The Phoebus Phantoms hold a streak of four straight state titles. Last year, they showed a chink in their armor, but managed to win when it counted. Every year, a new Phantom squad feels the pressure of living up to the legend. Can this year’s team keep the spirit alive?
In other games around the region we learned a little about this year’s editions of the teams hitting the gridiron on Thursday night. Outside of the Beach District and the headline game at Darling, Todd Stadium hosted a double header, Grassfield cruised, and Lakeland proved that they will be a force in the Southeastern District this season.
Thursday night’s Beach District showdown was a “step in the right direction for where we want to be in December” according to Salem head coach Robert Jackson, as he spoke after the SunDevils big win over the Bayside Marlins, 37 -7.
It wasn’t pretty, but it counts as a debut win for Alonzo Coley and his Kecoughtan Warriors. For the most part, the lead was never in doubt until late in the fourth quarter. That’s when Churchland made it interesting.
The Great Bridge Wildcats have been a hugely successful program under Head Coach Pete Gale. They’ve reached the playoffs consistently, playing smart and disciplined football. Expectations are high again this year, with the introduction of a new quarterback, but the setback of losing an All-State lineman means the Wildcats have to press on, in the face of adversity.
The Greenbrier Christian Gators got an easy start last week when they trounced upstart Alliance Christian, 48-0. The opening game is a contrast to most of their schedule where GCA plays up against larger schools. Coach Donnie Simpson insists that the Gators need that challenge to be ready for the playoffs.
The Bay Rivers District can be tough for a new coach to tackle. There are spread offenses like York and Grafton. There are traditional teams like Poquoson and Tabb. Smithfield football is ready for an identity change, and Clark Harrell is just the man to do it.
Heritage Football got a kick start last year when Hampton Assistant Coach George Massenburg took on the head coaching job. The Hurricanes had a state champion team back in 2000, but haven’t seen success lately. Massenburg is out to change that, but change takes time.
By every account but the win-loss record, last season was a successful one at Jamestown. The Eagles made it to the Division 4 playoffs for the first time in their existence. They managed only four wins, but their performance was good enough to get them into the playoffs. This year they have a new coach, but the expectations are rising higher.
2011 was the start of the Alonzo Ricks regime at Churchland. The Truckers had a down year last year, but are looking to bounce back. There’s a lot of young talent at the Portsmouth school. Will it be enough to drive a path through the Eastern District?