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October 26, 2009

ER Monday Morning Quarterback #9

Two more Eastern Region Monday Morning Quarterback editions left this regular season and one of them is right here as we recap the latest happenings around the '757', plus another in-depth conversation with a winning Head Coach in the area looking for tw

Two more Eastern Region Monday Morning Quarterback editions left this regular season and one of them is right here as we recap the latest happenings around the '757', plus another in-depth conversation with a winning Head Coach in the area looking for two more wins to get at worst a share of a district title.

2009 Eastern Region Schedule & Results

Game of the Week:

#2 Phoebus 17, #7 Hampton 0: Grabbing their 30th consecutive victory over a Peninsula District team, the Phantoms pitched shutout #18 in the last 29 games to improve their record to 8-0 this season. Leading the way for Phoebus were fullback Chaz Robinson (41 yards rushing, 39 yards receiving, TD catch and 9 tackles) and quarterback Paul Morant (5-10 passing for 71 yards, TD pass and TD run).


Postgame Audio with Phoebus Coach Stan Sexton

#1 Oscar Smith 38, Nansemond River 12: It was another monster defensive performance from Oscar Smith defensive back Charlie Ricks, who made three more interceptions to raise his season total to eight, and he also had five grabs for 67 yards on offense. Quarterback Phillip Sims completed 14 of 26 passes for 176 yards and 2TD's, and sophomore tailback J.C. Coleman rushed for a career-high 156 yards on 23 attempts and scored a touchdown.

Ocean Lakes 16, #3 Bayside 6: Despite not getting an offensive touchdown, the Ocean Lakes used an opportunistic defense and strong special teams play to knock current Beach District leader Bayside from the ranks of the unbeaten. Reggie Owens made three interceptions for the Dolphins, including one he returned 36 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to push the Ocean Lakes lead from three points to double-figures.


Rod Johnson's Photo Feature

#4 Woodside 43, Kecoughtan 13: Senior quarterback Aaron Evans completed 7 of 11 passes for 117 yards and 3TD's as the Wolverines cruised past Kecoughtan and moved their record to 7-1. In a losing cause, Melkim Reaves rushed for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the second half to prevent the Warriors from being shutout.

#5 Grassfield 22, Hickory 9: For the second week in a row, Grizzlies running back Alfonso Emery took his first run of the game took the house, sprinting 57 yards for a touchdown and giving Grassfield, which improved to 6-2 overall, a record they never relinquished against the sputtering Hickory Hawks, who have now dropped six in a row. Emery totaled 103 yards rushing, and fullback Nick Warack racked up 91 yards rushing on five carries.

#6 Lake Taylor 49, Wilson 0: The Lake Taylor Titans have now scored nine touchdowns via their defense or special teams this season and three of them came in a 49-0 shutout of Wilson on Friday night. Derrion 'Booty' Walton, who finished with 4TD's, returned a punt 45 yards for a score, Stanley Walls had a 65-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Torrein Edwards scored on an interception return.

#8 Norcom 52, Granby 7: Accounting for five touchdowns (3 passing, 2 rushing), Greyhounds quarterback Deandre Lamb passed for 109 yards and added 72 yards with his feet in a 45-point rout of the now 2-6 Granby Comets. Demontray Ryland had 2TD receptions and Anthony Blount gained 109 yards on the ground, plus scored his sixth rushing touchdown of the season.

Booker T. Washington 7, #9 Maury 0: Recording their first defensive shutout since 2005, Booker T. Washington upset Maury in a game that knocked the Commodores out of a four-way tie for first place in the Eastern District, and in the process, kept slim playoff hope alive for the Bookers in Division 5. Donte Capers rushed for 121 yards to pace the BTW offense, and quarterback Dominique Marsh completed 18 passes for 121 yards.

#10 Great Bridge 33, Indian River 19: The Great Bridge defense created five turnovers, and the offense, led by junior quarterback Brad Hudson, rolled up 308 total yards as they improved to 7-1 on the season. Hudson completed 18 of 35 passes for 190 yards while also rushing for 65 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

#11 Landstown 7, Tallwood 0: In a defensive struggle, the Landstown Eagles held on for a 7-0 shutout of the Tallwood Lions to improve their record to 6-2 overall. Landstown out-gained Tallwood 320-35, but was stopped four times in the red zone and their only touchdown came on a 76-yard scamper from Jordan Broadnax.

#12 Cox 19, Kempsville 13: Rallying from a 13-3 deficit against a Kempsville team using its third-string quarterback, the Cox Falcons moved to 6-2 overall with a come-from-behind triumph over the Chiefs. The Cox ground game rolled up 228 yards rushing, keyed by quarterback D.J. DiNardo and fullback Devaul Peterson, both of whom scored a touchdown.

Green Run 27, First Colonial 13: Finally being close to 100% healthy after suffering an ankle injury earlier in the year, Stallions running back Dejor Simmons accumulated a season-high 182 yards, including 81 of those yards on a touchdown run in the second quarter, to lead Green Run to a win over First Colonial. Quarterback B.J. Waters threw for 130 yards, 80 of them coming on a touchdown strike to Tresmond Johnson, and ran for 76 yards and a couple more scores.

Salem 47, Princess Anne 0: Sophomore running back Divante Walker ran for 3TD's and freshman quarterback Temuchin Hodges produced 3TD's (2 passing, 1 rushing) in the SunDevils' most lopsided win on the 2009 campaign. Defensively, Salem pitched its second shutout of the year and held PA 11 total yards on offense.

Churchland 27, Norview 21: Overcoming an 80-yard touchdown run and 69-yard interception return for a score by Norview's Stephen Sims, the Churchland Truckers remained in a three-way tie atop the Eastern District with Lake Taylor and Norcom by virtue of their six-point victory over the Pilots on Saturday afternoon. Jocorey Robins and Cedric Cradle Jr. found the end zone twice apiece in the win for the Truckers (5-3 overall, 4-1 in district play).

Lakeland 20, Deep Creek 0: Forcing a season-high seven turnovers, the Lakeland defense was in complete control against Deep Creek, shutting the Hornets out for the first time in school history. Quarterback Walter Boykins of Lakeland threw for 107 yards and scoring strikes to Donovan Wright and Jaquan Demiel, and running back Cedric Johnson ran 16 times for 53 yards and a touchdown

Western Branch 24, King's Fork 6: On 12 rushes, Leondre Walker gained 198 yards and scored a touchdown on a 56-yard burst to propel the Bruins past the King's Fork Bulldogs (1-7). Vernon Payne was on the receiving end of four passes, three going for first downs, for 61 yards, and the Western Branch defense continues to play at a high level as they've now not allowed a score for 12 quarters since the lone King's Fork touchdown came on a 93-yard punt return by Dominique Patterson.

Bethel 42, Menchville 14: Receiver Stephen Clark caught four passes for 105 yards and 2TD's from quarterback Rashad Manley in the Bruins' 28-point win over Menchville, which fell to 1-7. Rijo Walker returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown to give Bethel a special teams spark as they ran their record to 5-3 before facing Warwick and Phoebus in their final two regular season games.

Warwick 20, Denbigh 0: Quarterback Lamonte' Williams and running back Courtney Hill combined for 183 yards rushing and 2TD's as the Raiders blanked Denbigh by 20 to significantly aid their postseason chances in Division 5. Rashard Whitlow was huge for the Warwick defense, intercepting three passes in the victory.

Heritage 22, Gloucester 19: Coming back from a 10-0 half-time deficit, the Heritage Hurricanes grabbed their first win of the season with a narrow three-point win over winless Gloucester. The Canes got a 69-yard touchdown pass from Adore Pope to Jamar Bateman, and Pope ran for the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Four Questions To Ponder:

#1: Crabbers Slipping? Hampton is no longer the power or threat they once were. The question is will this be a temporary or permanent view? My guess is closer towards temporary. They lack an explosive running game, having failed to crack the 100-yard plateau rushing in five of their eight games. On defense, they are giving up 16 points and 246 total yards per game, this one season after ranking 12th overall in the Eastern Region in scoring defense. In other words, for Hampton, a team that ranked no lower than 7th in the region in scoring defense from 2000-07, they haven't been an elite defensive squad the past couple seasons.

After all, let's keep things in perspective. They do have the man coaching them in Mike Smith with more victories and state titles than anyone else in VHSL history, and this year's team does have only 11 seniors. This will be the first time since 1976 they don't finish with at least eight wins during the regular season. Given their track record, you have to figure this being just a down year compared to their usual standards, and that they'll be back and heard from again soon. Shoot, they will probably finish 7-3 and everybody is asking what is wrong with Hampton? A lot of teams would like to be 7-3 and consider that a problem.

#2: Who's The Challenger To Phoebus? Every year the game that Phoebus always circles is Hampton. They are their biggest rival and have beaten them in big games before, but lately, it has been thorough domination for the Phantoms. Phoebus has won four consecutive games in the series by a convincing 104-12 margin. Both the Phoebus offense and defense is playing at a different level than most teams in the Eastern Region, Hampton included.

Regionally, the closest team to them in D-5 now is Lake Taylor. Last year the Titans gave Phoebus their closest game, a 14-0 loss for Lake Taylor in the Division 5 ER Final at Harbor Park in a contest that was 7-0 in the fourth quarter. Statistically, the Titans defense mirrors Phoebus, making for a possible showdown once again in the ER D-5 Championship, provided both teams get there.

On a state level, the clear-cut answer is Stone Bridge. Sure, the possibility exists that Phoebus will see Dinwiddie from the Central Region again, a team that the Phantoms defeated in last December's State Championship. But Stone Bridge, which got hammered by Phoebus 38-8 in last year's State Semis, is the last team to beat Phoebus. Since the Bulldogs defeated them in the 2007 State Semis, Phoebus has won 23 consecutive games, and if the two are to meet again in the State Playoffs for a third straight year, it'll come in a State Championship setting in Charlottesville this year.

#3: What Impact Will The Ocean Lakes Appeal Have? Ocean Lakes' appeal and whether or not the forfeits are overturned is going to affect a handful of teams in the Division 6 playoff race, most notably 'bubble' teams like Cox, Kempsville, Salem and First Colonial. With their latest victory over Kempsville, the Falcons of Cox probably got themselves off the bubble for now, but really need to beat FC in the regular season finale to feel good about getting in the postseason. Also, Kellam is holding on to slim hopes in Division 5, but they will be completely erased if Ocean Lakes gets their wins back because it will take away a victory from the Knights and add a loss on to their record that would significantly damage their postseason hopes.

The Division 6 playoff picture in general will change quite a bit if Ocean Lakes is added back to the mix. And unless Ocean Lakes gets their wins back, the only undefeated team standing in Division 6 is defending State Champion Oscar Smith. A return of those wins for the Dolphins would put the possibility back in the equation of Ocean Lakes and Oscar Smith meeting with undefeated records in a region final.

#4: Is There A District Crazier Than The Eastern District? In a word, no. We've seen such surprise results as Maury beat Lake Taylor, Norview top Booker T. Washington and Booker T. defeat Maury. Churchland also handed Norcom its only loss on the year in an overtime thriller. With all the zaniness and unpredictability in the league, it still seems like Lake Taylor is the team to beat and that we may have our answer as to who the best team is after Friday when they take on Norcom. Here's why.

With their loss to Booker T. Washington last Friday, Maury did a few things. One, it put the Bookers back in the playoff chase for the final spot in Division 5. Secondly, it knocked the Commodores out of a four-way tie atop the Eastern District with Churchland, Norcom and Lake Taylor. Now Maury can help decide the district title, potentially even an outright winner if they're able to beat Churchland on Friday because then the winner of Norcom vs. Lake Taylor would most likely go on to claim the league title outright. By Friday, maybe, just maybe, things will be a little clearer in this improving, though hard-to-figure-out, topsy-turvy district.

One-on-One Conversation with Norcom Head Coach Larry Archie:

In 2006, Larry Archie was hired to be the Head Football Coach of the Norcom Greyhounds in Portsmouth, VA. Archie, then 41 years of age at the time, knew it was going to be an awful tough challenge to restore the pride and tradition the program had for many years under Joe Langston in the 1980's and early 1990's. In fact, year one for Archie was rough, going 3-7 overall. After beginning his tenure with a 7-13 mark, Archie has since rebounded to go 14-4 in his last 18 games.

This year, the Greyhounds won their first three district games for the first time since 1996, and now they are primed to make the postseason for the first time since 2000. Archie spent some time on Sunday discussing his program, the ups-and-downs and a huge upcoming league game with Lake Taylor on the eve of Halloween.

Q: At 7-1 Coach, I know you would love to be 8-0 and have won that overtime game with Churchland, but you have to be pleased with how your team has performed, especially on defense by holding seven of the eight teams you have played to 13 points or less. What are your overall thoughts on the squad to this point?

Archie: "I think one of the things that helps us is we're a senior-heavy team. We have a lot of kids in key places that have been playing for three years, not just on the team. The experience that we have helps us. We've been in some big games before and several guys are playing the same positions. One of the senior leaders for us is Deandre Lamb, who's been the starting quarterback for his third year. He calls about as many plays as I do during the course of a game. That's been able to help us quite a bit."

Q: Lamb got off to a sluggish start the first couple games, then he really picked it up accounting for a bunch of passing and rushing scores in leading the offense. On defense, linebacker Demontray Ryland is a D-I prospect and the returning Eastern District Defensive Player of the Year. Would you agree they've been everything you could ask out of them as senior captains?

Archie: "Yes, they have. We talk a lot about let your performance speak for you. If you play, you don't have to say a word. They've shown through their abilities and willingness to play the game on Friday night that they are a valuable part of what we do. Anthony Blount is another one that's been running the ball pretty consistent. He takes a lot of pride in his blocking, and he's been really solid for us."

Q: This Norcom program used to be a perennial power in the Eastern Region, primarily in the early 1990's under Joe Langston when the team was competing at a regional and state level for Championships. Considering some of the adversity that you have battled, such as the death of Rashawn 'Peanut' Finney last year and missing the playoffs despite going 7-3 while two teams with 6-4 records beat your squad out for the final two spots, it hasn't been easy building this program back up into a contender. Take me through how that process has gone?

Archie: "One of the things I did when I came to Norcom was an overall assessment of the program just to see where we are. It wasn't so much about the wins and the losses as it was about the mind frame of the kids. I knew it was going to be tough because one of the toughest things as a coach to do is to teach kids how to win, to get that mindset that we expect to win now as opposed to hoping to win when we first got there. We understand that winning is a process and it takes a while for you to change some of the thinking, attitudes and what goes into it. It's not a Friday night thing. You win the game Monday through Thursday. You win games and you turn your program around in the off-season when you have a lot of guys in the weight room. One of the big things too was that our kids bought in.

I came from Lake Taylor where I was there for three seasons and in those three seasons was able to watch Hank Sawyer win two district Championships. I had a formula and that was teamwork. When our kids kind of bought into that formula, things started to change for us. I think it's just about changing the attitude about winning, changing the culture. The kids have to work hard because nobody is going to give you anything. Once you do turn the corner, you have to be willing to take everybody's best shot. I think that's one of the things that helped us get to a point where we're able to win, and also where we're able to do well in games where people are coming to get us."

Q: You spoke earlier on Lamb, Ryland and Blount as the headliners for this team. Tell me about a few of your unsung heroes, guys that have kind of gone unnoticed that you think have been x-factors or key contributors at times where games have been tight and needed someone to step up?

Archie: "I think one of the guys that really is not unsung but may fit that description because most of your offensive linemen don't get much attention is Robert Jackson. Robert is a captain for us up front and he was All-District last year. It's unquestioned that he's a coach's son, and he's the son of the Head Coach over at Salem (also named Robert Jackson). He's been real solid for us, checking us into good protections, helps Lamb out a lot and he's definitely a leader up front on the offensive line. Carlos Mills was an All-District performer as a freshman defensive back two years ago and he still is doing a nice job. Carlos also plays wide receiver for us and returns kicks and punts. Monte Robinson moved from outside linebacker to defensive back and he's been real solid. He's had some picks and I think he had two or three against Heritage. Kameron Mack has been real instrumental in the secondary. He's a 6-foot-5 junior free safety and getting some Division I interest, even Virginia Tech likes him a little bit.

"We have a real good mix of guys. A lot of times people say, 'Hey Coach, you're doing a great job.' But players win games. I just happen to be there directing and orchestrating. When you have pretty good players, you'll win more games than you lose. We've been blessed to have some guys that can help us win."

Q: Upcoming is a huge Eastern District battle with Lake Taylor and Coach Sawyer's team has been the top dog in this district for a while. Even with a loss, your team is in good shape as far as making the playoffs, but this one could very well decide who wins the district title, whether it be outright or shared with Churchland. What are your thoughts on this upcoming game and what these last two games mean here as you try to head towards the postseason?

Archie: "One of the things we did we started the very first day of practice was talk to the guys about the difference between winning some games and winning Championships. We did a lot of paperwork the first day. We talked about how a Champion brings it 100% of the time. A team that's going to win some games is going to bring back 80, 90, 95 percent. But as a Champion, you're 100% all of the time. We talked about winning Championships from day one, not just being in games. We don't want to go back and say 'well, if we had or I wish we could've, should've, would've,' and those types of things.

I think the overtime game we lost to Churchland, that's a prime example. This is the difference between winning some games and winning Championships. You have to be able to win the overtime games, the close games and the games you're not picked to win. We talk about winning Championships and devoting the time and energy towards that goal. In our district, it all starts with Lake Taylor. Regardless of whoever else is playing well, they've been the Champion in our district for the last three years.

It's going to be a game where we have to take care of the football and it's going to be a strong defensive game. I don't know that there will be a whole lot of points scored. I think it'll be about the team with the best field position, special teams will play a part and I don't think defensively either one of us will give up a whole lot of big plays. It's going to be a tough game and I know Hank will have his guys ready. One of the things I picked up from him is that their kids expect good things to happen. My goal has always been to get to a point when I've got my guys expecting good things to happen. It took a couple years just to change their mindset. We've come ready to play and done pretty well the last couple years showing up to play."

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 protected], and catch him throughout the year on High School Sports Talk on ESPN Radio 94.1.

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