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August 25, 2013
Stags Edge Phantoms 24-20:? High School Football fans who came to the Virginia Beach Sportsplex on Saturday afternoon witnessed a real treat as one of the best football programs in Virginia took on a nationally-ranked opponent from Maryland in the Power Recruit Classic at Harold Heischober Field.
Predicted by most to cruise to victory, the DeMatha Stags never trailed, but couldn't pull away from the Phoebus Phantoms, who tied the game in both the second and third quarters and were an extra point away from doing so again early in the fourth quarter.? Jamal Robinson came through by blocking the extra point for the Stags, and in the fourth quarter with the game hanging in the balance, senior kicker Marc Burke booted through a 27-yard field goal to extend their lead to four.?
Ranked #15 in the country, DeMatha twice failed to push their lead to double-digits.? However, they were able to break the tie in the third quarter with a nine-play, 93-yard scoring drive capped off by a touchdown run from Lorenzo Harrison, a sophomore backup that was named the game's MVP.? On their final scoring series of the afternoon, the Stags marched 65 yards in 15 plays, chewing up 7:17.? As a result, Phoebus, which gave a valiant effort, had little time to work with and not the best field position either.
"Phoebus is a good team.? It kept going back and forth all game," commented DeMatha senior wideout Cameron Phillips, a Virginia Tech commit, afterwards.? "Actually, I think it was a lot of pressure because the season we have still ahead of us and the goals we're trying to accomplish.? We still tried to have fun with it at the same time and I think we did.? It was very competitive and I enjoyed it."
Despite being out-gained 310-185 and committing three more penalties, Phoebus played DeMatha evenly, toe-to-toe, for much of the contest.? Both teams were 5-of-10 on third downs.? The Stags didn't break a kick or punt return for longer than five yards, and the Phantoms finished +1 in the turnover category.
"We've got to learn from this and move on.? I'm not one for moral victories," remarked Phoebus Head Coach Jeremy Blunt, encouraged for the most part by what he saw from his squad. ?
"The kids did a great job.? We had a very short summer, only had one scrimmage, so this would've been our second scrimmage because we played early.? We went through a lot of injuries and people don't know we have four key guys out right now.? I'm looking forward to us getting healthier and seeing where we're going to go when that's all said and done."
Missing in action for the Phantoms were linemen Harry Lewis and Carlos Henderson, running back Ty'Rick Jones, and sophomore corner Robbie Robinson left the game with a tweaked ankle.
DeMatha managed to win without running back Mark Allen, one of their key playmakers committed to Penn State, not playing.
That pushed the score to 14-7 in favor of DeMatha, and it was clear when the game was over it was the difference.?
"It was," agreed Blunt.? "We had an opportunity on defense that drive and let it get away from us and they were able to score.? I believe if we stopped them there, we get our offense back on the field and we have a stronger opportunity to go up 14-7, get the ball back at half-time, punch it in coming back from half-time, go up and win.? I really feel if we would've been able to grab the lead and not just tie it would've been a different ballgame."
Phillips, a very confident and versatile receiver who's able to return punts as well, knew he needed to make a momentum-changing play.
"The offense had been moving kind of slow and the coaches told me they were going to have to go to me to make a play.? Sure enough, I did that, and it did help my team," noted Phillips.?
"My receivers did a very great job blocking for me.? As soon as I got to the sidelines, I thanked those guys first because without the blocking it might've been a little more difficult to do that.
Williams played the past three seasons for the Phantoms' archrival, Hampton, and if Saturday is any indication he's well on his way to an excellent season.? He carried the ball 20 times for 82 yards and a touchdown, proving he can churn out the tough to earn yards between the tackles and elude defenders when he gets to the second level of the defense with some effective moves laterally.
At the quarterback spot, Joe Addison, also a transfer from Hampton, got the nod over Terrell Toliver.? Last year as a freshman, Toliver started under center and had a 12-1TD/Int. ratio.? The move was puzzling to some, but Toliver reportedly is recovering from a concussion he suffered in the team's scrimmage against Grassfield and the Phantoms are eager to use his athleticism at other positions on the field, particularly wide receiver.
Both Addison and Toliver had some positive moments throughout the contest.? Addison completed 5-of-7 passes to go with a touchdown run and a touchdown pass to Toliver, who had three receptions for 17 yards.? While his total yardage wasn't great with 31 (16 rushing and 15 passing yards), Addison protected the ball in a game where multiple turnovers, even just one, can be magnified.
"We have two really good quarterbacks.? We have a sparkplug in Terrell and a manager in Joe Addison.? It's a long season.? If we plan on being there till the end, we have to trust our numbers," remarked Blunt. ?
"We've got playmakers all over the field.? You're going to see Phoebus.? When they decide to crowd the box on us, you're going to see another team.? We're going to make you defend the field.? Once we get healthy, get some guys back and put some pieces where we need them, we're really going to have people coming out here trying to figure what they're going to do on us."
Dale ended up with a game-high 11 total tackles, eight solo stops, five tackles for loss and three sacks.? Coming into the matchup, there were a couple of defensive prospects for DeMatha that were regarded higher, such as NC State commit Deonte Holden and linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley. ?
Even though Phoebus ripped off a couple of runs of 25-plus yards with Williams and York transfer JoMari Becnel, a sophomore, it was Matthews' presence at the linebacker spot that helped prevent the Phantoms from breaking off more and longer ones.
From the Phoebus perspective, much of it had to do with their overall team speed and physicality, which often matched and exceeded DeMatha for stretches of the 48-minute battle according to Blunt.
"I'll say I believe we're still more physical than them.? I'm watching tailbacks grab the ball, run to the numbers and their guys are tiptoeing," Blunt stated.?
"I know for a fact we were more physical than them.? I believe they were able to lean on us later on, and with their depth they were able to do some things.? I will say that we could've played a better game, but I'm happy with my kids and what they were able to do."
"That game against Lake Taylor was last year and what people fail to realize is I had an abused program, not from the coach that was removed because he was a great guy and I will always stand behind him.? Abused meaning from the outside we received a lot of negativity," commented Blunt.?
"These kids went through something most adults wouldn't be able to do endure, so us getting our butts whipped 54-0 was not because Lake Taylor was 54 points better than us, it was because we were a team just waiting for an excuse.? These kids mentally were overwhelmed."
With the way Phoebus competed in their opener, it does look very much like a different one that ended last season.? It'll have to be to get by those that may stand in their way - - such as the Titans - - and add another title to their trophy case.
Phoebus is approaching the 2013 season with an 'us against the world,' mentality, and given the program's success over the years - - seven state titles in the 2000's - - it's safe to say they should be there deep in the playoffs once again.? The Head Coach welcomes anyone thinking otherwise.
"What I say is last year is last year.? Whoever wants to dwell on last year, they can stay in the past," Blunt continued.? "No one believes in my program and our program.? They feel we're inexperienced at the coaching position, feel we're inexperienced on the field.? People can say what they want no matter who we play.? I like people betting against us."
DeMatha Stags 24:? (1-0 Overall)
Phantoms 20:? (0-1 Overall)
Matthew Hatfield has covered football and 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 every Saturday at 10AM on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.