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August 23, 2014

2014 Denbigh Patriots Preview

2014 Tidewater Football Schedules
2013 Tidewater Football Schedules & Results


Peninsula District, Class 4A, Region 4A South
Head Coach: Marcellus Harris III

Recent History:
2011 - -
0-10 (missed playoffs)
2012 - - 2-8 (missed playoffs)
2013 - - 8-4 (lost to Heritage 32-29 in regional quarterfinals)

It was a historic season for Denbigh in 2013 and their best in school history. For the first time since 1992, they made the playoffs and for the first time since 2006 they finished above the .500 mark with a winning record. Along with that came a six-win improvement, the most in the Peninsula District, a 22-point victory over the VHSL's winningest program in Hampton, and the school's first ever playoff victory when they beat Glen Allen 42-19 in the opening round of the 4A-South regionals.

Offensive Outlook:
Gone are 24 seniors from Denbigh's best team, several of which were vital contributors to an offense that put up 36 points and 348.3 total yards per game. Three guys are vying to replace Terrence Dingle, two of which are sophomores in Shaquan Jones (6-1, 170) and Marquis Rhoades (5-11, 160). The other is junior Casey Vick (5-11, 180). "We're still working some things out," Harris said of that battle. What is sure with four receivers gone that put up over 2200 yards and 27 touchdowns they won't have near the wealth of experience and talent at that spot.

Junior Donavyn Johnson (5-10, 160), one of their best route runners, is likely the go-to guy with senior Keith Lee to get his fair share of passes as well. A freshman they're excited about is Pysheim Parker (6-1, 165). But don't expect them to average 27 pass attempts per game. "We're definitely going to look to establish the run a lot more this year, especially since this is probably the best offensive line I've had since I've been there with the guys we have returning and new guys coming out," Harris noted. "That's probably going to be the strong point of our offense and we need to utilize those guys as best we can."

DeMarco Brown-Negron (6-0, 305) is a four-year starter and senior center Ethan Clarin (5-7, 225) will be a three-year starter on the offensive line. Senior Jamison Webb (6-0, 285) gives them another valuable returnee in the trenches. They also have Savaughn Brown, a "nice sized kid who can move very well," and junior Ian Cox, who is "one of the biggest guys that I've had since I've been here," according to Harris. Taking the bulk of the rushes are going to be senior Malik Sparks (5-8, 160), who had a 100-yard rushing performance spelling Pat Alston in a game last year, and junior Elijah Rice (5-7, 155), who transferred over from Bruton.

Defensive Outlook:
As much production as Denbigh lost to graduation a year ago on offense, they also lost their two most consistent defensive players in Chris Peace (UVA) at defensive end and linebacker Patrick Prosser, a tackle machine that made 130 stops. Senior Dishon Staton (6-3, 215) "could be in that Chris Peace mold," and one of the leaders on the d-lien with Cox, Webb and sophomore Cameron McFarland (5-8, 228) helping out.

Harris is also high on freshman defensive end Alex Holiday (6-1, 175), who's described as, "long and just keeps coming, bringing energy to that side of the football for us." At linebacker, senior Davon Stephens (5-10, 195) and junior Gabe Boyd (5-11, 190) will flag carriers while they rotate guys in and out until they find a definite third starter there.

In the secondary, Rice will man a corner spot and opposite him is senior Aaron Rowe (6-2, 165), who played rugby last year. Harris calls him "long, rangy and athletic." Senior Javon Brown (5-7, 165) packs a punch at free safety. Stopping the run is first and foremost, and the numbers show it translates into wins and losses. They are 1-11 the past two seasons when allowing 200-plus yards on the ground compared to 9-1 when they hold teams under that mark.

Date to Circle:
August 29 vs. Tabb. Despite getting out-gained 262-247, the Patriots edged the Tigers 28-21 a season ago. With Tabb returning most of its skill players and Denbigh breaking in a bunch of new faces offensively, it's a rare time where a Peninsula District school might go in as the underdog against the Bay Rivers District. Win this game and Denbigh will probably feel they are further ahead of schedule with many of those underclassmen than some anticipate they will be.

Hat's Hit:
Entering their seventh season under Harris, the Patriots have made considerable strides considering this program was winless just three years ago. He's really done a masterful job molding them into a competitive team in a tough PD. Now, you hate to say it, but this might be a re-building year with so many seniors gone and a ton of underclassmen, including two freshmen that could be starting before season's end in WR Parker and DE Holiday.

Harris understands that the expectations won't be exactly the same as they were in 2013 with a senior-laden squad either.

"It's basically a whole new group of kids, but of the guys we do have returning we're excited about what we have. Everybody's working hard and with the youth we have I think they've been real receptive to the coaching thus far," Harris said. "We don't have as much talent as we did last year in certain spots, but what we lack in talent we have some guys that have been working their tail off and that's all we can ask for as a coaching staff."

It may be another two-year cycle before we see Denbigh challenging with some of the better teams around in 4A locally. However, in the meantime, since 16 teams go to the postseason in 4A, the postseason is attainable as long as they keep mistakes to a minimum on offense and finds way to slow power running teams down with limited depth at their disposal defensively.

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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