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October 5, 2013
Bruins Overwhelm Grizzlies 55-7: Many that ventured to Art Brandriff Stadium in Chesapeake to check out the host Western Branch Bruins against the visiting Grassfield Grizzlies on Friday night expected to see a close, down-to-the-wire affair between Southeastern District postseason hopefuls. Instead, the home fans were treated to a blowout in favor of their Bruins, 55-7.
"I'm so proud of our kids. We had a great week of practice and they knew how much this game meant. It was a huge game for playoff seeding, possibly a home game and it was a monumental, program-changing win for us," remarked second-year Western Branch Head Football Coach Greg Gibson.
Now 4-1 overall, Western Branch got it done with a powerful running game and stifling defense. They rushed for 417 yards on 53 carries, gaining 146 of those yards on 22 attempts in the first period alone.
Grassfield (4-1) found the end zone on an 86-yard touchdown run from senior speedster Vincent Lowe, his fifth rushing score of the season. Wipe that play out and the Grizzlies gained only 30 yards on the night with five turnovers, three on interceptions and two via fumbles.
After Grassfield knotted the score up at 7-apiece, Western Branch went on to score 48 unanswered with 28 before half-time. Wake Forest commit Terence Ricks led the charge with a career-high four rushing touchdowns.
"We came in here with a focus and ready to play," said Ricks, one of five Bruins to rush for over 50 yards on the night. "We practiced that way all week and we played as a team tonight. The guys up front blocked really well and it was a good all-around effort."
Since losing 27-14 to Oscar Smith in September, the Bruins have won their last two games by a combined mark of 99-14. Western Branch had lost each of their past four meetings to the Grizzlies, who were handed their most lopsided loss in school history.
"You've got to get a signature win. That is definitely critical as far as making that jump of wanting to be an elite team," believes Gibson.
"First, you've got to beat very good football teams. Grassfield's got a great football program, they've won a lot of games, are a year in and year out top-tier playoff team. We got a signature win tonight."
"I definitely think the up-tempo caught them off guard. They do a lot of substituting, saw that during films and that helped us," Gibson said.
Although 2000-yard rusher Josh Marriner has graduated and gone on to UCONN, Western Branch was able to mix in Eugene Summerville, Mondryl Glover, Corey Gray and new QB T.J. Boothe (Hampton University commit) effectively with Ricks.
"Last year, everybody knew #22 was getting the football 90% of the time," admitted Gibson. "Now, we've got five guys involved running the football, so nobody can key in on one guy. We can go inside the tackles, outside the tackles, play-action pass and do a multitude of things with our stable of backs. I think that was a key ingredient to our victory."
Regardless of what they line-up in, Western Branch hit for at least 20 points in 14 of their last 17 contests under Gibson. What's the biggest thing the Bruins stress to have success offensively?
"Aggression," Gibson answered. "It's a phone booth offense and we have to be more aggressive than the defensive guys. "With the amount of kids we have running the ball, we're able to keep teams off balanced, but it's still smash-mouth football."
It's not only done on offense either. They made sure to bring the wood defensively. Ricks, Eric Vo, Kenan Johnson, Terrell Thomas and Zavion Hunt combined to make five tackles for loss.
"It's smash-mouth football. It's smash-mouth on offense, smash-mouth defense. We want to lock them down and not allow anything," commented Western Branch senior corner DaiQuan Lawrence, who's committed to play his College Football at Wake Forest.
"If the offense is having success, we try to piggyback off them and if the defense is getting it done, they try to piggyback off us. Whichever side is doing best, we try to match that and have a good game altogether."
In bottling up the Grizzlies, the goal was to keep Lowe and ODU commit Isaiah Harper in check. Harper had his lowest output of the season in terms of yardage, and Lowe lost five yards on his next five touches.
"We've been working on it all week. We knew they were their 1-2 punch and we felt if we shut them down it would make it easier on ourselves," stated Lawrence.
So how did they get it done?
"Not running up field and basically containing your gap," Ricks noted.
Another big difference was the addition of Maury transfer Davion Taylor, a dangerous playmaker in all three phases of the game. That has solidified a secondary that had some trouble last year in their losses to Oscar Smith in the regular season and Ocean Lakes in the regional semifinals.
"We've moved some people in different places, and when Davion came, that was another piece to the puzzle," added Lawrence. "He filled a spot, and our other corner from last year is now playing the linebacker position and he's doing better."
Having confident defensive backs and the coaching staff believing in them in one-on-one situations allows them to bring heavy pressure. To continue to do that, they have to perform at the level they did on Friday night.
"With our DB's DaiQuan and Davion it makes it hard for teams just to go over the top on us," Gibson said. "In the off-season, we talked about limiting the very good teams' explosive plays. Last year on top of turning the ball over against Grassfield, we also gave up about three explosive plays to their offense. That's something we've stressed all summer because if you can cut down those 20-plus gains and you yourself get 6-8 of those each game, that's what turns it around."
Kudos go to those blocking bullies. Going from left to right, Michael Cagle, Hampton University commit Thomas Coleman, Chris Myers, D.J. Lanier and Cody Smith simply had their way up front with Grassfield's defensive front. Throughout the course of the game, Grassfield saw a couple of its defensive linemen get dinged up with injuries.
Three of the Bruins' starting o-linemen - - Coleman, Myers and Smith - - are seniors, while Cagle is a junior and Lanier is a sophomore.
"They played a tremendous game, firing off the ball,
getting around on blockers. I couldn't
be prouder of them," commented Gibson.
Branch Bruins 55: (4-1 Overall)
Grizzlies 7: (4-1 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.