#7 Phoebus RB Anthony Turner (Photo: Joe Barnes/recruit757)
Phoebus now sails into the Class 3 State Championship game
HAMPTON – For Phoebus coach Jeremy Blunt, chasing a state football championship has been an arduous and sometimes devastating task. In spite of entering Armstrong Stadium on Saturday with a 71-14 career coaching record over seven years, the reminders of when a title run fell short had been painful. There was a 28-23 loss to underdog Magna Vista in the state semifinals three years ago. In 2016, Blacksburg, a team that went 5-5 in the regular season, ended Phoebus’ run with a 26-12 win. Last year, it was Hopewell, who pulled off a hard-fought 7-6 victory in the second round over the favored Phantoms.
In fairness, all three opponents ended up winning the Class 3 championship, but the sting still hurt.
But Blunt is an optimist at heart. So, as the Phantom players attempted to douse their coach with the fillings from the Gatorade bucket in the closing moments of their 35-14 win over Culpeper County, a victory that earned the coach his first state title appearance, Blunt ran away from the flowing water.
As he explained later, “I want to save that for NEXT week!” On Saturday, the team from Hampton will travel to Lynchburg for a true road test against the hometown Heritage squad. The Pioneers punched their invitation with a 42-39 win over Lord Botetourt.
And Barry Hargraves will be ready. On Saturday, he did everything for Phoebus except carry the Gatorade bucket.
On the game’s first play, with the ball on the Phantom 40, the senior receiver took an end around hand off and outran the Culpeper defense 60 yards to the end zone. After Anthony Wallace’s extra point, Phoebus enjoyed a 7-0 lead with just 11 seconds elapsed.
It would be their only play of the opening quarter. For the next 12:07, the Blue Devils constructed a 22-play, 75-yard drive, which culminated with quarterback Javae Colclough pushing the ball into the end zone from three yards.
“I was worried about the defense getting tired out there,” said Blunt. “But we knew they were going to give us heavy Wildcat. They have a host of athletes in their backfield and they can put the ball in their hands. The guy (Colclough) they started at quarterback was actually a running back, so we had an understanding going into it, that was what they were going to try to do.”
On the flip side, the extended drive may have also tired the Culpeper offense. Colclough carried 11 times for 36 yards on the drive, while D’Aron Colbert and Jaylen Veeney split the other ten, as the Blue Devils threw just one pass, a 14-yarder to Colbert.
Yet the Phoebus defense would continue to get little rest as their offense scored quickly. Two Anthony Turner runs were followed by a 12-yard pass over the middle to Hargraves, who eluded a pair of tacklers and dashed forty more yards into the end zone –a 59-yard scoring reception that put the Phantoms back on top by six, and then seven after Wallace’s second extra point.
The Blue Devils, relying on heavy ball possession, embarked on another ten-play drive, eating up just over five minutes off the clock. But the Phantom defense held tough and stuffed Veeney on fourth-and-two from the Phoebus 14 to regain possession.
Just before halftime, the Phoebus offense finally put together an extended drive. A short pass from Chris Daniels to Thailand Baldwin turned into a 19-yard gain as Baldwin juked a trio of Blue Devil defenders and advanced the ball to the Culpeper 6. Two plays later, Daniels delivered his second TD pass of the game, hitting Turner with a play action pass. Phoebus took a 21-7 lead into the intermission.
The Phantoms, and particularly Hargraves, put their exclamation point on the game with their opening possession of the second half. After a short punt gave Phoebus the ball on their 45, the team that went undefeated in Peninsula District play resorted to its bag of tricks. Daniels rolled toward the right and pitched the ball to Hargraves, who stopped short of the sideline and uncorked a 39-yard floater to John Tucker, giving the Phantoms first-and-goal at the nine. A six-yard carry by Turner was followed by his three-yard push over the goal plane, and Phoebus led 28-7 midway through the third quarter.
“It was a new play that we put in this week,” said Hargraves. Asked if any new plays would be forthcoming, Hargraves, who accounted for 207 yards on his five touches, added, “No,” before laughing and interjecting, “Not yet.”
Culpeper cut the lead into half with another long drive – 16 plays for 70 yards, to be exact, which ended with new quarterback Nazier McDonald finding Colclough on a post pattern for 19 yards and a Blue Devil score.
However, Hargraves was not finished. On the next possession, it was his 34-yard TD reception from Daniels (10 of 11, 207 yards, three TD) that iced the game for the Phantoms and effectively ended the Blue Devils season.
In spite of the loss, Culpeper coach Ken Wakefield has high hopes about his team’s future.
“That first play got our guys out of the game a little bit, but I was very proud of them. They’re a tough football team and we fought hard. But we had a lot of sophomores and juniors out there today, so I’m optimistic about our future as a team.”
And the Phantoms expect to be ready to add an eighth state championship to their collection.
“They’re a great team that will we be up against (next week), so practice will be ten times harder and even more focused,” said Daniels in a parting thought. “But we will be ready when it comes time to rumble.”
– Jim McGrath
PHOEBUS 35, CULPEPER 14
Culpeper (9-5) : 0, 7, 0, 7 – 14
Phoebus (13-1) : 7, 14, 7, 7 – 35
Pho: Barry Hargraves 60 run (Anthony Wallace kick), 11:49
Cul: Javae Colclough 3 run (Gabe Barros kick), 11:56
Pho: Hargraves 59 pass from Chris Daniels (Wallace kick), 9:45
Pho: Anthony Turner 6 pass from Daniels (Wallace kick), :31
Pho: Turner 3 run (Wallace kick), 6:55
Cul: Colclough 19 pass Nazier McDonald (Barros kick), 11:54
Pho: Hargraves 34 pass from Daniels (Wallace kick), 9:30
TEAM STATS: Cul; Pho
First downs: 13; 10
Rushes-yards: 47-124; 23-107
Passing yards: 43; 246
Comp-Att-Int: 3-11-1; 11-12-0
Penalties-yards: 8-38; 4-50
Fumbles-lost: 1-0; 0-0