Eastern Region D-6 Quarterfinals Preview

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>The Eastern Region Division 6 Playoff commence on
Friday night with a bunch of quality teams taking the field, none any worse
than 8-2 overall. In fact, the bottom
half of the bracket (seeds 2, 3, 6 and 7) feature the four teams that made it
in the regional semifinals, so there will be two new regional semifinalists in

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

Election Day was Tuesday and it's almost time to select a Champion in this
Prediction battle. VHSL-Reference closed
the gap some with a nice 18-1 week, missing only on Kecoughtan/
class=SpellE>Menchville. Rod went
17-2 last week, slicing Hatfield's lead to just two games thanks to Booker T.
Washington's win over Wilson. Matt
settled for a 16-3 mark ("I should've
picked Phoebus over Hampton . . . bad mistake by me," Hatfield said when asked
about last week's showing.).



Ocean Lakes:
There hasn't been a better team statistically in the Eastern Region when
you crunch the numbers than the Ocean Lakes Dolphins, who are tops in both
scoring offense (46.3PPG) and defense (5.7PPG allowed) through ten regular
season contests. Ocean Lakes has pitched
six shutouts, the most in any season in the Beach District.
style=> They boast the top quarterback in the region
as well with UVA commit Corwin 'Turtle'
Cutler, who has launched 31 touchdowns compared to only four interceptions for
2214 yards. Six of those TD's came last
week, five of them to Delaware commit Andre
Dessenberg, who tied the district record and has
63 receptions for 872 yards and 18TD's on the campaign.
style=> They are very deep and talented at
class=SpellE>wideout with Mike
Alston (6Rec. 118Yds. vs. Kellam last week),
sophomore star Jaason
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Lewis and
normal'> Wolters rounding out that group.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>What the Dolphins have done this year better than in recent
ones is establish balance on offense, mixing in the power running game to go
with the pass.
normal'>Brandon Simmons and Jordan
class=SpellE>Bobo have together rushed for over 1000 yards, and
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Mike Dunston moves
the chains in short-yardage situations.
On the offensive line, it's a cohesive unit with left tackle
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Alex Skidmore looking like an
All-Region candidate. Defensively,
tackles Demetri
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> McGill and
normal'>Derrick Nnadi are enforcers with BCS
offers on the table.
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Tony Baird applies pressure on the
outside, linebackers Myke
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Knox and
normal'> Simmons will lay the lumber, and corners
normal'> Brandon and T.J. Griffin are
alert on the back end.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'> It has been a
season to remember for Curt Brown's
Granby Comets. The Comets are in the
playoffs for the first time since 2004 when Bobby Rome and Chris Bell led the
way. Their 9-1 mark is their best since
the 1966 season, the last time a Norfolk school won a State Championship.
style=> Only three times all year has Granby cracked
over 300 yards of offense, meaning they've gotten it done by being efficient,
keeping mistakes to a minimum and a bone-crunching defense that has given up
only 7.3 points and 42.8 rushing yards per game.
style=> Junior QB
normal'>William 'Boojoe' Smith has passed for 910
yards with a 9-5TD/Int. ratio, including 4-0 over the past three games.
style=> His two big-play weapons are
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Lawrence Harris (698 yards rushing, 11
total TD's) and Sidney
class=SpellE>Fulford (24Rec. 418Yds. 6TD's).

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>For a team that nearly went undefeated, the offensive
line for Granby is somewhat under appreciated in my opinion.
style=> Nobody made First Team All-Eastern District
with James Haines and
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Charity earning Second Team
honors. On the d-line, Charity along
with junior Sherrod Ryland (6 sacks
vs. Lake Taylor) and sophomore end Quinton
Brown are an absolute handful.
Granby's strength as a team is flying to the football and mounting a
pass rushing, something they'll have to do to pull the upset.
style=> Smith, Emanuel
White, Terrence Horsford
and Harris must perform well in the secondary, and they need another
All-Star performance from stud linebacker Caleb
Wilson, the team's Honey Badger.

the Matchup:
have any success, Granby must be able to win the turnover battle.
style=> Additionally, the defensive backs for the Comets
have to prevent Ocean Lakes' wide receivers from beating them over the
top. They have some bona-fide playmakers
there. The Comets have played at a high
level defensively in every game, so it's up to their offense to match them or
at the very least don't make any deflating mistakes.
style=> Getting the ball to Harris and
class=SpellE>Fulford in space is crucial as well.
style=> On the edges, they're quite good.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>For Ocean Lakes, it's all about being patient and not
diverting from the game-plan that has gotten them to this point.
style=> Execute what you're supposed to and make
Granby have to play your brand of football instead of letting the Comets
dictate what you do. Coach
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Chris Scott's Dolphins want to set a
tone early with its defensive line dominating, using that big-play air attack and
then salt things away with the power run game, being physical.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'> Fans of
physical football ought to check this one out.
Granby was one play away from being undefeated, and the Dolphins have
won nine of their ten games by at least two touchdowns with the only team to
play them within a score being Salem. Ocean
Lakes' offense has been absolutely lethal this year, scoring 40 points or more
in eight of their games and three times breaking the 60-point barrier.
style=> Granby has eclipsed 40 points only one time
and that came in the season opener against Great Bridge, which gave up the
second most points in the region during the regular season.
style=> To me, the difference will be the Dolphins'
depth and ability to strike quickly through the air, similar to what Lake
Taylor did against them, only to another level.
Granby can keep it close if their special teams play is sharp, stay
fundamentally sound and win the Time of Possession battle.

Says: Ocean Lakes 24-6
Rod Says: Ocean Lakes 28-7
VHSL-Reference Says: Ocean Lakes 42-14



Western Branch:
posting a record of 10-20 over the previous three seasons, the Western Branch
Bruins were looking for someone to turn things around and get them back in the
postseason. In came
normal'>Greg Gibson from Norview, where he orchestrated a turnaround from
0-10 to 6-4, and he's been just what the doctor ordered.
style=> Gibson directs a Bruins team averaging 38.6
points and 309.5 rushing yards per game.
Leading the way for his disciplined and methodical offense is UCONN
commit Josh Marriner,
who has gained 627 yards with 8TD's over the last two games.
style=> Marriner earned
Southeastern District Offensive Player of the Year honors by rushing for 1898
yards and 23 touchdowns.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>Western Branch has really been humming offensively
behind Marriner, but they've also got some other
backs that figure into the equation with Terrence
Ricks, Eugene Summerville and
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Shepard as well as QB
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>C.J. Thomas, who's pretty mobile, and
class=SpellE>wideout T.J.
class=SpellE>Boothe, an unheralded junior that finds the end zone as
well. On the offensive line, the Bruins
get excellent push, anchored by Chris
Hancock and Malcolm
Defensively, the Bruins have shown the potential to be great, such as
when they shutout Lakeland. They've also
allowed 30-plus points in three of their last five games.
style=> Brandon
Addison and DaiQuan
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Lawrence are two of the DB's they lean
on, while Ray Scott,
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Dominique Prayer,
normal'>Kenny Holland and Forrest
Bailey all get after the QB.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'> One of the
biggest surprises this year has been the Bethel Bruins.
style=> Last year they were the #8 seed with arguably
better talent as QB Frank Brown along wide receivers Rashawn
Proctor and Willie Davis formed the top passing attack in the Eastern
Region. They won their opener handily, and
then got it handed to them by Lake Taylor 51-0.
At that point, some, if not most, anticipated this to be a re-building
year for Coach Bubba Hooker and
company, probably hovering around .500.
Bethel then went and knocked off Hampton and has closed the regular
season by winning eight of their last nine, only losing to Phoebus by a whisker
in a 19-17 contest. Offensive
coordinator Ron Johnson deserves a
ton of credit as the Bruins have put up 40 or more five times this year.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>Bethel is like Western Branch in that they like to
spread the ball around to multiple running backs, but also different in that
they don't have a player who will erupt a la Marriner.
style=> The trio of
normal'>Jihad Hudson, fullback Brian
Moore and Demetrius Dinkins has
combined for 1613 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.
style=> Mix in QB
normal'>Trey Jackson, who'll come through when he needs to running or
passing, and Bethel has enough to get by offensively.
style=> On defense, they have shown steady
improvement behind PD Defensive Player of the Year
normal'>Ricky Walker, a BCS-level prospect on the d-line.
style=> At safety,
normal'>Nick Clark grabbed two interceptions last week, and
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Casey Pretlow gives
them another takeaway threat.

the Matchup:
no secret about what these two teams like to do, and that's run the
football. Call it vanilla, call it
boring, call it whatever you want, but the bottom line is they've been
successful for the most part. Whoever
sprinkles in the passing dimension the best just may win this game.
style=> Third down conversions, run or pass, should loom
largely. So will special teams, an area
that Western Branch has been fine in the kicking department, but a little shaky
at times in terms of kick coverage.
Bethel's punting game has been rock solid.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>On the year, Bethel has been out-gained, so that
concerns you quite a bit that if Marriner starts to
get rolling, they might have a hard time slowing down that train and answering,
especially if playing from behind and needing the passing game and wide
receivers to step up significantly. The
matchup to keep an eye on might be the Bethel WR's with
normal'>Corey Sweetenburg and
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Alex Wilson versus the Western Branch
DB's with Addison and Lawrence. Western
Branch's run defense is also giving up half the amount of yards that Bethel is

"Verdana","sans-serif"'> Well, one thing
we know is that the Bruins are going to win.
Which Bruins though? In my
opinion, it's going to be Western Branch for several reasons.
style=> For one, nobody has stopped
class=SpellE>Marriner all year long.
Even against Western Branch he was able to rush for 150 yards, and the
Tigers simply beat them over the top passing the ball and Bethel doesn't have
nearly the weaponry that Oscar Smith does to do that consistently.
style=> Furthermore, one-dimensional offenses haven't
fared too well against the Bruins; it's usually the teams that can run to set
up the pass or vice versa. Bethel's way
to win this game is to what Grassfield did, which is
win the turnover battle and take Western Branch out of its element early,
playing on the Peninsula. But if
class=SpellE>Marriner gets going, it could be a long night.

Says: Western Branch 38-17
Rod Says: Western Branch 28-27
VHSL-Reference Says: Western Branch



season, another playoff appearance for Robert
Jackson's Salem SunDevils, who sit two victories away
from playing in the Eastern Region Division 6 Championship game for the fourth
time since 2006. Last year, they ended
up a failed two-point conversion attempt away from beating Oscar Smith and
claiming the region crown after fighting back from a large deficit.
style=> They went into the season as defending Beach
District Champs, but lost to an Ocean Lakes team 21-15 in the regular season that
they've beaten each of the past two years in the postseason.
style=> Engineering their attack is four-year
starting quarterback and Virginia Tech commit
normal'>Bucky Hodges, who has thrown for 17 touchdowns, rushed for 10 more
and has 1991 yards passing with only six interceptions.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>A team that threw for over 200 yards in six of their
first eight contests, the SunDevils have morphed into
a run-first team the last few weeks with
normal'> Bland coming on for
normal'>Torron Person and
gaining 661 yards over the past four games.
normal'> Bowens (33Rec. 732Yds.), James
Church and Kyree
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Burton keep defenses honest,
though. Left tackle
normal'>Zack Purnell anchors an o-line with much
more experience than they had this time last year.
style=> Defensively, Salem has held every foe to 21
points or less, allowing a meager 136.6 total yards per game.
style=> They've yet to give up 300 yards in a game
with Va. Tech commit Andrew
class=SpellE>Motu'apuaka leading the way at linebacker.
style=> A couple of other seniors, d-end
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Thompson and linebacker
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Steven Smith
style='font-weight:normal'>, are also part of a group that's
relentless coming forward to the football.

style=> The playoffs are nothing new to
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Martin Asprey
style='font-weight:normal'>'s Grassfield
Grizzlies, making their fifth consecutive trip and seeking a third appearance
in the regional semifinals.
class=SpellE>Grassfield started the year out 7-0, and then dropped two
in a row to Oscar Smith and King's Fork.
Last week they were able to re-group by beating Chesapeake rival Deep
Creek 38-0. In that game,
class=SpellE>wideout Markus Webb hauled
in two touchdown passes from QB Blake
class=SpellE>LaRussa, who has thrown for 1451 yards, 18 touchdowns
and just seven interceptions in what can be considered a breakout junior
year. Junior running backs
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Isaiah Harper and
normal'>Vincent Lowe give the Grizz two breakaway
threats in the backfield. Lowe is
nursing a high ankle sprain that has him doubtful to play, while Harper enters
with 7TD's of over 60 yards this season.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>To go with Lowe and Harper, senior wideout
Paris Smith has been huge for the
Grizzlies in earning All-Southeastern District First Team honors.
style=> On the year, Smith has hauled in 33 balls for
721 yards and eight touchdowns. He'll
graduate with some school receiving records, successfully following in the
footsteps of guys like Tony Patrick and Rudy Rudolph (both now at CNU).
style=> Defensively, there were some questions coming
into the year with Grassfield graduating hard-hitting
linebackers Avery Thompson and Drew Burns as well as d-lineman Austin Johnson and
corner Dominique Torres. They've leaned
on senior middle 'backer Marcus Mitchell
(81 tackles), d-end Demond
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Dowson and the trio of Smith, Harper
and Lowe in the defensive backfield to carry them.

the Matchup:
Asprey has a philosophy of 'next man up,' at
class=SpellE>Grassfield and will need that to come true if Lowe can't
play or be close to 100% if he does. His
value at corner is as important if not more so than what he brings
offensively. Someone, whether it's a guy
like Webb, a defensive player say Blake
class=SpellE>Pitre or Nick
Selby, or another RB/DB type such as Josh
McNair will have to pick up the slack to defeat a team of the quality of
Salem. The SunDevils
have made Bland a greater part of their offense and that should continue here
in the playoffs with defenses respecting Hodges' abilities and the pass game.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>The keys in this one are rather basic.
style=> Whoever controls the other team's playmakers
the best will have the upper hand. That
means Smith, Harper and Lowe (if he plays) for Grassfield
with Bowens, Bland and Church for Salen.
style=> Also critical is keeping the quarterback in
the pocket, whether that means Hodges or LaRussa, an
underrated scrambler. Salem has a much
more aggressive defense that sometimes gets stronger and nastier as the game
progresses, meaning bad news for Grassfield if they
get behind by more than a touchdown in the first half.

Grizzlies have to have a lot go right to win this game.
style=> That being said, Salem could be on upset
alert in this game. Even without a
healthy Lowe, Grassfield usually comes out really
fired up in these spots and if Salem starts slow, they got a chance to hang
around until the final few minutes of the fourth quarter with a chance to
win. Given that Salem hasn't played a
tough game where they've been challenged in over a month could have them
sleep-walking a little bit out of the gate as well.
style=> In the end, I feel Salem controls the line of
scrimmage and they are deeper with more weapons overall capable of striking in
what looks to me to be a 21-20 kind of game going into the fourth quarter.

Says: Salem 35-20
Rod Says: Salem 28-13
VHSL-Reference Says: Salem 27-20



Oscar Smith:
font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"'> The
defending Group AAA Division 6 State Champions begin their playoff journey,
trying to win a sixth regional title in seven years and third State
Championship since 2008. Oscar Smith has
won 70 of its last 71 games against Eastern Region opponents with that one
defeat in that stretch coming back in 2010 in the regional title game when the
Bayside Marlins, led by UVA DB's Demetrious Nichlson
and Anthony Cooper, nipped them 42-40.
Just last week, the Tigers survived a scare against King's Fork,
rallying from 13 points down in the second half in a 42-35 double-overtime
triumph to push their Southeastern District winning streak to 55 games.
style=> The Tigers are mighty impressive on both sides
of the ball, averaging 42.8PPG while only giving up 11.5PPG.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>Senior signal caller
normal'> Blow had a rough time in the team's season-opening loss to Byrnes
(SC) on ESPN, but since then has been dynamite, passing for 1895 yards, 29
touchdowns and only five interceptions on the season.
style=> At his disposal are two next-level receivers
in ODU commit Melvin Vaughn (43Rec.
667Yds. 8TD's) and UVA commit Zack Jones
(22Rec. 524Yds. 8TD's), who is nursing an ankle injury.
style=> Also bothered by an ankle injury is junior
five-star defensive lineman Andrew Brown,
part of a ferocious d-line that also features Southeastern District Defensive
Player of the Year Darren Flowers,
ODU commit Kanyia
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Anderson and
normal'> Oliver. A couple of
underclassmen have stepped up at receiver and in the secondary too with
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>Monty Fenner and
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Chapel.
"Verdana","sans-serif"'> The Bayside
Marlins under the direction of longtime Coach
normal'>Darnell Moore got off to a rocky start, losing to Salem and Ocean
Lakes by a combined 75 points with their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy at
2-2 overall. Since then, Bayside has
looked much more like the team we expected them to be going into the season,
putting up 42.8PPG during a six-game win streak where they had no margin for
error as they clinched a playoff berth for the fourth year in a row.
style=> There are national-level recruits and
record-setters leading them with QB Deion
Stitt, RB
normal'>Taquan 'Smoke'
class=SpellE>Mizzell and WR
normal'>Quin Blanding.
style=> Others that have played key roles include
senior Will Dillard, a four-year
starter at linebacker, wideout
normal'> Batey and sophomore corner
style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'> Brickhouse.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>Smoke has rushed for 3629 yards and has scored 74
touchdowns with 64 of them coming on the ground.
style=> This year, he has rushed for 1056 yards and
21TD's with 29 total scores.
class=SpellE>Stitt shined against Oscar Smith two years ago and has a
40-8 record as a starter with a career 81-23TD/Int. ratio, plus his 8418 yards
in four years place him 313 yards shy of Vic Hall for third place on the VHSL
passing list. Blanding, who is dynamic
on both sides of the ball, has 15 career interceptions with five this year to
go with 50 receptions for 1034 yards and six touchdowns.
style=> While the Bayside defense allows 18PPG, they
have held four of their six opponents to six points or less.
the Matchup:
you look at the quarterback matchup and playmakers, you say Bayside has a pretty
decent chance to pull off an upset as the #7 seed for the second year in a
row. After all, they have Blanding and
class=SpellE>Mizzell, two five-star talents.
style=> Also, let's keep in mind last year they were
a #7 seed and beat PD Champ Woodside, the #2 seed who was 10-0 at the time, in
OT at Todd Stadium. But Oscar Smith has
a decisive advantage in two major areas on the field.
style=> They are offensive line and defense.
style=> In both of their lopsided losses this year,
the Marlins had serious blocking issues, and defensively struggled to get off
the field on third down.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'>For Bayside to have any prayer, they have to keep
class=SpellE>Stitt upright and give him adequate protection against an Oscar
Smith defensive line that is no joke (all
four starters made First Team All-SED), plus make the Tigers
one-dimensional. On the Oscar Smith side
of the ledger, they want to get the crowd amped right away and break
class=SpellE>Bayside's spirit early, see if they'll quit and dig a hole
that's too deep. In addition, maximize
class=SpellE>McClease's touches as this is a game where it wouldn't
surprise me to see him a break a 70 or 80-yarder that is a huge momentum swing.

"Verdana","sans-serif"'> There are
several fascinating storylines in this game to follow.
style=> You have arguably the two best two-way
players in the region in Blanding and Vaughn.
Both teams have weapons galore.
Also, there's recent history between the two programs.
style=> Even though there are only a few holdovers
from that 2010 classic, this one is personal for Oscar Smith.
style=> Bayside is the last team to beat them in the
region, ended their reign as Champs in the area and Morgan wants to make sure
he gets a win over Moore before he retires (whether
Darnell decides to hang it up after this season or a few years from now).
style=> When push comes to shove, I can't envision
the Tigers playing two less than inspiring performances in a row.
style=> The bye week should help Bayside in terms of
their preparation, but Oscar Smith at home is a different animal, especially
when they are coming off a close call.

Says: Oscar Smith 41-7
Rod Says: Oscar Smith 42-21
VHSL-Reference Says: Oscar Smith 38-21



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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