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September 6, 2013
School has barely been in a week and already the Maury Commodores are above the .500 mark at 2-1 overall thanks to a 28-16 come-from-behind win over the Warwick Raiders on Thursday night at John B. Todd Stadium in Newport News. It was the third consecutive non-district affair for the Commodores in a span of less than two weeks, following a 62-0 season-opening thumping of Menchville and 34-19 loss to Grassfield.
Maury, which trailed 16-15 with 1:53 left in the third quarter, now has two wins over Peninsula District in the regular season for the first time ever.
"We're still trying to get them to grow up because we still have a lot of young kids - - sophomore quarterback, sophomore running backs, sophomore fullback and we've got some sophomore linemen," noted Commodores Head Football Coach Chris Fraser. "We have three games under our belt and Lake Taylor hasn't played one yet. It's kind of weird and really is a grind on our guys to play three games in 14 days, but we have two byes coming up."
Warwick struck first on a swing pass from senior quarterback Michael Curtis to running back Leroy Washington, who outraced a defender to the end zone for a 77-yard touchdown. They added to that lead when Charles Hubbard drilled a 38-yard field goal with 5:07 remaining in the second quarter to increase the Raiders' advantage to 10-0. Sandwiched in those scoring plays was an interception by linebacker Trovontez Butler. At that point, the Commodores were searching for an answer.
On the ensuing kickoff, Maury got an enormous lift from senior receiver Russell Barclift on his 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Junior linebacker and tight end Derek Wilder, an All-Eastern District First Team selection a season ago, caught the two-pint conversion pass to trim the deficit to 10-8, which would be the score at half-time.
Wilder wasn't done either and would make his impact later on the in the game. In the third quarter, sophomore tailback Delveon Little would go to the sideline with a minor shoulder injury and not return until the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. With Little bottled up to 60 yards on 18 attempts after rushing for over 200 yards in consecutive weeks, the Commodores turned to sophomore Markell Wood in the third period.
Wood delivered on Maury's opening series of the third quarter with 11 rushes for 51 yards, capped with a one-yard touchdown plunge on fourth-and-goal. His run concluded a 14-play, 76-yard drive that took 7:33 off the clock.
"He was huge," Fraser said of Wood. "Little took a hit on the shoulder and his arm was numb. They said you can't go back in until you get the feeling in, and we know Markell's a heck of a back, too. I'm glad he got a chance to get some carries. We had some people step up in key spots and make some plays, and showing character."
Maury didn't stay ahead for long because Curtis connected on a deep touchdown yet again through the air, finding junior tight end Christopher Young, a backup that played J.V. last year, on a 66-yard touchdown down the middle of the field. Suddenly, a game that featured a defensive stalemate in the first quarter with more penalty yards than total yards on offense was producing some offensive highlights.
But it would be a defensive play that put Maury back in front as Wilder, the son of ODU Head Football Coach Bobby Wilder, scored his second career defensive touchdown, intercepting Curtis and returning it 18 yards to paydirt.
"We watched film all week and saw them doing the one-back screens to the side. I just read it, saw it and they had been trying to run it all game. I just happened to be there and make the play," Wilder commented afterwards.
"We came out flat first half and couldn't get anything going. They were taking out the run, and then when Delveon went out, we had to get something on defense. We almost had a couple picks earlier and that just sparked [us]."
Over the years, dad has given Derek some pointers that he's transferred onto the field.
"I feel like I know what to tell the guys without making them frustrated. Breaking down film, I kind of know what to look for because talking with my dad helps a lot," Derek admitted.
Fraser was extremely relived to see one of his defensive standouts swing momentum in his team's favor with just 8:43 remaining in the fourth quarter. Warwick wouldn't find the end zone or red zone the rest of the night, and the Commodores, put it away with Latron Moore's touchdown with 1:17 to go, not long after Wilder recovered a fumble.
"Derek does most of the defensive calls on his own based on how they're lined up. He said 'I'm just going to cover the back,' and read it," Fraser remarked. "That's a coach's son. He saved us."
Maury has a bye week coming up, followed by a key Eastern District tilt with I.C. Norcom of Portsmouth. It's a game that the Commodores lost a year ago, but know the opportunity to go to 3-1 would only enhance their chances of returning to the postseason.
"We definitely have to prepare for all the games coming up. If we want to make a run, we're definitely going to have to take out these district teams. This bye week is going to be a huge week for us."
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.