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June 9, 2014

Lake Taylor Wins 7 on 7 at Bayside

Bayside High School in Virginia Beach was the site of the first 7 on 7 Passing Tournament this month in Hampton Roads and a team familiar with winning took home the Championship. The Lake Taylor Titans outlasted a small, but strong seven-team field this past Saturday by beating the host Marlins in the title game.

The final victory capped an undefeated day for Lake Taylor, which saw them grab a first round bye for the tournament and also toppled nationally-ranked Oscar Smith twice.

For the Titans, they took a lot of positives out of the day and see progress as they head into the summer.

"It's good to have everybody working on some things to get ready for the season because you've got to get work. We need the work. We've got some new kids in new positions. There weren't a whole lot of teams, but there was quality here with teams that are well-coached," stated Lake Taylor Head Football Coach Hank Sawyer, who has gone 130-42 in 15 years at the helm of the Titans.

Engineering a rather crisp Lake Taylor offense on the day was Shiheem Johnson, an All-State performer at linebacker during his junior campaign. Johnson got thrust into the role in 2013 when Delmon Williams, their All-State signal caller from the 2012 state title winning team, suffered a torn ACL in the opener.

"He's throwing it so much better. Last year, you call on a kid right at the beginning of the season that thinks he's going to play tight end, running back and linebacker to be a quarterback and that's difficult. Now, he's working on his throws, hitting the receivers and that's what we need him to do," said Sawyer.

"What happens in football is the other team is going to check your main guy, so you better find some other guys to go to when you need to. We'll still run the football, but we're going to throw it around a little bit, too."

Oscar Smith, which was missing star cogs such as running back Deshawn McClease and defensive end Josh Sweat, suffered its only two losses to Lake Taylor, a team they defeated 42-2 to open the regular season a year ago on ESPNU. The Tigers bested Princess Anne in the quarterfinals and Granby topped Deep Creek.

Bayside made its way to the Championship game by surviving a couple of battles with Granby and Western Branch. They edged the Bruins on a remarkable one-handed snag for a touchdown at the end by Class of 2015 DB/WR Jamez Brickhouse, who's committed to play his College Football at Old Dominion.

Defensively, Lake Taylor was in its usual aggressive, ball-hawking mode. In tournament play, they got interceptions from defensive backs Nhyre Quinerly (Class of 2015) and Wayne Davis (2016), each of whom holds BCS offers, as well as All-Region middle linebacker Anfreny Yancey (2015).

While the headliners like Davis, Quinerly and Yancey stood out for Lake Taylor, the Titans also received great play from a couple of others on the offensive side of the ball in Marcus Hawkins, a small, yet speedy running back from the Class of 2015, and Carlos Hinton, another rising senior that plays tight end and has a dependable pair of mitts.

Both Hawkins and Hinton hauled in touchdown passes to create breathing room against Bayside, which tried to inch closer when DB/WR Deshawn Doby (2015) made an interception.

"We've got a lot more playmakers than we thought we had. We've got some kids under the radar that are playing real well and can't say enough about them," Sawyer noted.

"The kid Prezhontay Wilkins was a backup receiver/outside linebacker and he scored a few touchdowns today. Joe Bryant, one of our coaches' young son, is a rising ninth grader is going to be alright. Dazmine Palmer is also coming around for us. We're happy about that, and also that Shiheem hit a lot of open kids."

Lake Taylor will not be headed to Clemson this year due to the fact that their Team Camp will be going on while the Titans are still in school. Instead, the Titans will take 25-30 players to James Madison University's Team Camp on June 22nd for four days.

The next few months will be imperative as they always are for football teams gearing up for the season. However, that time could be even more precious in some instances.

"It's kind of different this year with the All-Star Game being away (in Lynchburg) and the state having that 10-day layoff where you can't work your team out. That's rough," Sawyer pointed out. "Take a team like Oscar Smith who has an early game in August and also Norview. Since it's 10 days it splits up the two weeks. You've got to ask the kids to go work out on their own and then come back and see me."

After completing a perfect 15-0 season in 2012 to capture the school's first ever State Championship in football, Lake Taylor finished 10-3 a year ago. Their loss came in the regional semifinals to eventual State Champ Dinwiddie, 28-0.

Even with the graduation loss of some valuable seniors like stud DE/TE Jalyn Holmes to Ohio State, the Titans are expected to be one of the top contenders for the Group 4A State Championship next season.

"They're hungry because people are saying the State Championship from two seasons ago was a fluke. We went back to where we won 10 games, lost and went home. It's not the same team and it's a new year," remarked Sawyer.

"Kids have worked well in the off-season in the weight room and now we're asking them to do some things. Not a lot of kids miss workouts. We didn't bring a lot of kids here because they weren't going to play and sometimes you want to focus on the guys you have. We need some kids to turn the corner that were J.V. or backups last year and make contributions to the team."

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 protected], 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.

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