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October 29, 2009
The second to last week of the Eastern Region Football regular season is here and below you'll find analysis and picks for all the games, including an update on the predictions battle that's going on between State Football Editor Rod Johnson and Eastern Region Football Writer Matthew Hatfield.
Game of the Week:
#7 Norcom (7-1) at #6 Lake Taylor (6-2): With a road win over Lake Taylor, arguably their toughest opponent to date, the Norcom Greyhounds can move closer towards their first Eastern District title since the 2000 campaign, which also happens to be the last time they were in the playoffs. Given the fact that Norcom ranks #2 in the Eastern Region defending the pass and only 20th versus the run, what should we expect from the Titans' offense? Running the football, and they've got the guy to do it with Derrion 'Booty' Walton, who's 184 yards away from 1000 for the season. Walton has scored 15 touchdowns this year, 12 of which have come on the ground, and he's shown no ill effects of the injury that kept him out of the opener against Battlefield. Neither has linebacker Travis Williams, the recent Miami of Florida commit, on defense for a Titans squad that is either leading the region in sacks or right near the top of the heap. The trio of Williams, Eric Sykes and Nicholas Oliver has combined for 31 sacks. Fred Hill leads the team in tackles with 51 total stops.
As for Norcom, they are no stranger to good defensive play, led by the reigning Eastern District Defensive Player of the Year Demontray Ryland at linebacker. Monte' Robinson has benefitted moving from outside linebacker to defensive back, intercepting some passes, and corner Carlos Mills and 6-foot-5 junior free safety Kameron Mack are also threats in the secondary. On offense, the Greyhounds are led by senior quarterback Deandre Lamb, a three-year starter that has produced scoring plays with his arm and feet. They're nice production and leadership at the running back position out of Anthony Blount (68Car. 606Yds. 6TD), with Robert Jackson, a returning All-District performer, paving the way up front.
Two weeks after attempting 43 passes, probably a school-record too, in a 14-7 loss to Maury, expect Lake Taylor to keep the number of passes to a minimum, and to run the ball a lot behind their experienced offensive line that boasts a pair of three-year starters in Hill and Sykes. These are two very strong defenses that rank #4 (Lake Taylor) and #7 (Norcom) in the region in fewest points allowed per game. The winner of this game will likely claim the #2 seed for the Eastern Region Division 5 playoffs, and since the Titans have played in more games with the stakes raised, I'll give them the nod in what shapes up to be a hard-hitting matchup.
Matt Says: Lake Taylor 20-7
Rod Says: Lake Taylor 16-14
Western Branch (4-4) at #1 Oscar Smith (8-0): Coach Scott Johnson of Western Branch can't be pleased that his team is heading into a road game with Oscar Smith where a loss could knock them out of playoff contention. However, Johnson does have to be happy about how his defense has played these past few weeks. In fact, in their past five games, the Bruins have not given up more than 14 points in any contest. Their defense has not given up a point in 12 straight quarters of football. Now keeping the Oscar Smith offense down is a daunting task of epic proportions as the Tigers have the region's leading passer in Phillip Sims (1836 passing yards, 18TD's), a running back in J.C. Coleman with 12 touchdown rushes and a pair of receivers in Charlie Ricks and Quinta Funderburk that have combined for over 1200 yards receiving and 14 touchdown catches. Taming the Tigers is not easy, even with Leondre Walker running the ball well as of late (570 rush yards the past three games).
Matt Says: Oscar Smith 42-7
Rod Says: Oscar Smith 34-10
Phoebus (8-0) at Denbigh (4-4): On Halloween afternoon, the Denbigh Patriots will take on the undefeated Phoebus Phantoms at Todd Stadium. Expect more tricks to be played on the Patriots than treats being given out to a team that is now without injured starting quarterback Allen Simon, running back Jarmaine Rawls and left tackle Terrence Holston. Simon has thrown for 1139 yards and 11 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions, so his absence is a big blow to a team that has a potent passing attack, featuring big-play receivers Lavon Pearson (38Rec. 676Yds. 5TD) and Rodriquez Jones. The Phantoms bring in a 23-game winning streak overall as well as the region's leading rusher in Colby Goodwyn, a senior that has rumbled for 1135 yards and 16TD's. Slowing him down will be difficult for Denbigh to do.
Matt Says: Phoebus 48-6
Rod Says: Phoebus 42-3
#3 Woodside (7-1) at Gloucester (0-8): My question going into this game is can the Gloucester defense keep the Woodside offense under 50 points? In recent weeks the Wolverines have erupted for 67 points against Bethel, 56 versus Menchville and 43 just last Saturday vs. Kecoughtan in a game where they had some players fighting flulike symptoms. Even a Woodside team that's not 100% healthy or at full strength can be a handful, that is as long as they have Aaron Evans at quarterback. Evans has completed 51 of 97 passes for 786 yards, five touchdowns and with his feet he's added 795 yards rushing and 11 more scores. The Dukes are giving up 38.6 points per game, and they'll need an effective ball-control offense that keeps the Woodside offense off the field to stay within striking distance.
Matt Says: Woodside 50-10
Rod Says: Woodside 48-14
#4 Grassfield (6-2) at Deep Creek (4-4): The Grizzlies have been really strong on defense, yielding only 10 points per game and the Deep Creek offense is coming off a miserable performance. The Hornets entered last week's game against Lakeland with a tad bit of playoff hope as they were 4-3 and playing better in comparison to the beginning part of this season. That wasn't the case vs. the Cavaliers as they turned the football over seven times and finished with a meager 83 total yards of offense. If they do that against Grassfield, this game will get out of hand quickly. In their past two games, wins over Great Bridge and Hickory, the Grizz have rushed for 598 yards and many of those have been courtesy of running back Alfonso Emery and fullback Nick Warack.
Matt Says: Grassfield 34-13
Rod Says: Grassfield 28-14
First Colonial (5-3) at #5 Bayside (7-1): With a win, the Bayside Marlins under Head Coach Darnell Moore can clinch at least a share of the Beach District regular season title now that the decision has been finalized that Ocean Lakes' six forfeitures stand. After losses the last two weeks to Kellam and Green Run, the First Colonial Patriots desperately need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. In their last six games, the Bayside defense has given up only three offensive touchdowns. They face an FC offense that has scored more than 17 points in a game only twice all season long, and defenses are beginning to figure out they stopping Willie Byrn (986 all-purpose yards) from running is the key. Lamar Jordan has 741 rushing yards and 9TD's for the Marlins, and stopping him won't be an easy task.
Matt Says: Bayside 19-9
Rod Says: Bayside 16-6
Hickory (2-6) at #8 Great Bridge (7-1): Things were starting to look up for Hickory after two games of year two under Tim Sitterson. The Hawks were 2-0 with come-from-behind victories over Norview and King's Fork, and then they dropped six in a row. Worst of all, only of those games was decided by less than 10 points and it was a 14-13 loss to a Nansemond River team that was winless before the meeting. Now is not the time to face Great Bridge, which is 7-1 and has one of the area's best passing attacks, engineered by junior Brad Hudson (1729 pass yards, 18-8TD/Int. ratio). Oscar Smith put up 307 yards through the air a few weeks ago against Hickory, and we could see an aerial output similar to that for Hudson as they get a tune-up before facing the undefeated Tigers in the regular season finale.
Matt Says: Great Bridge 41-14
Rod Says: Great Bridge 35-10
#9 Landstown (6-2) at Kempsville (4-4): Year two for Tommy Reamon at Landstown has been a success given how young his team is and that they are 6-2 with a chance to pretty much all but clinch a postseason berth with a win over Kempsville. Few might not know that after Oscar Smith and Phoebus, Reamon's Eagles are #3 in the Eastern Region in scoring defense, giving up 7.6 points per game. The most they've given up in a game this season was 15 to Cox. That's not good news for a Kempsville offense that's becoming dependent on the running of Travis Hughes (146Car. 851Yds. 7TD) with both starting quarterback Chris Rodgers and backup signal caller Joey Droll out due to injuries. Last week third-stringer Cody Mister played vs. Cox, and we could see a lot of Hughes lining up in the Wildcat formation this week.
Matt Says: Landstown 10-7
Rod Says: Landstown 14-7
#10 Cox (6-2) at Ocean Lakes (2-6): I'm really interested to see how Ocean Lakes reacts to the news this week that their appeal was denied and that they won't get the six wins they had to forfeit back. The Dolphins are completely out of the playoff picture, so the question is will we see a sharp, focused performance for a full four quarters against a Cox team that runs the ball rather effectively? In their triple-option, Navy-like attack, the Falcons have been methodical, averaging 202.1 yards per game on the ground, fourth most in the area only behind Peninsula teams Phoebus, Woodside and Warwick. Not only will Ocean Lakes have to slow down fullback Devaul Peterson (475 yards, 5TD's), but also tailback Severin Rucker and QB D.J. DiNardo. Ocean Lakes will counter with dual-threat signal caller Lafonte Thourogood and star receiver Justin Hunter, who wants to leave a lasting impression with two games left in his career before heading off to LSU.
Matt Says: Ocean Lakes 21-14
Rod Says: Ocean Lakes 21-20
King's Fork (1-7) at #11 Lakeland (6-2): Knowing that win move them in great position to make the playoffs for the first time in school history, the Lakeland Cavaliers have to treat this Suffolk rivalry game with King's Fork as a postseason, one-and-done affair. Even if it wasn't, they should be prepared because it is for city bragging rights, and that alone gets the juices flowing. Cedric Johnson currently places fourth in the region in rushing yards with 860 on 162 attempts to go with his 12 touchdown runs. Sophomore QB Walter Boykins found targets Jaquan Demiel and Donavan Wright for scoring strikes, and he's making marginal improvement each week. To pull off an upset, the Bulldogs have to jumpstart their sputtering offense or get a big special teams play from Virginia Tech commit Dominique Patterson, which they did a week ago in a loss to Western Branch.
Matt Says: Lakeland 24-8
Rod Says: Lakeland 27-13
#12 Warwick (5-3) at Bethel (5-3): Essentially, the winner has the inside track on getting that #8 seed in the Division 5 playoffs, although it's not an easy road ahead for Bethel. After this week's game against a Warwick team that has won four straight since a 1-3 start, the Bruins take on unbeaten Phoebus in their regular season finale. The constant for Warwick during this four-game win streak has been their defense. In their first four games they allowed 106 points, but in their last four they've given up only 34 and 14 of those came in the final five minutes of their upset of Hampton. Warwick's combo of QB Lamonte' Williams and RB Courtney Hill have combined for over 700 rush yards and 9TD's, but they aren't quite as multi-faceted or two-dimensional as a Bethel attack averaging 164 passing yards and 143 rushing yards per game. Balance could prove to be big for Bethel.
Matt Says: Bethel 28-24
Rod Says: Bethel 24-23
#13 Hampton (5-3) at Kecoughtan (4-4): Coming off being shutout for the first time this season, the Crabbers ought to respond in a major way against a Kecoughtan team that is without starting quarterback Anthony 'Duke' Dorsey. Rather quietly, the Warriors are putting up a somewhat respectable 20.4 points per game and showing decent flashes on offense. Where they are struggling is most on the defensive side of the football, giving up 170.6 rushing yards a game and that might be the remedy to cure a Hampton run game that has finished with under 100 yards on the ground five times this season. Daquan Charity and Dion Futch provide Hampton with that quickness Kecoughtan probably can't match, and QB David Watford will likely bounce back with better passing numbers this week.
Matt Says: Hampton 24-0
Rod Says: Hampton 21-7
Kellam (4-4) vs. Green Run (4-5) at VB Sportsplex: Things have been a little bit different this year Kellam, known as a traditional run-oriented team that hardly ever attempts a pass, has gone to the air much more than they usually do. Quarterback Matt Schmit has allowed them to do that with 49 completions on 86 attempts for 640 yards and a 4-3TD/Int. ratio. Plus, the Knights aren't quite as large up front or nearly as powerful running the ball as they have been. Evan Lowe and Kelvin 'K.J.' Florence have together rushed for 765 yards and 9TD's, and last year's starter James Taylor had more than that alone by this time a season ago. As for Green Run, it will most likely be the final game for senior D-I talents Jamal Wallace (Duke commit), Zach Dunston and running back Dejor Simmons, who rushed for 182 yards and a touchdown a week ago. They want to go out with a bang.
Matt Says: Green Run 27-20
Rod Says: Green Run 20-17
Tallwood (1-7) at Princess Anne (1-7): Neither team has won a game on the field this year. Tallwood and Princess Anne each got their lone victory via forfeit by Ocean Lakes. In essence, this game is to stay out of the Beach District cellar. Right now the Lions are more equipped to do that as they have been much more competitive at times on defense this year than the Cavaliers. The Lions are giving up 25.9 points per game, which is nothing to brag about, but considerably better than the 44.9 PA is allowing. Containing PA running back Xavier Morgan will be the key for Tallwood because he's the only real threat along with junior Jered Fiesta that the Lions have to be cognizant of defensively.
Matt Says: Tallwood 12-3
Rod Says: Tallwood 28-6
Booker T. Washington (4-4) at Wilson (2-6): Earlier in the season, the Booker T. Washington Bookers were getting it done with offense, scoring 34 against Petersburg and 48 versus Granby in a game where quarterback Dominique Marsh threw seven touchdown passes. Last week the Bookers shutout Maury by a score of 7-0 in what was clearly the team's best defensive performance of the year. Coach Che' Jacobs knows this is a week where the offense can get back in high gear before taking on Norcom in the regular season finale in a game where perhaps they may need to win to be playoff bound. Marsh has great confidence in receiver Jermond Colston (18Rec. 397Yds. 7TD), and with Dionte Edwards not playing last week due to injury, they plugged Donte Capers in running the ball and he didn't miss a beat. Wilson may not be able to stop all the Bookers' weapons in this one, even at home.
Matt Says: Booker T. 28-6
Rod Says: Booker T. 23-12
Maury (5-3) at Churchland (5-3): This is a great opportunity for Churchland. With a win, the Truckers can remain tied atop the Eastern District with the winner of Lake Taylor vs. Norcom. A loss hurts their postseason seeding and knocks them out of contention for the district title. Both teams appear headed towards the playoffs though, but whichever team can get a win here has to feel good about being a threat once in the postseason. Maury's defense has been a little bit more consistent than Churchland's, allowing 11.4 points per game to the Truckers' 18.6. That being said, the Commodores haven't scored more than 17 points in a game since the opener, and they just haven't had the number of big plays on offense that the Truckers have had, particularly the past two weeks with RB's Cedric Cradle Jr. and Jocori Robbins. This is a close game and tough to call, but I feel Maury behind the playmaking of Keenan Lambert will bounce back from last week's loss to Booker T. Washington.
Matt Says: Maury 17-16
Rod Says: Maury 14-13
Granby (2-6) at Norview (2-6): Both teams are out of the playoff mix, so at this stage it's about building for the future and trying to close the 2009 campaign on a high note. For Norview, they seem to be closer to than Granby for a couple of reasons. For starters, the Comets are without Jamario Taylor, who broke his leg early in the season and was if not the team's most dynamic weapon, certainly a key player. Another plus for Norview is after they got off to a disastrous 0-5 start, they could've quite, but didn't and actually upset Booker T. and played Churchland close last week. The Pilots have scored 20 or more points in three consecutive games, and should be able to make it four straight games provided they're able to get Stephen Sims (165Car. 981Yds. 11TD) to break free early.
Matt Says: Norview 23-15
Rod Says: Norview 20-14
Indian River (0-8) at Nansemond River (1-7): It has been a season to forget for Braves Head Coach Cadillac Harris at Indian River as they are without a win going into their final two games, this for a perennially tough program that played in a region final in 2007. Nansemond River is showing some progress, beating Hickory a couple weeks back and playing Oscar Smith tough for a half last Friday. On the line, the Warriors are going to count on Dewayne Alford and Lynn Peele to open rushing lanes for Lamont Brown and Benjamin DuBois. Bernard Jennings is another player to keep an eye on at receiver and free safety. Still, the Warriors' defense is a bit leaky, and this could be a game where freshman QB Corwin Cutler starts to show his promise and why Cadillac was high on him going into the season.
Matt Says: Indian River 22-12
Rod Says: Indian River 12-8
Menchville (1-7) at Heritage (1-7): These two Newport News rivals have had their share of struggles this season, though one will come away from this one with a chance to close the year better than they started. Menchville has to feel confident they have the best football player on the field in Clifton Richardson, who recently broke the 1000-yard rushing barrier and is #2 in the region in rush yards. Heritage counters with an offense that has been inconsistent, but was steady in their win over Gloucester as new QB Adore Pope both passed and ran for over 100 yards in leading them to a come-from-behind win. The Hurricanes have a little more momentum going into this one, and that, along with a slightly better defense, is what Head Coach Jason Robinson has to count on in seeking their second win of the year.
Matt Says: Heritage 26-21
Rod Says: Menchville 31-24
Matthew Hatfield has covered Eastern Region Basketball & Football since 2004 for VirginiaPreps.com - the #1 High School Sports Site on the Rivals Network. Check out Hatfield's website - www.matthewhatfield.com - for more on the pro and college sports scene. To contact Matthew, please e-mail email@example.com, and catch him every Saturday on High School Sports Talk on ESPN Radio 94.1.