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December 5, 2012
VirginiaPreps.com presents its annual All-Eastern Region Football Teams for 2012. There were numerous difficult choices to make, and many deserving, qualified candidates failed to get named First or Second Team. However, there were far more that did belong in the discussion to make it than ones that didn't.
Well represented on both the First and Second Teams were members from the Eastern Region Champion Lake Taylor Titans and Ocean Lakes Dolphins. Lake Taylor got five players on First Team, followed closely by Ocean Lakes' four players named on the First Team. A total of 15 different schools got players named to the First Team.
A quick review of how the team is selected. We name one quarterback, two running backs, a pair of receivers, a tight end, five offensive linemen and an athlete that can be any position. For defense, it's four linemen, four linebackers, three defensive backs, and an athlete from any position. On special teams, we go with a kicker, punter and two return men (sorry long snappers). And of course, a Head Coach from Division 5 and Division 6. Also, it is worth pointing out that no player can make it on both sides of the ball on this squad or multiple positions, so once you are picked at a certain position you can't make it at another.
Enough explaining things, let's analyze the squad from 2012, making up the best of the best in Tidewater football . . .
All-Eastern Region Offense:
QB - - Delmon Williams, Lake Taylor (JR)
Quarterback play has not always been a strong suit for Lake Taylor, a team that pushed through to the State Playoffs for the first time in 30 years with their junior signal caller Williams serving as an indispensable part of their high-scoring attack. Through 14 games, Williams has thrown for 1797 yards and a school-record 33 touchdown passes with only three interceptions, his first not coming until game #12 in the regional semifinals. Efficient he has been as well, completing 59% of his passes on the year.
RB and Offensive Player of the Year - - Josh Marriner, Western Branch (SR)
It's hard to top what Marriner did this season for the Bruins as they made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and notched their first postseason victory in five years. The Southeastern District Offensive Player of the Year flourished, rushing for a school-record 2168 yards on 253 carries and 26 touchdowns, proving to be the ultimate workhorse. Committed to play his College Football at UCONN, Marriner rushed for 417 yards against Great Bridge, the most by an Eastern Region player in a game in 18 years. Nine times this year, Marriner went over 150 yards rushing in 12 contests; quite an accomplishment.
RB - - Brandon 'Pork Chop' Moore, Lake Taylor (SR)
Named the Eastern District Offensive Player of the Year, Moore put together a memorable senior season for a Titans team that goes into Saturday's state title game with a record of 14-0 overall. On 212 carries, Pork Chop has rushed for 1799 yards and 24 touchdowns, and most impressively he has done all of that while playing a significant role on defense splitting touches on offense with Daquan Davis, a fellow 1000-yard rusher. To top it all off, Moore has caught 11 passes out of the backfield for 255 yards and three touchdowns.
WR - - Andre Dessenberg, Ocean Lakes (SR)
The Delaware commit really had his breakout season in 2012, hauling in 77 balls for 1155 yards and 22 touchdowns in helping lead the Dolphins to the State Championship game. Dessenberg, an All-Beach District First Team selection who began as a quarterback in the Dolphins' program, tied Charlie Carr's single-game Beach District for touchdown catches in a game with five, a record that was 49 years old. His 22 touchdown grabs also are there off the VHSL single-season record and tied the Beach record set by Landstown's Damon McDaniel in 2005.
WR - - Melvin Vaughn, Oscar Smith (SR)
A physical specimen that starred on both offense and defense for the Tigers, being tabbed First Team All-Southeastern District following an All-State junior campaign, Vaughn overwhelmed opponents throughout 2012. He did so in a variety of ways, too. In the regional semifinals, a 34-28 triumph over Salem, he showed his unique skills and versatility with four total touchdowns, three rushing, plus recorded 10 tackles from his linebacker position. For the year, Vaughn grabbed 57 passes for 856 yards and nine touchdowns.
TE - - Jalyn Holmes, Lake Taylor (JR)
One of the top rated juniors on the East Coast, Holmes gets it done on both sides of the ball for the Titans. An All-Eastern District First Team selection at tight end, Holmes has 22 catches for 325 yards and seven touchdowns, none bigger than his game-winner as time expired to beat Granby, giving Lake Taylor another league crown and home-field advantage throughout the regional playoffs. On defense, Holmes has made 74 tackles, 40 stops for loss and 11 sacks going into the state title match against Stone Bridge.
OL - - Alex Skidmore, Ocean Lakes (SR)
For Ocean Lakes to be as prolific as they have been this year, averaging 41.4 points per game in claiming district and regional titles, Skidmore is one of the unsung heroes for the group at left tackle. Not only does he protect the quarterback's blindside, but the Duke commit wins his one-on-one matchups more times than not, doing so enough to at least earn First Team All-Beach District honors and receive praise from numerous coaches throughout the area.
OL - - Shedrick Oliver, Oscar Smith (SR)
It was extremely hard to believe that the Tigers won the State Championship in 2011 without a single player on their offensive line being chosen First Team All-Southeastern District, but that changed this year with Oliver, one of the team's top returnees who lead the team in the trenches. With Oliver paving the way at tackle, the Tigers won their ninth straight Southeastern District crown and made it back to the regional title game , averaging 39 points and 355.1 total yards per game.
OL - - Cliff Arrington, Lake Taylor (SR)
Going into the State Championship game, Lake Taylor is averaging 45.3 points and 260.9 rushing yards per game, tops in the Eastern Region. The Titans haven't scored fewer than 21 points in any contest, and their offensive line has been mighty strong with Arrington, a returning starter and anchor at center, helping them control the line of scrimmage. Arrington was a First Team All-Eastern District pick by the coaches, doing his job for the Titans to produce a pair of 1000-yard rushers and help QB Delmon Williams set a school-record for passing yards and touchdown passes.
OL - - Tyreek Bailey, Phoebus (SR)
Year after year, the Phoebus Phantoms produce one of the region's and state's top rushing attacks, and it's not by accident. The program has a powerful running back, which they did once again in Tony Pittman, who led all Peninsula District players in rushing yards per game, and their massive offensive linemen open up gaping holes. Bailey did just that at center, where he was named All-Peninsula District First Team and the Phantoms wrapped up an undefeated regular season, their fifth in six years.
OL - - Connor Kearney, Ocean Lakes (SR)
A steady run blocker and pass protector for the Eastern Region Champion Dolphins, Kearney has been one of the pillars up front from the right guard position. The All-Beach District First Team selection deserves quite a bit of credit for paving the way for an explosive offense that this year has put up over 2500 yards on the ground and over 2800 yards passing, not missing a beat even when their starting quarterback went down due to injury.
ATH - - Deon Newsome, Hampton (SR)
A versatile athlete committed to play his College Football in the ACC for the Virginia Tech Hokies, Newsome was the catalyst for a Hampton offense that piled up 35.8 points per game nearly 364 total yards a contest. Showing toughness he did, playing with a dislocated knee in the regular season finale against Phoebus. Newsome ended up with 1027 yards and 15 touchdowns passing, and 1141 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing on 147 attempts for the Crabbers, who made it to the regional semifinals and closed with a record of 9-3 overall.
DL and Defensive Player of the Year - - Derrick Nnadi, Ocean Lakes (JR)
Words like dominating, enforcer and beast come to mind when thinking about Nnadi, a junior playing alongside another BCS-level talent in Demetri McGill (Maryland commit) on the defensive line for Ocean Lakes. Nnadi didn't just come from under McGill's shadow; he's often been the best player on the field for either team in most every game Ocean Lakes has played this season, recording 118 total tackles, 22 for loss and 11 sacks. In the Eastern Region Championship game alone, he recorded 13 tackles, four stops for loss and two sacks, propelling the Dolphins to the State Playoffs for the first time in school history.
DL - - Ricky Walker, Bethel (JR)
One of the top defensive linemen from the Class of 2014 with a host of offers on the table, Walker continued the family legacy at Bethel, following successfully in the footsteps of his older brother Rijo, who now starts in the secondary at the University of Virginia. Ricky was quite an instrumental player for the Bruins in the trenches, posting 75 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and forcing three fumbles to lead the team back to the regional playoffs. His play was so good that Walker was chosen the Peninsula District Defensive Player of the Year, a rare feat for an 11th grader.
DL - - Darren Flowers, Oscar Smith (SR)
Going into the 2012 campaign, there were more decorated Oscar Smith defensive linemen in Andrew Brown, a five-star prospect from the Class of 2014, and Kanyia Anderson, an Old Dominion commit who set the school single-season sack record a year ago. Flowers made a name for himself with a non-stop motor, registering 95 tackles, 12 for loss, 14 sacks and five pass deflections as the Tigers won yet another Southeastern District title. His superb play earned him All-Southeastern District First Team recognition as well.
DL - - Brandon Lynch, Lake Taylor (SR)
One of the forces off the edge for a Titans defense that is one of the best around, allowing the second fewest points per game in the region, Lynch earned All-Eastern District First Team honors for constantly being disruptive. Through the State Semis, Lynch has made 80 total tackles, 37 of them for loss and has 19 sacks. He leads the team in all three categories, taking his play up another notch when they've needed it most.
LB - - Andrew Motu'apuaka, Salem (SR)
For a Salem defense that held every foe they faced this year to under 300 total yards and five of them to below 100 yards, Motu'apuaka one of the main reasons why it tough to move the ball on the SunDevils. The Virginia Tech commit was fierce and aggressive all year long, racking up 143 tackles, 41 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and three interceptions while carrying the ball 10 times for 60 yards and three touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball. His swagger and intensity symbolized the Salem defense and earned him All-Beach District First Team honors once again.
LB - - Caleb Wilson, Granby (SR)
Nicknamed the 'Honey Badger,' for the Comets, Wilson made it possible for Granby to enjoy its best year since their 1966 State Championship season. Not only did he rush for three touchdowns on district rival Lake Taylor, the only player to do so against the Eastern Region Champs, but he flew to the ball and played with reckless abandon the entire year from his linebacker position. Wilson was a First Team All-Eastern District selection who ended up with 85 total tackles, 19 stops for loss, five pass breakups and four interceptions.
LB - - Daunte Wilson, Hampton (SR)
The younger brother of former Crabbers standout and Virginia Tech Hokie Tyrel Wilson, Daunte carved out a niche for himself this season, playing an integral role on offense at center as well as defensively from both the linebacker and defensive line positions. His best work came at linebacker, earning All-Peninsula District First Team honors in leading a Hampton defense that pitched five straight shutouts late in the regular season. One of his best performances came in a non-district win over Norcom when he notched two interceptions.
LB - - Marcus Mitchell, Grassfield (SR)
With only one scholarship offer on the table entering the year from Division II Brevard College, Mitchell wasn't on the recruiting radar for too many schools, but by season's end, nobody could question the effort he gave. Mitchell got chosen All-Southeastern District First Team, finishing with 92 total tackles and 43 solo stops, second most in Grizzlies history. He also had 13.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions to help Grassfield make it back to the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.
DB - - Quin Blanding, Bayside (JR)
Few players put forth as many impressive individual performances as Blanding, a five-star prospect from the Class of 2014 who excelled on both sides of the ball in being chosen First Team All-District at wide receiver and Beach District Defensive Player of the Year for his outstanding play at safety. To go with leading the region in receiving yards during the regular season, Blanding had 111 tackles, five interceptions, three blocked kicks, two fumble recoveries and a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown. Blanding has 15 career interceptions, plus 97 catches for 1715 yards and 15TD's over the last two years.
DB - - Charles Clark, King's Fork (SR)
Committed to play his College Football in the ACC at Virginia Tech, Clark could've mailed it in this year, but that wasn't an option for him because he wanted to guide the Bulldogs to the playoffs for the first time in its history. That he did, winning Southeastern District Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive season. Clark finished up with 57 tackles, four interceptions, three touchdowns on interception returns and a forced fumble while playing extensively on offense.
DB - - Vincent Lowe, Grassfield (JR)
Part of a ball-hawking Grassfield secondary with Paris Smith, Isaiah Harper and Tyler McKenzie, Lowe was tabbed First Team All-Southeastern District by the coaches for his top-notch speed and coverage skills. Besides his two interceptions and three fumbles recoveries, Lowe made his presence felt by scoring a defensive touchdown in three consecutive victories, which were all Grassfield wins over the likes of Indian River, Hickory and Western Branch that helped return them to the postseason.
ATH - - Antonio Jefferson, Lakeland (SR)
One of the region's best all-around athletes, Jefferson was a driving factor for the Cavaliers in the team winning its first playoff game as a Group AAA school. The All-Southeastern District First Team choice electrified the Cavs' offense with 54 receptions for 817 yards and 12 touchdowns, plus ran for 338 yards and three touchdowns. But it was at defensive back where he might've energized Lakeland the most, recording 75 tackles and a district-high eight interceptions.
P - - Tucker Hague, First Colonial (SR)
After a slow 1-3 start to the season in which they failed to notch a victory in regulation, things were looking mighty bleak for First Colonial. The Patriots turned things around by winning four of their final six games to close the year at .500. A First Team All-Beach pick, Hague was a key reason for the turnaround, averaging roughly 45 yards per punt and pinning more punts inside the five-yard line than any other player in the Eastern Region over the past two seasons.
K - - David Morrison, Cox (SR)
Continuing the Falcons' tradition of producing stellar kickers, Morrison made 6 of 7 field goal tries and all but one of his 25 extra point attempts for a Cox team that finished 7-3 overall, juts barely missing the postseason. In fact, the First Team All-Beach District selection has made 12 field goals over the past two seasons, second only behind UVA's Drew Jarrett in school history.
RET - - Taquan 'Smoke' Mizzell, Bayside (SR)
Mizzell was dynamic enough to make First Team All-Region at two other positions, running back of offensive athlete. Return man isn't a bad spot either as he not only took kicks back to the house and tilted field position in several games, but his presence alone had teams kicking away from him, even out of bounds sometimes. The five-star prospect committed to UVA capped his career with 3804 rushing yards, 76 total touchdowns with 194 rushes for 1231 yards and 31 total scores (23 rushing TD's) as a senior.
RET - - Richie Staton, Phoebus (SR)
Transferring to the Phantoms from Kecoughtan, Staton did yeoman's work in all three phases of the game with 14 total touchdowns five different ways. That included three kickoff return scores and a pair of punt return scores for the All-Peninsula District First Team selection, who sealed the regular season finale win over Hampton with a pick six. Committed to ODU, Staton also scored 7TD's receiving.
Division Five - - Hank Sawyer, Lake Taylor
After going 0-5 against Phoebus in the playoffs from 2012-11, Sawyer and his Titans broke through with a 54-0 thumping of the reigning four-time State Champions in the Eastern Region Championship, the school's first since 1982. Lake Taylor is playing in the State Championship and trying to become the first Norfolk school to win the hardware since 1966. Sawyer's team has won all 14 of its games so far with 12 of them by a minimum of 20 points.
Division Six - - Chris Scott, Ocean Lakes
The Dolphins were predicted to finish third in the Beach District before the season. Ocean Lakes has been eliminated in the quarterfinals of the playoffs each of the two previous years, and few could've envisioned the type of season they have had in winning the regional title for the first time in school history. Scott's Ocean Lakes team made it to the State Championship, despite seeing their starting quarterback, Corwin Cutler, go down to a season-ending ACL injury in the quarterfinals.
- - Corwin Cutler, Ocean Lakes (SR)
- - Demetri McGill, Ocean Lakes (SR)
- - Aaron Speziale, Great Bridge (JR)
Coach - - Joe Jones, King's Fork
Matthew Hatfield has covered Eastern Region Football since 2005 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.