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November 24, 2012
Titans Pummel Phantoms for Region Crown: It's pretty safe to say the Lake Taylor Titans were fed up with seeing their season end in the playoffs against the Phoebus Phantoms. One day after Thanksgiving at Harbor Park, the Titans feasted on the four-time defending State Champions to the tune of 54-0 in the Eastern Region Division 5 Championship.
With the victory, Lake Taylor improved its record to 13-0 overall on the season and claimed their first regional title in 30 years. For Phoebus, the loss ends their string of 22 straight postseason wins.
The Titans manhandled the Phantoms from start to finish, out-gaining them 303-5 in the first half in building a 34-0 lead at intermission. Lake Taylor came in having lost each of their past five of their playoff meetings with Phoebus dating back to 2002, including heart-breaking defeats last year and in 2009 in games where they led before falling. This time, the Titans weren't going to let it be close.
"We jumped out to a 14-0 lead last year, had our opportunities to score a couple other times and we didn't. Before we got on the bus, I showed them the second half of last year's film when we lost the game. It was very emotional before we ever got here how we lost that game. We watched Phoebus celebrate, and I challenged them not to feel like that again," declared Lake Taylor Head Football Coach Hank Sawyer.
"Phoebus is a second half team. They feel like they can come back on anybody, and we watched them do that. We wanted to jump back on them again and make sure that didn't happen. The kids want it bad. They want any kind of Championship they can get. They told me in August they wanted football to be over for them when it's over for the state and that's December 8th."
It was the most lopsided score in the history of Eastern Region Championship football games. Previously, the biggest blowout came in 1999 when Hampton thumped Heritage 44-0.
Phoebus hadn't been shutout since Heritage blanked the Phantoms 37-0 in 2000, scoring in 169 consecutive games. Furthermore, it was the fourth most amount of points Phoebus has allowed in a game, third worst ever defeat margin-wise and worst since Green Run routed them 73-2 back in 1985.
Lake Taylor got it done not only with 414 total yards - - 291 on the ground and 113 by air - - but also limited Phoebus to a season-low 13 yards, leading by 28 points before the Phantoms even picked up a first down.
"It was a close game with last year's team. This year, it wasn't," noted senior receiver Jakale Pinkney, who was on the receiving end of two touchdown passes in the first half.
"A lot of people thought we were going to lose because of previous years, but we were out to show this is a different year. At the beginning of the week, we watched film, saw what they did well, practiced hard and we thought we were going to play this well. The coaches told us to leave it all on the field."
The usual suspects starred for Lake Taylor. Quarterback Delmon Williams continued his efficient play by throwing four touchdown passes to raise his season total to 32 without any turnovers (he only has 2INT's on the campaign). Both tailbacks, Brandon 'Pork Chop' Moore and Daquan Davis, rushed for over 100 yards, combining for three touchdowns. Together, that dynamic duo has produced 3065 yards and 39 rushing TD's.
The Titans took the field on Friday night with an intensity, focus and determination. That confidence level and swagger is what seems to be different with the 2012 squad.
"This goes all the way back to summer time grinding. We made this a goal since the summer time to beat Phoebus, took the road to Clemson and we came here to beat Phoebus and go on to State's. We had to get our win back from last year when we were on the field crying, dropping like flies. That was a hurting feeling, so we had to come back and get it for our team and we also wanted to get this one for Coach Sawyer," commented Moore, the Eastern District Offensive Player of the Year.
"We still haven't played our best game yet and we're just going to keep going and going until it's over. We feel it's our year to win it, but we have to play each game one at a time in order to make it to the top. We've got to keep climbing that ladder and there's two more to go, baby."
Lake Taylor's journey continues on December 1st in the State Semis on the road at North Stafford, who defeated Mountain View 49-12 in the Northwest Region Division 5 Championship.
At the forefront of Lake Taylor's chaotic and aggressive, yet organized style of tenacious defense were Moore, Jamel Spellman, the co-Eastern District Defensive Player of the Year, and Shiheem Johnson. Spellman and Johnson recorded two tackles for loss apiece and collected 17 total tackles. Moore made three sacks alone, disrupting the timing for Phoebus freshman QB Terrell Toliver and proving to be bothersome for Phoebus' massive offensive line.
It didn't end with those three either. Brandon Lynch got his 18th sack of the season on the very first offensive play for Phoebus. Lynch capped off his night with a scoop and score, returning a fumble 23 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Lake Taylor's two BCS prospects from the Class of 2014 on the d-line, juniors Jalyn Holmes and Nyquan 'Big Money' Harris, gave the Phantoms problems all night long with Harris controlling the middle and Holmes coming off the edge to notch eight tackles. To go with his defensive exploits, Holmes caught a touchdown pass and scored on a two-point conversion offensively from his tight end position.
Against perhaps the fiercest defensive front he's faced his entire career, Pittman only registered one run longer than five yards, which was an 11-yard gain after half-time with the outcome not in doubt and a running clock going.
"The plan was to stop the run," Holmes stated. "Whoever had the ball, we had to keep running to the ball in a bad mood, keep playing a team defense and everybody had to do their assignments. We kept our heads in the game and we did what we had to do."
Even on the back end of the Lake Taylor defense, Pinkney, senior Donovan Powell and sophomore Nhyre Quinerly held things down in the secondary. Phoebus finished 2-for-12 passing for 18 yards with that trio breaking up seven passes.
On offense, Lake Taylor hit the Phantoms with several big-play weapons. Harry Freeman returned after missing the past two games due to an injury he sustained in the regular season finale against Norcom, and the All-Eastern District First Team selection hauled in 12th touchdown pass of the year. When the Phoebus defense keyed in on Freeman, Holmes, Davis and Moore, that opened the door for Pinkney to have what could be considered his breakout performance with a pair of receiving scores.
Paving the way for Davis and Moore was an offensive line that has jelled with new faces up front. Three starters in senior center Cliff Arrington, junior tackle Justice Gilbert and sophomore guard Anthony Williams. Big Money and Renante Fleming round out a starting unit that gave up no sacks on the night, containing a Phoebus defensive line that features a pair of Old Dominion commits in Mark Wilson and Richie Staton.
Defensively, the Titans held a Phantoms team averaging 253.5 yards rushing per contest to minus five yards on the ground. Maybe most impressively, they've given up only 60 yards rushing on the entire season.
For the Eastern District, this is only the fourth time in 47 seasons a team from that league wins the regional crown. This version of the Titans join Granby's 1966 squad, Maury's 1972 team and Lake Taylor from 1982 on that exclusive list.
"That's true," Holmes admitted. "I expected to feel more and I'm kind of numb to it all right now. It should open some eyes, but we have to still keep going because I just feel like we've got two more and the job's not done. We've got to finish the job."
Among some of the questions with the Phantoms going into next year will be who coaches the team? Jeremy Blount went from defensive coordinator to Head Coach in September, replacing Stan Sexton following an incident at practice.
The frightening part for Phoebus is that while they'll move down to Division 4 next year with the new classification system going into effect, they will have plenty of stiff competition, including Lake Taylor. Plus, the Titans only graduate eight seniors from this year's team, chock full of talented underclassmen.
Usually, it's Phoebus annihilating the opposition. To be on the other end of a shellacking is unfamiliar territory, but the Phantoms will have to go through Lake Taylor to add to its trophy case in the future.
"I'm just so happy for the kids and every kid that has played at Lake Taylor, especially everyone that I have coached that has lost to Phoebus or Hampton over the last 14 years I've been Head Coach," an overjoyed Sawyer stated afterwards. "Everybody played team offense, team defense and we came together and had a nice game. It's unbelievable."
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 Saturdays from 10AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1 plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.