: As Gloucester scored its first touchdown of the season, Kecoughtan saw running back Trenton Cannon score four times for the Warriors in improving their record to 4-1 overall. Cannon ran 16 times for 183 yards, plus had a reception for 62 yards.
Bayside 22, Landstown 6: Improving to 4-2 overall, the Bayside Marlins outscored the Landstown Eagles 15-0 in the second half to win in this Monday night Beach District matchup. UVA commit Taquan 'Smoke' Mizzell led the way with 27 carries for 122 yards and three touchdowns, and QB Deion Stitt completed all but two of his 13 pass attempts for 192 yards to give the Marlins plenty of balance in their offensive attack.
First Colonial 10, Kempsville 6: In a defensive struggle, Dornell Collins provided 64 yards rushing and a touchdown for the First Colonial Patriots as they escaped with a victory over the Kempsville Chiefs. Returning to action for First Colonial was starting quarterback Joey Brown, who engineered the Patriots' touchdown drive in the second quarter.
Tallwood 34, Princess Anne 12: Handing Princess Anne their third straight loss, the Tallwood Lions recorded their first win of the season as they had their best offensive performance of the season with 346 total yards of offense. Shamir Tyner scored his first touchdown of the year, and the defense held PA to 147 total yards.
Maury 55, Norview 20: The running game for Maury was dominant as they finished with 372 yards on the ground and over 100 from tailback DeSean Ackiss in keeping Norview from grabbing their first win of the year. Davion Taylor was the star of the show with four touchdowns, a pair of them on interception returns, and 204 all-purpose yards.
Nansemond River 28, Deep Creek 8: Tailback Latrell Sandifer ended Nansemond River's three-game losing streak by rushing for 197 yards and a touchdown against the Deep Creek Hornets. Junior Marvin Branch of the Warriors found the end zone on an interception return and blocked punt return.
Indian River 27, Great Bridge 26: Trailing 26-7 in the third quarter, Indian River came all the way back to secure their first win of the season, and got a monster performance from running back Jaque Sawyer with 19 carries for 206 yards and the go-ahead touchdown. Daniel Cross ran for a touchdown and threw a 13-yard TD pass to Richie Williams.
Heritage 30, Woodside 26: Now above the .500 mark for the first time this late in a season since 2007, the Heritage Hurricanes got 184 yards rushing and two touchdowns from tailback Khalid Abdullah in edging the defending Peninsula District Champion Woodside Wolverines. Cameron Siler and Richard Outlaw also added touchdown runs in the victory for the Hurricanes, who are 3-2 overall.
Warwick 30, Menchville 9: Senior quarterback Joshua Butler passed for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns, one each to David Smith and Demetree Harris, for the Raiders in their first victory of the season. Butler also made two interceptions on defense for Warwick.
#1 - - What Happens with Phoebus? Teams that undergo a coaching change during the season usually don't go on to win a Championship. That's not to say it can't be done. However, the road ahead for the Phoebus Phantoms, who are seeking a VHSL-record fifth straight state title, will be anything but easy. They'll have to get through both Lake Taylor and arch nemesis Hampton just to get out of the region. Each of their last two wins over Heritage and Bethel has been by a total of three points. Jeremy Blunt and staff have their hands full, especially if running back Tony Pittman does not return to the field. How the rest of their season plays out is about as unpredictable as anything gets.
#2 - - Tough Titans: Over the years, the Eastern District title has gone through Hank Sawyer and the Lake Taylor Titans. Not only does that appear to be the case this year, but Lake Taylor has been putting up the type of numbers that might make them the team to beat in the Eastern Region in Division 5, even over perennial Peninsula District giants Hampton and Phoebus, the school that has had their number in recent years. With reigning four-time State Champion Phoebus dealing with some off-field adversity, the Phantoms' title hopes at the region and state level are probably as vulnerable as they've ever been. As stated before the season, all the pieces are in place for a special run.
#3 - - Do Chesapeake Challengers Measure Up? Oscar Smith has won 50 Southeastern District games in a row. The Tigers haven't lost to anyone in their league since 2006 when Hickory beat them. They're expected to capture a ninth consecutive district crown this year. There are two teams, both in the city of Chesapeake in Western Branch and Grassfield, who believe they can push the Tigers. We'll find out what they're made of as Oscar Smith has been mowing down opponents since the season-opening loss, and it's going to the Tigers below their potential and either Grassfield or Western Branch putting forth their A-game to knock them off their perch.
#4 - - Eastern Region Rushing Race: There are a number of players capable of winning the Eastern Region rushing title from Western Branch's Josh Marriner, Lake Taylor's Brandon 'Pork Chop' Moore, Green Run's Anthony Scott and Bayside's Taquan 'Smoke' Mizzell on the Southside, to Phoebus' Tony Pittman, Kecoughtan's Trenton Cannon and Heritage's Khalid Abdullah over on the Peninsula. At this stage, Marriner looks to be the favorite and only player that could threaten for 2000 yards, although he's going to find it hard to do unless he gets multiple postseason games and his carries increase.
#5 - - Which Quality Team Misses Division 6: There presently is and should continue to be a logjam of teams battling for postseason spots in the Eastern Region in Division 6. Ocean Lakes, Oscar Smith and Salem seem to be locks, and then after that you're looking at unbeaten squads like Western Branch, Grassfield and Granby that figure to be safe choices to get in the playoffs. From there, you're looking at Bayside, Cox, Kellam and Kecoughtan with either one or two loss fighting for those last two spots. At 2-3, Woodside really needs to win out to have a shot of getting in, and a number of others might be in the same position, including 3-2 Bethel, also out of the PD.
Matthew Hatfield has covered Eastern Region Football & Basketball since 2004 for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail email@example.com, and don't forget to listen to him on the VirginiaPreps.com Hour every Saturday at 11AM on ESPN Radio 94.1 plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.