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August 24, 2014
Booker T. Tops Tigers 57-21
Tornadoes Storm Through Chesapeake: In front of a nationally-televised audience on ESPNU and a packed crowd at Beard-DeLong-Easley Field, the Booker T. Washington Tornadoes out of Miami, Florida stormed the host Oscar Smith Tigers from Chesapeake, Virginia by a count of 57-21 on Saturday night.
Ranked as high as #1 in the country a season ago, Booker T. Washington showed why and just how lethal they are, scoring 34 unanswered points after falling behind 7-0. As they extended their winning streak to 27 games, the Tornadoes went on to pile up 538 total yards of offense on 59 plays. They also scored the final 23 points on the evening to widen their advantage after Oscar Smith pulled within 13 at 34-21 late in the third quarter.
"I'm very proud of the kids' effort tonight, the way that they stayed composed in every situation. Even when they came back with those two late touchdowns and it looked like they made the game close again, we stayed composed and were able to make a big play to get that cushion again," declared Booker T. Washington first-year Head Coach Tim Harris Jr. afterwards.
"If we can continue to get better and make sure that we use this game right here as a tool to show us all the areas that we have to improve on to be a National Championship caliber team, I think we'll be just fine in December."
The Tigers struck first when running back Deshawn McClease, a three-star recruit committed to play his College Football at Virginia Tech, capped off a masterful seven-play, 80-yard drive that took 2:41 off the clock with a 16-yard touchdown reception from sophomore QB Shon Mitchell. McClease was dominant in the first quarter with 114 total yards. However, from there, the Tornadoes keyed in on him and he would gain just 59 yards the rest of the night, including two yards on six touchdowns in the second period.
Booker T. tied it up when junior halfback Mark Walton, a four-star recruit headed to Miami (FL), broke free 67 yards for a touchdown on the Tornadoes' second play from scrimmage. The Tigers held tough the rest of the quarter with remaining tied at 7 entering the second period, but Walton would find the end zone twice more before half-time to go up 20-7 at intermission.
To open the second half, the Tornadoes marched 0- yards in seven plays with quarterback Maurice Alexander, a Florida International commit and two-star recruit, connecting with fellow senior Antonio Callaway for a 53-yard touchdown pass. Oscar Smith then committed the first of their second half turnovers when four-star defensive back DaVante Davis forced a fumble that was recovered by Hosea McMullin. Alexander found Terry Jefferson for a short touchdown pass to push the deficit to 27 and the Tornadoes weren't done scoring.
"I feel like we're a streaky team offensively," Harris stated. "They drove down too easy on our defense that first series. We got really frustrated with that, but after that I think our defense settled down and us coming back scoring like that helped calm them down, too. When we get rolling, we're going to be really hard to stop by anybody."
Just when they got within two scores, the air went out of the stadium on the Oscar Smith side as Booker T. got a 64-yard touchdown from the combo of Alexander to Callaway again, followed by Alexander hitting Vaquan Smalls. Freshman defensive back Detron Halloway got he last touchdown with 3:59 left in the fourth quarter when he picked off Mitchell and returned it 47 yards.
For Booker T. Washington, it began their quest for a third straight state title. They play Miami Central, which beat Hoover (AL) 24-21 earlier in the day on ESPNU to end the Bucs' 30-game winning streak, in two weeks. Coach Harris believes the competition will benefit both his squad and the Tigers moving forward.
"It's great exposure for both programs," he said. "With High School Sports and what High School Football has turned into, this is what all those kids want to be apart of, nationally-televised games and being in an atmosphere like this. When we pull up to the stadium, the stands are almost full and it's packed already. It was very big for us and we're going to use it as a stepping stone."
Booker T. Washington had its form of the triplets with Alexander, Walton and Callaway, each putting up serious numbers. So dominant that the Tornadoes' 57 points were more than what Oscar Smith's defense surrendered the entire regular season in 2013. That was 54 points in ten games. Also not bad for an offense that had to replace a three-year starting quarterback that's now playing for the Florida Gators and three receivers that were three-year starters.
"Those three guys right there are a big part of the offense. We have so many talented guys overall on our offense, but tonight those were the guys that stepped up and our three senior guys. I look for that from them every week, rising to the occasion when we need big plays," Harris said.
"We have so many different formations where teams play us differently and they force us for other guys to step up and it'll be their night. The biggest thing for our whole offensive group aside from those three guys is the way that everybody plays together and accepts whose night it may be that particular night."
Making his first start, the transfer Alexander completed 22 of 25 passes for 265 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. He was sacked only twice the whole night and fired just one incomplete pass in the first half.
Walton mixed up his elusiveness with some patience and power, rushing for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 20 attempts. His 119 yards and two scores on the ground proved to be a great complement to what the passing game was doing and countered McClease's stellar play on the other side.
An uncommitted three-star recruit with over a dozen
offers, Callaway hauled in 10 balls for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Not only did he have big-play scores running
by guys, but he made a terrific leaping catch to set up another and converted a
couple of crucial third downs to extend drives.
"With so many new guys, it can be very difficult, but the kids bought into the system, didn't really fight us when it came to how much time we had to put in at practice and in the film work. I think tonight showed that we made great progress, but we still have a ways to go."
For the eighth time since 2009, the Tigers turned it over three or more times and lost. Oscar Smith had a Time of Possession advantage (26:27 to 21:33), but converted just 4 of 12 on third down and 1 of 4 on fourth down.
There were some promising moments, though and the two-time Virginia State Champs nearly went to half-time within one score of the reigning National Champs, something very few programs could say. They also drew the respect of their Florida opposition.
"I thought they were a very physical football team. You see a lot of great athletes on the field and have the guys like Sweat, McClease at running back, the quarterback (Mitchell) is a great player," Harris commented.
"I think the advantage that we felt we had from watching film was that they played a lot of guys two ways, especially big guys. With us not really having to do that, we felt that we would be in good position if we speed up our tempo, the offense stay on them, keep them off balanced and make them use time-outs a little differently than they usually would."
Despite the lopsided loss, the Tigers remain the favorite to win an 11th straight Southeastern District title when they resume play on Saturday, September 13th against city rival Indian River. Oscar Smith entered the season ranked #2 in Group 6A by VirginiaPreps.com behind the Centreville team that beat them for the State Championship last December. Look for them to be on the short list of contenders for that state title when the playoffs roll around.
T. Washington (FL) Tornadoes 57:
Smith (VA) Tigers 21:
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@example.com, 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.