Eastern Region D-5 Championship Preview

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>On Thanksgiving weekend, we'll crown two Champions in
the Eastern Region. In Division 6, the
defending State Champion Oscar Smith Tigers take on the unbeaten Ocean Lakes
Dolphins at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.
style=> Division 5 pits two undefeated teams against
one another as the reigning State Champion Phoebus Phantoms play the Lake
Taylor Titans at Harbor Park. Both are
title game re-matches from 2008.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>Before we start to breakdown this week's Championship
matchups, let's review the Eastern Region Prediction Standings with State
Football Editor Rod Johnson, and Matthew Hatfield.

All three of the prognosticators went a perfect 4-0 last week.
style=> Hatfield takes a one-game lead into the
Eastern Region Championships against Johnson.
Can Rod tie things up or does Matt put him away?



the Scene:
"Verdana","sans-serif"'> Yet another
chapter will be written in the postseason book between the four-time defending
Division 5 State Champion Phoebus Phantoms and top-seeded Lake Taylor Titans.
style=> Phoebus enters having won an unprecedented 22
straight playoff games and they're looking to claim their seventh regional
title in a row. They are coached by
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Jeremy Blount, the team's defensive
coordinator who got promoted to Head Coach when the school decided to dismiss
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Stan Sexton around mid-season for what
was called unspecified reasons. The
Phantoms are in the regional title game for a 12th consecutive year, and it's
the third meeting in this round with Lake Taylor during that stretch.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>Under veteran Head Coach
normal'>Hank Sawyer, the Titans have been the dominant program in the
Eastern District, where they have won ten of the past 14 titles.
style=> The only things missing from his résumé is an
Eastern Region Championship, something the school hasn't won since 1982.
style=> In fact, a school in the city of Norfolk hasn't
captured a State Championship in 46 years.
Since 2002, Lake Taylor has lost all five postseason encounters with
Phoebus, two of them in gut-wrenching fashion as they led in the fourth quarter
in the '09 regional final before falling overtime, and last year they
squandered a double-figure lead in the semis.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>The two teams have had somewhat convincing games in
getting here with Lake Taylor winning every contest except one, a 27-25
thriller against Granby where they scored a touchdown on the game's final play,
by at least 21 points. Phoebus has had
three close calls decided by three points or less, beating Peninsula rivals
Hampton, Bethel and Heritage by a collective five points.

Cast of Characters:
style=> An abundance of parts can get it done for
Lake Taylor, offensively and defensively.
This is quite possibly Sawyer's most stacked team in Titan-
class=SpellE>ville, and at the controls of their offense is junior
quarterback Delmon
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Williams (1478 yards, 28TD's), who set
a school single-game record earlier this year when he tossed six touchdown
passes against Maury. Williams didn't
throw his first interception of the year until last week's semifinal victory
over Lakeland. There are a number of
quality targets for him with Harry
Freeman (25Rec. 470Yds. 11TD's),
class=SpellE>Pinkney (16Rec. 332Yds. 4TD's), junior tight end and
Top 100 recruit Jalyn
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Holmes (16Rec. 202Yds. 6TD's) and sophomore
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Quinerly.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>Running the football, the Titans have the dynamic duo
of Brandon 'Pork Chop' Moore (183Att.
1562Yds. 21TD's), the Eastern District Offensive Player of the Year, and
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Davis (140Att. 1274Yds. 15TD's), a
transfer from Norview.
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Donovan Powell is Mr. Versatility for
the Titans; he's the lone player in the region that has thrown a touchdown
pass, caught one and rushed for a score, plus he leads the team in defensive
interceptions with four. The offensive
line is an unsung group, but three players were chosen All-District, headlined
by senior center Cliff Arrington.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>Defensively, the Titans come at people fast and
furious. Think of the movie; you better
buckle the chin strap or you're headed backwards and it'll be in a hurry.
style=> In the regular season, they recorded 39
normal'>Brandon Lynch leads the way with 15 sacks and also in double-figures
is Holmes.
normal'> Spellman was named the co-Eastern District Defensive Player of the
Year, and like several players on this defense, can play multiple positions
along their defensive front. They come
at offenses from different angles and there's a method to the madness.
style=> Two sophomores in Quinerly,
a starting corner, and Marquise Poole have
both made a significant impact.
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> 'Big Money' Harris,
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Johnson and
normal'> Askew are among the others hard to block up front.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>It's a grind-it-out attack for Phoebus and always has
been over the years from Bill Dee, to Sexton and now Blount.
style=> Tony
Pittman is the engine that carries the Phantoms offense running the ball,
and he's an absolute pitbull with that pigskin.
style=> On the year, Pittman has rushed 241 times for
1761 yards and 22 touchdowns, and he'd easily be over the 2000-yard threshold
if not for missing two games during the season when he was suspended.
style=> After Pittman, the next offensive catalyst for
the Phantoms is Richie
class=SpellE>Staton, an ODU commit that transferred to the team from
Kecoughtan in the off-season.
style=> Staton has 10
catches for 234 yards and seven touchdowns, but most impressively is the fact
he's found the end zone five different ways while playing an integral role
defensively as well.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>The Phantoms have to be pleased with how starting
quarterback Terrell Toliver
has performed as a freshman, completing 32 of 56 passes for 1667 yards and
a 12-1TD/Int. ratio. To go with Pittman,
the Phantoms have some very capable #2 and #3 options in
normal'> Lane (100Att. 740Yds. 11TD's) and
normal'> Matthews, a hard-hitting, fast-closing linebacker as well.
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Although
they throw the ball less than five times per game on average,
class=SpellE>Toliver's efficiency and ability to escape the pocket and
make plays on the run have been a real plus.
They're kind of thin at receiver, but
normal'>Troy Durham and
normal'>Khaaliq Fletcher both
have stepped up when called up on this year.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>You'll be hard-pressed to find a bigger team up front
on the offensive line or defensive line than the Phantoms.
style=> They go into every game firmly believing they
had an advantage on the line of scrimmage and it's tough to argue that they don't.
style=> On the o-line,
normal'>Harry Lewis, Jamal Earls,
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Bailey,
normal'>Walter Brantley, Mark Wilson
and Anthony Burrell push forward
and get outstanding leverage more times than not.
style=> There are two ODU commits on the d-line with
class=SpellE>Staton and Wilson, while Lewis and
normal'>Kevin Lyles stuff the interior.
Each postseason, the Phoebus defense gets a surprise lift from someone
to go with their headliners, which on defense are those front four and Matthews
from the linebacker spot. Watch out for
freshman corner Robbie Robinson and
seasoned senior Malik Hawkins.

Inside the Numbers:
statistical advantage is in favor of Lake Taylor except for two things - - that's
turnovers and penalties. Phoebus is +21
in turnover margin compared to +14 for the Titans.
style=> The Titans have been flagged 99 times for
1001 yards, which is also more than a Phoebus team that was the most penalized unit
in the Peninsula District. From offense
to defense though, Lake Taylor gets the check mark in all of the main eight
stat categories, even rushing yards, where both teams put up over 250 yards on
the ground a game.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>Defensively, the Titans are giving up less than six
yards rushing a game, making a boatload of tackles behind the line of
scrimmage. Furthermore, Lake Taylor
leads the Eastern Region in scoring offense and rank only second to Ocean Lakes
in scoring defense. Maybe the most
amazing statistic about Lake Taylor is the fact their defense has allowed opponents
to convert only 18 of 126 third downs, just 14%.



Lake Taylor Keys to Victory:

- - Tackling Pittman:
font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"'> The
Titans must tackle him on the initial hit, particularly on first and second
down to put the Phantoms in third down and long passing situations where
Pittman isn't in the equation. What
Pittman is notorious for is getting those tough to earn yards after
contact. Lake Taylor has to minimize
those and do something their defense has done for years under Sawyer - - that's
arrive to the ball and the ball carrier in a bad mood.
style=> Pittman is not your typical running back in
that he seemingly gets stronger as the game progresses, putting up better
numbers in the second half than the first half.
Lake Taylor's lack of depth at a few different positions could be put to
the test, although if they keep them from getting in third down and manageable,
it's a moot point.

- - Finish Drives:
font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"'> As
Lake Taylor has found out the hard way over the years, teams that let Phoebus
hang around usually end up getting bit in the end.
style=> Lake Taylor has to finish in every thing that
they do. That means finish drives,
finish runs, finish tackles and put Phoebus away after half-time.
style=> Getting off the field no third down is vital
and they want to finish in every facet of the game.
style=> Play all 48 minutes, not 30, 36 or 46.
style=> It takes a complete game effort to beat a
team that has won four straight State Championships because they don't die
easily. Toliver
is pretty composed as a freshman, but the Titans have to get under his skin
from the start and destroy his confidence.
Don't leave any stones unturned.

- - Ball Security:
the year, the Titans have thrown only two interceptions, both coming a week ago
against Lakeland. They've lost 11
fumbles, a significantly lower number than in 2011.
style=> Last year in their loss to Phoebus, fumbles
didn't cost the Titans. That being said,
they have to make sure it doesn't hurt them this time around either.
style=> The Phantoms are benefitting greatly from
that +21 in the turnover margin category, and if they are minus, Lake Taylor
has the playmakers to make Phoebus pay.
What the Titans can't do is turn it over, allow the Phantoms to milk the
clock and pound away at them with Pittman and play their style of game.
style=> To get Phoebus out of its element, ball security
is paramount.

Phoebus Keys to Victory:

- - Set an Early Tone with the D-Line:
has one of the best defensive lines you'll find in the state with Wilson,
Lewis, Lyles and Staton across their front, all capable
of stuffing the run or providing a pass rush, and each is talented enough to
command a double team when at the top of their game.
style=> Lyles especially gave Lake Taylor problems
last year with his ability to knife through the line and make plays in the
backfield. Lake Taylor's closest call to
date came against Granby in which a young fella by the name of
class=SpellE>Tashad Charity made six sacks, and the Titans for a brief
period appeared to be unraveling as they were called for five consecutive holding
penalties. Break down their protection
scheme, and both running and passing proficiently will be a chore for Lake
Taylor vs. this defense.

- - Tilt Field Position in Your Favor:
great as Phoebus has been, I find it to be an enormous task for the Phantoms to
win unless they control field position most of the night.
style=> Give Lake Taylor a field of less than 60
yards to go and they'll do it, often times with ease.
style=> Five of the Titans' first six touchdowns in
the semifinals against Lakeland were drives of 57 yards or less, meaning the
Cavs basically found themselves in trouble from the start of those possessions.
style=> It's critical they force Lake Taylor to have
to go 75+ yards, be patient and convert third downs to find the end zone.
style=> By doing this, it may help make Lake Taylor
more of a one-dimensional attack on offense because they'll not want to risk
turning it over and giving Phoebus a short field to work with offensively.

- - Special Teams Execution:
special teams coach Dick Van Dyke is one of the best around and the difference
in several of Phoebus' big games during their Championship runs has been
key plays and moments in this area.
style=> This year's Phantoms squad has had its ups
and downs on special teams. They've
gotten more than a few extra points blocked, and their return coverage has been
a little spotty at times as well. They
do have one of the best return men around in Staton.
style=> In addition, kicker
normal'>Dylan Kremp drilled the game-winning
field goal in last year's region semifinal win over Lake Taylor while Eric
class=SpellE>Enderson (now at Delaware) was still recovering from an
injury. His leg might be crucial in the outcome
again. Toliver
at punter comes in averaging 33 yards per punt, and if the Phantoms can up that
to 35-40 in this game, they'd be extremely pleased.

Final Thoughts:
style=> Opportunities like these don't come
around but so often. For Phoebus, it's a
chance to win yet another regional title after batting a ton of turmoil earlier
in the season in which saw them undergo a coaching change and see their top
player get suspended for a pair of games.
They're still marching towards that 'Drive for Five,' in an effort to
set the VHSL record they now share with Hampton of consecutive state titles.
style=> It would simply only add to the legacy of a
program that needs no introduction, but continues to remind us just how
remarkably tough they are when the postseason rolls around.
style=> For Lake Taylor, the opportunity is equally
great, maybe bigger.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>The Titans have banged their head on this Phoebus wall
time and time again, coming up short in heart-breaking fashion that may no
longer be explicable to the human race.
Okay, that might be stretching it a little, but put it this way, I'm not
sure they can swallow another playoff loss to Phoebus.
style=> It seems this is their season, and the chance
to exercise the demons, move on to the State Playoffs for the first time in 30
years is theirs. Matchup-wise, there's
plenty to like, and question marks or major concerns, the grandest probably
being how to slow Pittman, though if there's any defense equipped to do it,
this one's a mighty good choice.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>I've gone back and forth on this game for the past week
once we found out these two would hook up as expected.
style=> This is a focused and determined Titans group,
much like the Phantoms are, and in the end this time Lake Taylor's drive could
be a little bit better to finally push them through.

Matt Says: Lake Taylor 23-17
Rod Says: Lake Taylor 27-20
VHSL-Reference Says: Lake Taylor 24-14



115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";text-decoration:none;text-underline:
none'>Matthew Hatfield
style='font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"'>
has covered Eastern Region Football & Basketball since 2004 for
style='font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";
115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"'>, part of the
Network. Check out
text-decoration:none;text-underline:none'>Hatfield's Twitter page
115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"'> for more sports related updates,
and you can also read his work in the
style='font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";
text-decoration:none;text-underline:none'>Suffolk News Herald
115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"'>.
To contact Matthew, please e-mail
style='font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";
115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"'>, and don't forget to listen to him
Saturdays from 10AM to Noon on
115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";text-decoration:none;text-underline:
none'>ESPN Radio 94.1
style='font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"'>
plus watch him on the
115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";text-decoration:none;text-underline:
none'>Cox 11 Sports Report
style='font-size:12.0pt;line-height:115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"'>.
115%;font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"'>

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