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October 12, 2013
Titans Trounce Truckers: Facing an undefeated Churchland team enjoying its best start since 1954, the Lake Taylor Titans braved the elements and soggy field conditions in Portsmouth on Friday night. The reigning Division 5 State Champions weren't slowed any by the rain or mud, cruising to a 55-6 running clock victory over the previously unbeaten Truckers.
With the win, Lake Taylor moved to 4-2 overall claimed sole possession of first place in the Eastern District, a league they've won ten times in the past 14 years. So far, they've outscored district foes 152-6 on the year.
"We played team defense and played really well as a team. We knew Churchland had some fire coming in because they were 5-0 and been undefeated since the 50's. We knew they hadn't played us yet. We were going after power ratings points and our goal was to jump on them," remarked Lake Taylor Head Coach Hank Sawyer.
"The weather took us to a different level this week. But the learning was there. We felt like we learned on the chalkboard as well as film."
The Titans gashed Churchland for 434 yards of offense, 393 coming on the ground on 35 carries, an average of 11.2 yards per attempt. Lake Taylor gained 241 yards rushing in the first half alone, finding substantial success on trap plays.
"It kept working. If it's not broke, don't fix it," said Lake Taylor junior Marquise Poole, who broke off three touchdown runs of 30 yards or longer before intermission. "Our linemen blocked good and really opened it up for us. I just hit it up the hole."
Behind the front wall of All-State left tackle Justice Gilbert, freshman left guard Darnell Ewell, sophomore center Lorenz Thacker, junior right guard A.J. Williams and senior right tackle Nyquan 'Big Money' Harris, the Titans overpowered Churchland's defensive front.
Three different Lake Taylor players averaged 18 yards per rush or greater, led by junior Marcus Hawkins' 181 yards on 10 rushes. Poole finished with 114 yards. They ran for six touchdowns with two coming from quarterback Shiheem Johnson.
Johnson, a starter at inside linebacker for the Lake Taylor defense, has made strides on offense each week since being thrust into the starting quarterback when All-State performer Delmon Williams went down with an injury in the season-opening loss to Oscar Smith on ESPNU.
"Shiheem's a bulldog. He reminds you a lot of Tebow when he was at Florida. He can run it, throw it, tough kid," Sawyer stated. "If I could every year I'd have me a linebacker at quarterback because of the mentality."
On the night, Lake Taylor scored on all three of their red zone opportunities, moved the chains 17 times, limited Churchland to just 97 yards of offense and four first downs, and stopped them on eight of the nine third downs.
"The trap worked for us. We thought we could run the ball going in, that was the game-plan and the game-plan was to contain their quarterback [Malik] Sexton. We know he's elusive, can run the ball and our main thing was to contain him," added Sawyer, encouraged by the progress his backs are making after replacing a duo in Brandon 'Pork Chop' Moore and Daquan Davis that combined for over 3000 yards on the ground a season ago.
"We lost some good backs, but we also had a more challenging schedule this year. We had some teams that play really good defense, so that might've had a lot to do with not having backs way up in the stats and all. Our time is going to come. We've got to get better each week, and hopefully by the playoff time, we'll be a different football team."
In Holmes' absence, several players made significant contributions on defense for Lake Taylor.
Harris had a game-high seven total tackles and controlled his space exceedingly well from the defensive tackle position. Daquan Delk applied pressure off the edge with three tackles for loss. Linebackers Anfreny Yancey and Albert Rice were factors in pursuit. Even on the back end, Nhyre Quinerly was a physical presence with four tackles and sophomore Wayne Davis contained his area well from the corner spot.
Sexton came in with over 500 yards passing and 500 rushing yards for Churchland, providing the Truckers with a dangerous dual-threat signal caller. Though he would complete a 30-yard touchdown to Lorenzo Cherry in the second quarter and broke off a pretty 46-yard run, he was held to 2-of-14 passing with an interception and had 52 yards rushing on 11 carries.
"I felt sad the L.C. Bird game. I was almost in tears because I feel like we're more than a football team, we're a family," Quinerly noted. "Not to go to war for one game with your family, that hurts you. Even though I know it's nothing I could've done, I apologized to them, came back this game and told them I've got them."
On the night, Quinerly was able to snag a 12-yard touchdown one-handed and also haul in a two-point conversion. He blocked an extra point on special teams and helped set a tone defensively.
Both Quinerly and Poole are the 'next in line,' prospects from Lake Taylor in the Class of 2015. In fact, Quinerly already holds an offer from Wisconsin. Poole's versatility being able to play so many different positions makes him an asset as well.
"I think they came in a little hungry and felt bad as the competitors they are about missing those games. They were anxious to play," Sawyer said of the pair.
Poole enjoyed perhaps his best offensive game in a Titans uniform since transferring over before the 2012 campaign from Booker T. Washington. His sights are on continuing to improve and trying to repeat and get a second ring going into his senior year.
"Day by day, we've been working, practicing and getting our timing better," commented Poole. "If we play as a team, we can beat anybody."
Taylor Titans 55: (4-2 Overall; 3-0 in Eastern District)
Churchland Truckers 6:
(5-1 Overall; 2-1 in Eastern District)
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 on High School Sports Talk from 10AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1 plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.