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November 6, 2012
Another 10-0 Season for Titans: For the tenth time in the last 14 years, the Lake Taylor Titans are Champions of the Eastern District in football. They overcame an early 14-7 deficit in Portsmouth on Saturday night and scored 42 unanswered points to beat the Norcom Greyhounds, 49-14.
Lake Taylor's victory wrapped up a perfect 10-0 regular season, their third in six years. Perhaps most importantly though was securing the #1 overall seed for the Eastern Region Division 5 Playoffs, meaning every game will be at home and in the city of Norfolk as they try to reach the State Playoffs for the first time since 1982.
"They bounced back," Lake Taylor Head Football Coach Hank Sawyer said in regards to trailing early. "They're teenagers and they've been through a lot, playing two games in one week and listening to me barking, hollering. We wanted to keep the top seed because if I don't have to go on the Peninsula, I don't want to go on the Peninsula."
The Titans have now scored 40 or more points eight times this year and rank second in the Eastern Region in scoring at 46 a contest. Igniting Lake Taylor's latest offensive onslaught was versatile senior talent Donovan Powell, who can play quarterback, running back or wide receiver on offense as well as in the secondary on defense.
Powell operated at QB in their twin-veer system, rushing for 101 yards and a career-high four touchdowns on 14 attempts. Consistently, he was able to move the chains. That included Lake Taylor going 6-for-11 on third downs and converting all three of their fourth down opportunities.
"I just want to thank my line for the protection. I felt like I needed to step up in my role to create some good momentum for my team. It took us a while to get right, and that was even during practice the whole week. As soon as we got in a groove and came together as one, things started to click better for us," Powell remarked afterwards.
"I feel like we need to correct some of the small mistakes to be even better, and I think we're going to take it to another level next week. We just have to focus at one game at a time, and I think if we can do that we can get to our goal, which is State's. This team is real hungry."
Lake Taylor needed a game-winning touchdown catch on fourth down as time expired to beat Granby, 27-25 two weeks ago, and just four days earlier won a 63-40 shoot-out versus Churchland. Their defense surrendered more points (65) in those two contests than they did in their seven previous games combined (27).
It took Norcom less than six minutes to get points thanks to a 59-yard touchdown pass from Darron Downing to Darius Jackson along with a 64-yard run from Traquan Martin to set up Downing 1-yard TD sneak. The Greyhounds gained 135 yards on 16 plays in the opening half, but were 0-for-3 on third downs and trailed by two touchdowns.
Lake Taylor's defense stepped up in the second half, allowing only 20 total yards and keeping Norcom out of the red zone as well as the end zone. This victory over a Greyhounds team that reached the region title game a year ago and pitched a 27-0 shutout the last time the Titans came to Portsmouth should raise their confidence going into the postseason.
"I think we got it back a little bit today. I'm going to have to put up a few new defensive fronts because you show your hand at being really good early, and then people say I've got to ready to stop this, stop this. The same way I want to run the ball, I've got to stop being so stubborn and change some things defensively to keep people honest to take some pressure off my kids," Sawyer noted.
"That's why you need coaching. Sometimes you get in that funk like we did last week against Churchland. Kids don't know how to get out of that funk. You've got to help them get out of that and show them. We couldn't do a lot of contact this week and we did a lot of film [study]."
The Titans attack opponents with multiple receivers that do damage in Harry Freeman (12 TD catches on the year), Jakale Pinkney (38-yard TD on slant pattern in the 4thQ), Nhyre Quinerly and mammoth 6-foot-5 tight end Jalyn Holmes. Tailbacks Brandon 'Pork Chop' Moore and Daquan Davis have combined for over 2200 yards rushing and 27TD's as well.
At the quarterback position, Powell is a threat on the run and Delmon Williams continues to be sharp slinging the ball to their many talented weapons as he will go into the playoffs with a gaudy 23-0TD/Int. ratio, plus has completed over 60% of his passes for the year.
"We're trying to keep you off balanced. Early in my career, I started out and was just run, run, run," Sawyer admitted. "Now I don't mind throwing the ball a little bit."
Having two QB's with the ability to hurt defenses gives Lake Taylor flexibility and makes their attack all the more diverse moving forward. That should also complicate the preparation for defenses that will see the Titans in the playoffs.
"We're not only alternating them, but both of them are in the game at the same time. You should see Delmon Williams catch the football. He plays scout team receiver for us a lot of times. He can catch the football real well," Sawyer went on to say.
"Donovan's just unbelievable in space. Let's face it he's a better athlete in space than Delmon is, whereas Delmon's a better passer than Donovan is. With that two-headed monster, we're blessed. We have five quarterbacks on this team. Even Marquise [Poole] played quarterback for ten games for Booker T."
Davis' emergence has allowed Moore to catch a breather when needed and he's showing he has the ability to put the offense on his back if called upon.
"He can do some things. If you want to key on Pork Chop, go ahead because Daquan can pop," Sawyer stated. "We feel good about him and he'll make you miss. He's very quick."
Davis, who checks in at 5-foot-6, 160-pounds, took quite a pounding despite being a smaller guy. Now ten games into Lake Taylor's system, he has adjusted pretty well and hopes to be a major factor for them in the postseason.
"I'm a little sore, but we've got to rev it up even more for the playoffs. This was a good win for us as we get ready for what's up ahead. We knew we had to win this game to get the Eastern District title, and this is just one step towards going for a State Championship," Davis said.
"I'm a little bit more comfortable than I was at the beginning. I'm starting to understand the system more. Things are coming to me easier now and I'm just trying to do what I can for my team."
Hampton has won four of the last five meetings during that stretch, including 27-13 earlier this year in the regular season. However, the Greyhounds did end the Crabbers' campaign in the regional semifinals last year, 20-14 at Darling Stadium. Norcom is hoping the same thing that happened in 2011 occurs this November, which was beat a Crabbers that defeated them in the regular season in 'win or go home' mode.
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 High School Sports Talk from 10AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1 plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.