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November 17, 2012
Dolphins Beat Bruins, Reach ER D-6 Final: The Eastern Region Division 6 semifinals did not get off to a wonderful start for the undefeated Ocean Lakes Dolphins on Friday night at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex. Western Branch won the coin toss, electing to defer, and the Bruins caught the Dolphins by surprise when they recovered an onside kick and then scored on the first play from scrimmage to lead 6-0.
In fact, Ocean Lakes trailed 13-7 at the end of the first quarter with the fourth-seeded Bruins thinking upset at that point.
After that, the top-seeded Dolphins seized the opportunity, absolutely grabbing it by the throat as they scored 34 unanswered points over the next 33 minutes on their way to a 47-20 rout that will have them playing the day after Thanksgiving for the Eastern Region Division 6 Championship. The Dolphins push their record to 12-0 overall.
"We told these guys when it gets to this time of the year you're playing against a good football team. How are we going to answer? Are we going to make it a match? Are we going to fold? I knew these guys wouldn't, but I said hey, you don't tell me, you show me," Ocean Lakes Head Football Coach Chris Scott remarked afterwards.
"They showed their coaches and they showed each other. They're brothers."
Leading the way for Ocean Lakes on offense was junior signal caller Walter 'Churchie' Harold and senior wide receiver Andre Dessenberg, a Delaware commit and First Team All-Beach District selection.
Harold, making his second start after a torn ACL put starting quarterback and UVA commit Corwin 'Turtle' Cutler on the shelf for the rest of the year, was in a groove all night long. Churchie connected on 10 of 14 passes for 219 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
Dessenberg hauled in five passes for 133 yards and three touchdowns, all coming in the first half as the Dolphins erupted to take a 27-13 lead into the locker room at half-time. He wasn't finished there either. Dessenberg sealed the game with an interception return for a touchdown as time expired.
"Only one football and there's got to be only one guy throwing it and on guy catching it or one guy carrying it, but what a great team. I love the leadership coming from the quarterback position and from our wide receiver position," Scott commented.
"I'm happy for them, but I'm happy for our guys on the team. They really stayed back-to-back all night and played what we've asked for, Dolphin football."
When the Western Branch defense decided to blitz and try to get after an inexperienced quarterback, Dessenberg made them pay over the top.
"Every week, we prepare as if Turtle does go down and we have the backup or the next guy ready to play. We practice to face adversity, and every day that's how we do it," Dessenberg stated.
"I felt that if they feel they can play us man, we're going to line up and see what they can do in man."
Tailback Brandon Simmons rushed for 125 yards on 17 carries, capping an eight-play, 90-yard scoring drive late in the fourth quarter with a touchdown.
When Dessenberg began playing football at the High School level, he had no idea he would go on to play the receiver position. Once he started practicing there, he gradually progressed to where he's putting up stats rivaled by no one else at his position in the region.
"It came out of nowhere. My freshman year, I played quarterback. Lafonte [Thourogood] played quarterback another year. Justin Hunter and everybody left, we had a spot on the field and I just wanted to play early," Dessenberg recalled.
"I basically took that spot and realized that if I can do this, I can do anything. That's what I chose."
Dessenberg now has 70 catches for over 1000 yards on the season as well. He is four touchdown receptions away from tying the single-season VHSL record, something that will be well within his grasp if the Dolphins advance to the State Semis. But even if they don't, he's proven to have unbelievable games with 5TD's receiving against Kellam in the regular season finale earlier this month.
His contributions to the Beach District Champions are so valuable that you can't put a price tag on it, says Coach Scott.
"He's meant everything. I think he's been one of those guys that people have said, 'Is he? What can he be? What can he do?' [People] kind of had him as one of those question marks and he's answered that all year long," the Dolphins Head Coach stated.
"Most importantly, he's been so vital for us to give us a deep threat. He's put up some pretty good numbers, unparalleled to a lot of receivers coming out of this area. Whether it's blocking, making touchdown receptions, he's done it all year."
Marriner entered having gone over 150 yards on the ground nine times this season. On the first play from scrimmage, he busted a 44-yard run for a touchdown, but was held to 40 yards on his next 25 carries. He finished up with 84 yards on 26 attempts, gaining just six yards on 11 attempts in the second half.
Western Branch had a season-low 198 yards of offense, and against the top-ranked scoring defense in the region that features a pair of dominating defensive tackles in junior Derrick Nnadi, who had 12 tackles and four behind the line of scrimmage, and senior Demetri McGill (Maryland commit), it made for tough sledding.
"They've got capable players, we over-scraped early on and they got two decent runs on us, but from there 56 and 65 (McGill and Nnadi) that's in the middle of that defense, they're going to take that personal," Scott pointed out. "They dug in their heels and decided to play football."
Committed to play his College Football at UCONN, Marriner ends his season with sensational statistics of 2255 yards and 26 touchdowns, tops in the region in both categories, which should make him a lock to be All-Eastern Region First Team and a very viable candidate to be chosen All-State.
"Coach Scott always said just be ready and always play as if you are the starter. You never know what will happen and you're always one play away," Harold said.
"It was a team effort and I just came in there and did what my team needed me to do. Having my teammates, coaches, the fans, my family and everyone else behind me, I had a lot of motiving to get me going."
Cutler, the Beach District Offensive Player of the Year who threw for 2232 yards and 31 touchdowns on the season before his injury, offered him some advice as well.
"He always tells me to stay calm, stay poised and don't force anything. Take what the defense gives you," Churchie revealed.
Churchie also has lofty expectations to live up to within his own family. His uncle is last year's Beach District Defensive Player of the Year Eli Harold, a freshman defensive end at the University of Virginia. Also related is James Madison's Sage Harold.
The goal for Churchie certainly in the short-term is to win a Championship with the Dolphins, and long-term have a chance to play at the next level to keep the family tradition going.
"They all laid a nice path out for me, so all I've got to do is follow on that path and keep working," he said.
Lewis, one of the state's top prospects from the Class of 2015, hauled in three passes for 50 yards and a touchdown to go with three rushes for 21 yards, including a 16-yard reverse. That brings his totals to seven touchdowns on the campaign, six of them receiving.
Sticking with numbers, Harold was hoping to get the #1 that Eli wore a season ago and keep it in the family. Dessenberg got it instead and he was stuck #2, though he's not settling for second best.
"I was supposed to get #1, but Andre took it from me," Churchie went on to tell. "After that, I was just like, it's okay, I'm going to make a name for myself. But I'm not playing for second, I'm playing for first."
Playing for first in the region in D-6 the Dolphins will be on Friday night at 7:30 PM at the Sportsplex as they try to move on to the State Playoffs.
Oscar Smith won the last meeting, 28-21, denying the Dolphins their chance of winning the school's first region title. The Tigers have won four regional crowns since 2007 and are seeking their third state title in five seasons.
"It's big. We are the underdogs. Each game we go into against a big team, we're predicted the ones not to do it, so we basically just want to come out and show everybody that the Dolphins, we're not backing down from anybody," Dessenberg said.
Scott, a former Ocean Lakes player who led them to their last Eastern Region Championship game appearance, knows that this will be the biggest game in the program's history.
"If you see our fan support and our school support, I think it's been great and electrifying for the school," Scott noted. "I think it's been something we've been clawing back to inch by inch over the last three to four years, and these young men have done a great job of putting ourselves in a great predicament to have a great football game next week."
Lakes 47: (Dolphins 12-0 overall)
Branch 20: (Bruins 9-3 overall)
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 Saturdays from 10AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1 plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.