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November 2, 2012
It's the last week of the regular season in Eastern Region High School Football for 2012. Oh where did the season go? It absolutely flew by, and the playoffs are almost set. The games this week will decide things. Not only do we have the enormous Peninsula District Showdown on Thursday night at Darling Stadium between the Hampton Crabbers and Phoebus Phantoms, but also King's Fork visiting Oscar Smith in the Southeastern District, Granby taking on Maury in the Eastern District on Saturday, and Lake Taylor traveling to Portsmouth to play Norcom.
Before we start to breakdown this week's matchups, let's review the Eastern Region Prediction Standings with State Football Editor Rod Johnson, VHSL-Reference.com and Matthew Hatfield.
#6 Hampton (8-1) at #4 Phoebus (9-0) . . . The Peninsula District Game of the Year won't likely have enormous stakes in terms of seeding for the playoffs as these two are likely to check in as the #2 and #3 seeds in Division 5, unless Lake Taylor loses on Saturday night in Portsmouth to Norcom. If that happens, then the winner here has a shot to claim the #1 seed. What is on the line is the Peninsula District regular season title. A win for Phoebus gives them the crown outright. A Hampton victory creates a three-way tie with the Phantoms and Bethel, who handed the Crabbers their only loss in 2012 to date. With that in mind, this might be chapter one of two between these two archrivals with the next meeting potentially coming in 15 days in the regional semifinals at Darling Stadium.
What's rare about this year's matchup is it comes on a Thursday night as the game was moved up to accommodate the wedding of Mike Smith's daughter. The boss for the Crabbers has watched his team pitch five consecutive shutouts, marking the first time they've done that since 1984 when they ended up making it to the AAA title game, only to fall to T.C. Williams. Hampton comes at teams with a 1-2 punch in the backfield in QB Deon Newsome and RB Marshawn Williams, both committed to play their College Football in the ACC at Virginia Tech.
Newsome has thrown for 794 yards and an 11-7TD/Int. ratio to go with 843 yards rushing and 11TD's; Williams comes in just 61 yards shy of 1000 with 15TD's on the ground. They've also got ODU commit Daquin Moore (15Rec. 220Yds. 1TD) out wide and RB Roscoe Hale, who has rushed for 267 yards and 4TD's the past two weeks. The defense is led by Moore from the secondary as well as linebacker Daunte Wilson, who made two interceptions versus Norcom, and defensive linemen Joemel Redd, Quan Henry and Troy Garrett.
As great as Hampton has been, outscoring its foes 355-50 on the year, Phoebus has been just as impressive with a 385-77 margin versus its opponents. The Phantoms went through what some might consider mid-season turmoil when Stan Sexton was dismissed as Head Coach following an incident at practice, and defensive coordinator Jeremy Blount stepped in, and they haven't really missed a beat yet. Tailback Tony Pittman was suspended for two games during the transition, and he continues to move the chains at will with 1286 yards and 15 touchdowns on just 147 attempts. Da'Quan Lane gives them another threat in the backfield with 84 rushes for 673 yards and 10TD's.
Richie Staton, a Kecoughtan transfer, has given them a spark in multiple facets of the game with 11TD's total, scoring on five of his seven receptions, three kickoff returns, two punt returns and a fumble recovery. Defensively, he's a factor as well with 60 tackles and 10 sacks. Defensive end Mark Wilson, who's committed to ODU, will chase quarterbacks constantly, while linebacker Atavius Matthews is a heat-seeking missile looking to unload on ball carriers. Harry Lewis and Kevin Lyles also cause havoc on the d-line.
#1 - - Make Phoebus Pass: The Phantoms are +17 in turnover margin largely because they've been able to keep it on the ground and allow freshman QB Terrell Toliver (9TD's, 0INT's passing) to make safe, low-risk throws to receivers. If Hampton is able to bottle up the run game somewhat and force the ninth grader to have to put it in the air, especially on third downs, the probability for the Phantoms to turn it over probably increases significantly. The Crabbers want to force Toliver to beat them with his arm, and also see just how capable of the Phantoms' receivers are against a pretty steady secondary with Moore, Trey Pressley and sometimes even Newsome roaming back there.
#2 - - Receivers Need to Step Up: At times, the Crabbers' receiving corps has had a case of the dropsies (just see their games against Warwick and Norcom for further evidence). They do have legit talent at the position and can get the job done. Moore leads them with 15 receptions, and after him they are counting on Trevor Arneaud, freshman Jovonn Quillen and junior Umar Muhammad-Wyatt. The more plays they make, even after gaining extra yards after the catch, the less pressure there will be on Newsome and Williams to have to spark the offense against a Phoebus defensive front that is downright physical.
#3 - - Wrap Up Pittman: He's the engine that makes the Phoebus offense go, and if you let him get a full head of steam, defenses are in for a long night. Hampton has to tackle him on the initial hit. Pittman, who my VirginiaPreps.com colleague Rod Johnson wrote earlier in the week runs as violently as any player in the state, simply punishes defenders. The d-line needs to get decent to good penetration, and the linebackers have to get a hat on him or else he'll get to the second level of the defense with a chance to break one 20-plus yards. Those runs are the ones that prove to be really demoralizing for the opposition, and as long as the Crabbers can prevent those or limit that number, they should be in okay shape.
#1 - - Keep Newsome in the Pocket: Perhaps the only quarterback in the region that does as much damage if not more passing and running, fitting the dual-threat description, is Salem's Bucky Hodges. Newsome has over 1600 total yards, 22TD's total and the scary thing is his most natural position at the next level if he stayed on offense may be receiver. In the open field, Newsome make life miserable for defenses. Don't let him use his legs to scramble around and make plays. Phoebus has to collapse the pocket and force him to get rid of the ball quickly, and corral him before he gets to the level of the defense where linebackers and defenses are matched up one-on-one versus him.
#2 - - Field Position: Even if the Phantoms are unable to put together one of their vintage long drives of smash-mouth football, running it down their opponents' throats, it's important they control field position so that Hampton's offense has to be conservative to avoid a mistake that would cost them immediately on the scoreboard. Phoebus has proven they can win games that are low-scoring and don't need to be ultra explosive as long as they are tackling well, playing crisp defensively and in control of field position. This is potentially one of those matchups where neither offense gets a whole lot going because of the amount of speed, depth and athleticism the two defenses possess.
#3 - - Don't Shoot Yourself in the Foot: Above all else, this means minimize and eliminate the penalties. Phoebus has 609 yards in penalties, the most among all Peninsula District teams and fourth highest in the region in that category. When Bethel nearly beat them earlier this year, the Phantoms were flagged 13 times for 120 yards. Now granted, that was the team's first game after the coaching switch from Sexton to Blount. But Phoebus cannot have undisciplined, lack of composure type moments that burn them and give Hampton a shorter field to work with because the Crabbers are good enough to capitalize on those opportunities. Other teams in the PD they've faced might not be, but this team has at least three D-1 talents on offense with Newsome, Williams and Moore who'll make you pay.
Both running games are great. Defensively, they both have the ability to dominate and do so for long stretches. Neither team's passing game is spectacular, so that seems to be a bit of a wash. Hampton has been just a smidge stingier defensively, but Phoebus seems slightly more explosive with their ground game with a massive offensive line pancaking substantially smaller defensive linemen that they've faced to this point. Don't be surprised to see this come down to a kick late or at the very end. For years, that advantage in special teams would go to Phoebus because of Eric Enderson, their clutch kicker who's now at Delaware. This year they've had a few more issues than usual in that area on special teams with 12 missed extra points, while Hampton has been sound in this department.
It's doubtful that the Hampton defense can shut down Pittman. On the other end, it's going to be quite a task for Phoebus to be able to contain Newsome, Williams and Hale, who is definitely one of the x-factors in this game. A defensive touchdown off a takeaway or a kick/punt return can shift the advantage to either team. Just like it should when these two rivals and powerhouse programs with plenty of hardware in their trophy cases meet, look for it go to down to the wire and the team with the ball last to probably pull it out.
King's Fork has some weapons outside of Clark in freshman running back Deshaun Wethington, junior QB Uriah Adams and WR Davon Grayson, an East Carolina commit. They're going to really need the offensive line to step up and prevent the Tigers from getting penetration up the middle. Defensively, they have to worry greatly about stopping QB Dashawn Blow (1726 yards passing, 26TD's) and his stellar cast of receivers with ODU commit Melvin Vaughn (37Rec. 608Yds. 7TD's), UVA commit Zack Jones and Jaylen Bradshaw as well as RB's DeShawn McClease and Marcus Smith. Oscar Smith is looking for consecutive win #55 in the Southeastern District, and they're on a roll right now.
Says: Oscar Smith 45-10
Says: Lake Taylor 41-13
Says: Ocean Lakes 38-14
Says: Salem 54-6
Says: Granby 24-17
Says: Western Branch 49-17
Whether or not Hudson plays, Bethel has seen fullback Brian Moore become a big part of their offense with 276 yards on the ground. Quarterback Trey Jackson can make things happen passing or rushing. Up front on the defensive line, Ricky Walker is an animal, making five tackles for loss last week against Warwick and he recently picked up another offer from Boston College. I'm very tempted to call for Woodside to pull the upset in this spot, but they've been banged up at the quarterback position lately and their defense has trouble getting off the field besides when Flood or someone creates a turnover. I do expect this to be a close game that may take overtime to decide the outcome.
Says: Bethel 26-23 (OT)
Wideout Antonio Jefferson currently leads the Cavs with 39 grabs for 652 yards and 6TD's, and he isn't the only reliable weapon with Derrick Edghill, Mike Piersawl and Darnell McMillian all capable of making a big play. The key to the game will likely be how well Nansemond River's defense with Marvin Branch, Tiron Smith, Demario Valentine and others contain Lakeland's ground game with Raekwon Johnson, last year's SED Player of the Year. Offensively, the Warriors need some play-action passing to balance out their offensive standout, junior RB Latrell 'Vegas' Sandifer (1246 yards, 12TD's). In the end, Lakeland has too much speed on the outside for the Nansemond River defensive backfield to contain in my opinion.
Says: Lakeland 31-21
Says: Cox 20-16
Says: Green Run 27-12
Says: Wilson 33-27
Says: Hickory 27-26
Says: Heritage 35-9
Says: Warwick 49-13
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and don't forget to listen to him on High School Sports Talk from 10AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1 plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.