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August 22, 2014

Games to See in Tidewater

Practices and scrimmages all around the state have been going on in full force, thus the 2014 High School Football season is about to get underway. Two games are on the docket this evening and we're here to highlight for you the Games to See in Tidewater, taking a closer look at the matchups that fans will want to mark on their calendar throughout the year.

Let's dive into the schedule . . .

2014 Master Tidewater Football Schedule

Saturday, August 23: Booker T. Washington (FL) at Oscar Smith - -
This nationally-televised game on ESPNU has been one of great anticipation since it was announced on the slate. Booker T. Washington finished ranked #1 in the nation in multiple polls and will bring in a 26-game winning streak. Oscar Smith, led by five-star defensive end and Virginia Tech commit Deshawn McClease at running back, is making its fifth appearance on national TV in six years as they begin their quest for a third state title. The wait is almost over, and it's another chance for Oscar Smith to showcase its talent to the country.

Thursday, August 28: Grassfield at Maury - - Although it doesn't have the spice of a Booker T. Washington (FL) versus Oscar Smith matchup, this one will have a good amount of meaning for playoff positioning for the Grizzlies in 6A and Commodores in 5A. They've met five times with the Grizzlies winning four and Maury's lone victory came 17-14 in 2009 in a wild ending.

Other games on the docket that night include Beach District teams starting its season. Possibly of interest are Landstown visiting Bayside and Kellam playing host to Salem.

Friday, August 29: Hampton at Indian River - -
There's a reasonable amount of buzz about this game with it being the Indian River coaching debut of Glenwood Ferebee, a former Head Coach at Lakeland that served as offensive coordinator at Hampton University. His Braves welcome in a Hampton team with the VHSL's career wins leader in Mike Smith. The Crabbers have their QB Jovonn Quillen back as well as top RB Demetrius Strickland and WR Tyquon Wilkins. Meanwhile, Indian River counters with stars of their own in sophomore Devon Hunter and linebacker Jaquan Yulee, a transfer from Lakeland. Both Hunter and Yulee have several offers already.

That's not the only game in town that night. Another one that will be worth watching for sure is Lafayette hosting Brunswick, the Group 2A runner-up for the state title a season ago. Lafayette was ranked #1 in the state in 3A for much of the season until losing to James Monroe in the playoffs. The coaching debut of Sekou Wilson at Granby takes place when the Comets host Woodside at Powhatan Field, while Denbigh plays Tabb in a rare Peninsula District vs. Bay Rivers District tilt.

Friday, September 5: Phoebus at Lake Taylor - - There will be no shortage of storylines for this one. Two years ago in the Eastern Region Division 5 Championship, Lake Taylor finally conquered their demons and slayed the dragon that was Phoebus, a team looking for its fifth consecutive state title at the time. The Titans won handily, 54-0. Prior to that win, Phoebus had beaten Lake Taylor each of the previous seven meetings in the playoffs, including a couple in heart-breaking fashion for the Titans. Phoebus welcomes in a new quarterback, but the Phantoms have talented stars in junior CB Robbie Robinson and lineman Harry Lewis, a Virginia Tech commit. Lake Taylor returns four First Team All-State performers, including ECU commit Nhyre Quinerly.

Besides the Phoebus/Lake Taylor battle, Green Run visits Salem in a key Beach District contest. Salem won both meetings a year ago by wide margins, including in the 5A-South regional semifinals. Bethel travels to Western Branch and those two have played tight games each of the last two years, one coming in the quarterfinals of the regionals. Also, there's Woodside at Hampton. Those two played an epic shoot-out a year ago with the Wolverines outlasting the Crabbers 65-44.

Thursday, September 11: Denbigh at Kecoughtan - - We'll throw in a Thursday game here and there on the rundown. To the common fan, it's probably only modest interest, but the stakes are still rather meaningful. Denbigh enjoyed its best season in school history in 2013 and beat Kecoughtan 47-26 during the regular season on their way to the playoffs. They were senior-laden and a major surprise. Kecoughtan could be this year's version of Denbigh with a host of key players returning on both sides of the ball. The Warriors haven't been to the playoffs since 2002.

Friday, September 12: Salem at Bayside - - It's sort of a slow night on Sept. 12, but Bayside taking on Salem is one worth keeping an eye as it pits Marlins Head Coach Jon White against the guy who coached him, Robert Jackson of the SunDevils. After taking some beatings the previous couple times, Bayside nearly rose up and upset Salem, falling 13-10 to the SunDevils. An upset here would possibly move them to 3-0 and start to make them an early-season storyline.

Saturday, September 13: Hampton at Heritage - - There are two really intriguing games on a Saturday with the Heritage Hurricanes taking on the Hampton Crabbers in another pupil vs. teacher matchup. George Massenburg of Heritage was an assistant with Mike Smith for many years at Hampton before taking over the Hurricanes and resurrecting that program. Heritage nailed down a signature win over the Crabbers a year ago.

Also worth watching for those on the Southside will be Oscar Smith hosting Indian River. These two Chesapeake rivals are very close to one another in terms of proximity, and the Braves want to make this a competitive rivalry again against the school that is pretty much considered the gold standard when it comes to High School Football in Hampton Roads.

Thursday, September 18: Smithfield at Tabb - - Bailey Field is sure to be rocking when the Smithfield Packers roll into town to take on the Tabb Tigers in a game that some might consider for second place in the Bay Rivers District since Lafayette is pegged as the favorite. But the winner here might start to get visions of competing against and possibly knocking off the Rams atop its perch. These two teams can run the ball with some of the best as they each have 1000-yard rushers that could be in that 1500-yard-plus range this season in senior Brent Hinson of the Tigers and sophomore Donald King for the Packers.

Friday, September 19: Oscar Smith at Western Branch - - Coach Greg Gibson of the Bruins has had his team knocking on the door, trying to get in the Elite Club. Right now, they're very good and just a hair below some of those upper echelon teams with a 19-5 record under his reign, bowing each out of the past two years in the regional semifinals to Ocean Lakes. Last season, Western Branch played Oscar Smith closer than anyone outside of Centreville, who beat the Tigers in the 6A State Championship. As Western Branch aims to pull a shocker and potentially end Oscar Smith's long Southeastern District winning streak, the Tigers want to keep the winning going and probably do it by a bigger margin than last year's 27-14 final.

Over in the Beach District, Ocean Lakes at Green Run will offer up fans lots and lots of speed on both sides. Those are two of the faster teams around that have no problem slinging it around either. Poquoson at Bruton could be an under-the-radar Bay Rivers game that turns out to be competitive and down to the wire.

Saturday, September 20: Bethel at Woodside - - Before last year's 20-10 win by Bethel, one thing we started to learn about these two is when they get together there generally ends up being a lot of points put on the scoreboard. The winner scored 30-plus each time from 2006-12 with a 67-35 victory by the Wolverines in 2009 and a 50-28 win by the Bruins in 2007 two of the bigger outbursts. It's a bit early to view a loss as a really damaging one to a team's playoff hopes, but since they are both in 6A and the slots to get there are far from easy to attain, it's certainly a critical game for both the Wolverines and Bruins.

Thursday, September 25: Tabb at Lafayette - - Wanner Stadium is the place to be on the final Thursday in September as the Rams of Lafayette take on Tabb with first place in the Bay Rivers District probably on the line. Tabb is projected as the top challenger to a Lafayette team that lost star running back Jahlil Green to William & Mary, but still returns QB Brendan McGinty and versatile all-purpose threat Brandon Villanueva-Pernelll. Tabb will rely on the aforementioned Hinson, part of a dynamic trio alongside QB Nick Hunter and WR/RB Antwaun Hicks. The makings are there for this to be a high-scoring game and much closer than last year's 63-14 whitewash by the Rams.

Friday, September 26: Hampton at Phoebus - - It's tough to narrow it down to only one game on this evening since there are so many good ones. However, whenever Phoebus and Hampton play, it's usually must-see football as part of the Great American Rivalry Series. These two longtime nemesis' form one of the most storied rivalries you can find in High School Football. Phoebus has dominated the series in recent years, winning nine of the past ten. Jeremy Blunt's Phantoms pitched a 42-0 shutout last year, the first shutout in the series since 2009. Has Hampton closed the gap or will Phoebus continue to roll?

Those that don't want to fight the traffic and big crowd on that side of the water may prefer to stay on the Southside and check out one of four games of note. In the Southeastern District, King's Fork visits Great Bridge in a game that was exhilarating last year, won by the Bulldogs 44-43 in double-overtime. The Beach District has Cox at Salem as these two played a very close, hard-fought game in 2013 that the SunDevils won late. Ocean Lakes visits Bayside and these two have had athletes galore and a couple of tight ones over the years. Then there's Lake Taylor hosting Maury in the Eastern District in what might have first place on the line in that one, too.

Saturday, September 27: Bethel at Heritage - - It was in this spot a year ago that Heritage freshman quarterback Jeremiah Boyd had his coming out party, throwing a touchdown right off the bat and torching the Bruins' defense in a 41-18 rout. Bethel seeks revenge and will have to get it without star lineman Ricky Walker, who's now at Virginia Tech.

But as venerable public address announcer will tell us, "Don't go anywhere my friends because we have TWO!" Yes, two games at Todd that day as Menchville vs. Kecoughtan follows in the double-header. Believe it or not, just two years ago the Monarchs upset the Warriors in the regular season finale.

Friday, October 3: Western Branch at Grassfield - - Sorry, we skipped by three Thursday games of Maury/Booker T. Washington, Hampton/Warwick and York/Bruton on the night before, but hey, it happens. Believe it or not, Western Branch and Grassfield have battled for second place in the Southeastern District each of the last two years, yet neither time they met was it a close game. Western Branch steamrolled Grassfield 55-7 last season, whereas the Grizzlies cruised past the Bruins 38-7. Regardless of if it's for second place in the SED or not, don't expect either team to win by 30-plus this time around.

King's Fork at Indian River could be rather interesting to say the least. These are two teams that seem to be on the rise and need a win in this spot to keep any ascension going. The Newport News battle between Heritage and Woodside is one to watch as well. Only one team in the last seven years has kept Phoebus from finishing atop the Peninsula District and that's Woodside back in 2011. Heritage has aspirations of doing that this year and can't slip up against a dangerous Wolverines bunch coached by Danny Dodson.

Friday, October 10: Ocean Lakes at Cox - - It's unlikely that Cox gives Ocean Lakes a scare, but then again, it's conceivable. After all, Bill Stachelski's Falcons knocked off the Dolphins 21-14 in 2010 and nearly upset them the year prior, losing 35-34 in overtime. New starting QB Cole Johnson gives the Falcons promise in the passing game with sophomore Khalan Laborn and Bradley Jones serving as weapons to watch out for, although we might not have enough space to mention every weapon for Ocean Lakes. The Dolphins have numerous college prospects, headlined by four-star recruits in Jaason Lewis on offense and Jahvoni Simmons (UVA) on defense.

Another one in the Beach District that is sure to have significant meaning is Bayside at Green Run. The Marlins led for much of the way a year ago until Green Run rallied in the second half behind the arm of QB Austin Lynch, the area's leading passer in 2013 looking to repeat his performance as a senior.

Saturday, October 11: Woodside at Kecoughtan - - This is one that will have serious implications when it comes to the playoff race in 6A-South. Kecoughtan hasn't had a breakthrough in over decade as far as being a postseason qualifier, whereas Woodside is used to it with seven trips and 70 wins in that span. A win for the Warriors can further validate and help their case. Kecoughtan will look to go to the air with QB Desmond Savage, who threw for 398 yards last year against Heritage, while Woodside will probably keep it more on the ground behind backs Tamir Walker and Davonte Williams, a transfer from Salem.

Friday, October 17: Oscar Smith at Grassfield - - If Martin Asprey's Grizzlies didn't have to keep running into Oscar Smith all the time, they might've been playing for a Championship on a regional level by now for a school that has only been open since 2007. The Grizzlies are 52-27 all-time, though 0-10 against the Tigers with three of those losses coming in the playoffs. Their very first playoff loss to them was probably the one that still stings the most, 28-21 in a game where they led before Phillip Sims brought the Tigers back in 2009. With speedsters Isaiah Harper and Vince Lowe having moved on to ODU, Grassfield will have their work cut out for them to beat Oscar Smith, even with the game in front of their loyal fan base at home.

A few teams might be on upset alert on this night, though. Phoebus travels to Woodside, Norcom visits their Portsmouth rival Churchland and Cox is at Kellam. All three of the perceived underdogs in those games (Churchland, Kellam and Woodside) have pulled the upset at some point in the past five years. In the case of Kellam, it happened just last year.

Saturday, October 18: Booker T. Washington at Lake Taylor - - Football fans in Hampton Roads have a tough choice to make on this day as College Football also features a MEAC showdown with Norfolk State at Hampton University. For those that settle for High School instead (which might be you I would hope since you're taking the time to read this), the Bookers visiting Lake Taylor is a Norfolk rivalry that still has bragging rights attached. Booker T. has a huge line, anchored by sophomore Breyon Gaddy. Lake Taylor makes no bones about it that they will play fast and aggressively on defense, even if it means taking some risks here and there. It generally works for the Titans with nine consecutive wins in the head-to-head series.

Friday, October 24: Oscar Smith at King's Fork - - King's Fork fans remember the memorable 42-35 double-overtime classic from two years ago, where the Bulldogs nearly ended Oscar Smith's long Southeastern District winning streak that dates back to 2006. They'd also like to forget last year's 62-12 nightmare, where backup wideout Anthony Elliott caught two touchdowns off the bench and the Tigers put up their highest point total in the series. Oscar Smith has won all ten meetings. Five of those games have been shutouts pitched by the Tigers (on the football field, not the baseball diamond). The Bulldogs, who upset Phoebus in last year's playoffs, could be in position to be the Tigers' top challenger in the district. Here's their chance to show that.

Another Southeastern District game that can be very crucial to the playoff picture in multiple division, in this case 6A and 5A, is Grassfield at Great Bridge. It's a Chesapeake rivalry that usually produces a strong turnout.

Saturday, October 25: Heritage at Phoebus - - In order to be the man, you've got to beat the man. That declaration from the Nature Boy, pro wrestler Ric Flair, applies to this Heritage/Phoebus matchup. Phoebus has won seven state titles since 2001 and is the team to beat in the Peninsula District pretty much year in and year out. Beating them is another thing, which Heritage found out when they brought an undefeated record into last year's game and lost 26-9. But with playmakers like Dimitri Holloway, Marcus Van Hook, Resean Streater, Tim Holden-Bethea and others, the Hurricanes like their chances and may be the best candidate to derail the Phantoms in the PD.

Thursday, October 30: Hampton at Bethel - - Don't worry, the Halloween costumes won't come out on Thursday night. Hampton and Bethel have played before on Halloween, though. The Crabbers rolled 38-0 last year, but the Bruins won the two previous meeting and this series has been fairly competitive as of late after many years of Hampton domination.

Friday, October 31: Bayside at Cox - - Last year, the Marlins beat Cox in a game that basically saved their playoff life and earned them the #8 seed in 6A-South. Meanwhile, the Falcons fell to the #6 seed and got a tougher first round draw against Western Branch than had the won and would've been the #4 or #5 seed. Once again, these two are battling for a postseason and seeding. Rutgers commit Blake Camper leads the Falcons in the trenches, while Jamez Brickhouse (ODU commit) is another in a long line of talented DB's at Bayside.

Great Bridge at Oscar Smith is sure to have a sizeable crowd to watch the Tigers and Wildcats tangle. When they meet, Oscar Smith could be looking for their 73rd win in a row against Southeastern District foes, a remarkable streak that dates back to their 2006 los to Hickory.

Friday, November 7: Salem at Ocean Lakes - - It was the Game of the Year in the Beach District a season ago and has all the ingredients to be that and more this season. Salem starts the season off ranked #2 in the state in Group 5A by VirginiaPreps.com, while Ocean Lakes enters #3 in Group 6A. Both are legit state title contenders and not only want to beat the other, but go into the playoffs with momentum and confidence sky high. Salem jumped out to a surprising lead in last year's meeting considering they suffered their first loss of the season the week before against Tallwood. However, Ocean Lakes rallied for the 35-23 win. Led by Hokies commit Trevon Hill at defensive end, the SunDevils will try to reclaim the top spot in the Beach District after two straight unbeaten regular seasons by the Dolphins.

Another game perhaps of equal importance will be Norcom traveling to Lake Taylor with both teams probably vying for the Eastern District title that the Titans have owned more times than not under Hank Sawyer. Larry Archie's Greyhounds have a new quarterback in Churchland transfer Jaylin Spruill and will try to topple Lake Taylor for the first time since 2010, the year they pitched a 29-0 shutout in Portsmouth on their way to reaching the Eastern Region Division 5 Final.

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 Saturdays at 10AM on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.

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