Maury vs. Lake Taylor 2019 (Photo: Joe Barnes/recruit757)
Maury is back to defend their state title
by Andy Hilton, recruit757
The eight-team Eastern District has teams spanning Class 5, Class 4, and Class 3. Come playoff time, there’s been a lot of success in the past few years with Maury winning the Class 5 state title in 2019, Lake Taylor winning multiple Class 4 state titles including last year’s, and I.C. Norcom in Class 3 making playoff appearances in nine of the last ten seasons and making playoff runs in many years.
2021 Spring Preview: Eastern District
Maury (15-0 in 2019, VHSL Class 5 State Champion)
The Commodores return to defend their state title, and in this unique season they’ll have to run through most of the Eastern District in order to make a return to the postseason.
Maury is led by the return of quarterback E.J. Gibson (2021 QB 6-0 185) who finished his junior season with 15 starts, 3,785 passing yards, 43 touchdowns, and a 75% completion rate.
The wide receiver corps is flush with talent, including Ahmarian Granger (2022 WR 6-1 180), Dajon Evans (2021 WR 5-10 180), Peyton Jones (2023 5-10 180) and Davonte Floyd (2024 WR 5-10 170).
Former Norcom tailback Demonte Dunlap (2021 RB 5-8 175), transferred in over the offseason and committed to Central State over the winter. He’ll be joined by Nathaniel Knox (2023 RB 6-0 180).
In the trenches, there’s not a senior in the bunch, but seven out of nine linemen return from last year’s squad. Savion Moore (2022 OT 6-4 285) and Lorenza Fuller (OG/DT 6-1 290) are the anchors.
“We have a very talented and young offense with a lot of speed,” Head Coach Dyrri McCain commented. “We are returning an undefeated and State Championship Quarterback. Nobody will graduate up front on the offensive line and the entire offensive coaching staff is back from last year. They do a great job.”
The defensive secondary and the linebacker corps was led by Keandre Lambert (Penn State) last year. Dajon Evans, Ahmarian Granger, and Demetrius Johnson (2021 LB 6-1 210) are expected to lead that crew this season.
“We have a very talented and young defense with a lot of speed,” McCain said. “We’re returning the district Defensive Player of the Year, the Team Defensive MVP, and a Power 5 recruit. Our defensive coordinator has done a great job with the defense.”
Clutch specialist and multi-year starter Luca Weber returns to anchor the kicking and punting game.
at Booker T. Washington 2/26 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Lake Taylor 3/5 Friday 7:00 p.m.
vs. Granby 3/12 Friday 7:00 p.m.
vs. Norview 3/19 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Wilson 3/26 Friday 7:00 p.m.
vs. Churchland 4/2 Friday 7:00 p.m.
Lake Taylor (14-1 in 2019, VHSL Class 4 State Champion)
Over the past few years, the Titans’ star power has been wrapped up in RB/LB Malik Newton, who has left early for Pitt. There are still key returners from last year’s state championship team including quarterback Jeff Foster (2021 QB/DB 6-1 170), Pierre Royster (2021 WR/DB 6-0 185), Tarrion Washington-Jacobs (2023 RB/LB 5-10 180), and Darious Speight (2021 WR/LB 6-1 180).
“We are bigger, faster and stronger this year. The style of conditioning, preparation, and expectation will always leave us needing more players. Our five trips to the state championship game have only produced no more than 38 players in any given year, so we are always concerned about depth,” Head Coach Hank Sawyer said. “The players that we have are committed with one heartbeat.”
Under Sawyer, the Titans have always run the Veer offense, and on defense they rely on an all-out rush to the ball with single coverage on all receivers.
“Jeff (Foster) returns for his fourth year of reading the Veer. Just give it time. It always works. He throws a good ball, we just have to catch it.”
vs. Granby 2/27 Saturday 3:30 p.m. (Powhatan)
vs. Maury 3/5 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Booker T. Washington 3/12 Friday 7:00 p.m.
vs. Norcom 3/19 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Churchland 3/26 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Norview 4/2 Friday 7:00 p.m.
Churchland (10-3 in 2019)
Churchland had their most successful season in recent memory with a 10-3 campaign that included a run to the Region 4A final vs. Lake Taylor. That run included playoff wins over Menchville and King’s Fork.
This season, the Truckers will be led by a first-year quarterback Brandyn Hillman (2023 QB 6-2 185). Kaleb Gallop (2022 WR/LB 6-3 205) is the top returning playmaker from last year’s run. Other leaders include Aiden McLaurin (2021 WR/S 6-3 185), Jermel Graham (2021 DT 5-10 250) and Sheldon Carter (2023 RB/DB 5-7 160).
at Norview 2/26 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Norcom 3/6 Saturday 1:00 p.m.
vs. Wilson 3/12 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Granby 3/19 Friday 7:00 p.m. (Powhatan Stadium)
vs. Lake Taylor Friday 3/26 7:00 p.m.
at Maury Thursday 4/1 7:00 p.m. (Powhatan Stadium)
I.C. Norcom (7-5 in 2019)
2021 brings a new head coach, a new starting quarterback and a new starting tailback to I.C. Norcom. Korrey Davis takes control of the program after Robert Jackson stepped down to focus on the job of AD. Four-year starter at QB Coby Smith has graduated and senior tailback Demonte Dunlap has transferred to Maury High School.
“We are a young team, but we expect to very competitive this season and surprise a lot of people. The guys have practiced with a determination to build on the winning tradition. We have a winning culture and our players move to a positive beat. We have a new offensive and defensive system that will be explosive and aggressive. We have some solid leadership from our seniors and this team is disciplined. We are doubted by many, but the coaching staff and players are fully prepared to do something great during this spring season,” Davis stated.
Wide receiver Shyheim Cannon (2021 WR 6-0 175) is the top returning athlete and will spark the offense. Darian King (2022 RB 5-7 175) will get the majority of the touches in the running game. Naquis Cross (2021 TE/LB 6-3 200) will be relied upon to make big plays on both sides of the ball.
vs. Wilson 2/27 Saturday 1:00 p.m.
vs. Churchland 3/6 Saturday 1:00 p.m.
at Norview 3/12 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Lake Taylor 3/19 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Granby 3/26 Friday 7:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
vs. Booker T. Washington 4/3 Saturday 1:00 p.m.
Booker T. Washington (4-6 in 2019)
A week ten loss to I.C. Norcom kept the Bookers out of the playoffs in 2019. In this spring season, any loss may be enough to keep any team from making the playoffs. The Bookers open with Maury and face Lake Taylor in week three. They could know the fate of their season by the mid-way point.
Running back and defensive back Rodney Hammond (2021 RB/DB 5-9 180) signed with Pitt but will return for one more ride with the Bookers. He’ll provide the continuity they need because the Bookers will be coached by first year head coach William Robertson and the starting quarterback will be last year’s JV starter, Frederick Fuller.
vs. Maury 2/26 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Granby 3/5 Friday 7:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
vs. Lake Taylor Friday 3/12 7:00 p.m.
vs. Wilson 3/20 Saturday 1:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
vs. Norview 3/26 Saturday 7:00 p.m.
vs. Norcom 4/3 Saturday 1:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
Norview (2-8 in 2019)
It feels like a new era at Norview. The Pilots will be led by quarterback Taquan Trotman (2023 QB 6-2 175) who threw for 1,600 yards in 9 games as a freshman in 2019. Dynamic playmaker Marqeese Dietz (2021 ATH 5-10 180) returns for his senior season. Defensive end Donovan Everette (2021 TE/DE 6-4 225) has signed with the US Naval Academy and he returns for one more tour.
“The culture of our program is in a complete overhaul. We will be more competitive in games because we are focusing on doing the little things right all the time,” said Norview head coach Ian Rapanick. “We will do a great job of playing for each other. We have a fantastic group of seniors who lead our program and do so with pride. They will be on display all over the field. We have great experience at the WR position with guys who can do a lot of different things and do them very well. On defense, the depth and experience at LB will be great for us.”
vs. Churchland 2/26 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Wilson 3/6 Saturday 6:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
at Norcom 3/12 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Maury 3/19 Friday 7:00 p.m.
at Booker T. 3/26 Friday 7:00 p.m.
vs. Lake Taylor 4/2 Friday 7:00 p.m.
Granby (2-8 in 2019)
Larry Archie returns as the head coach for the Comets after stepping away from the job after the 2019 season. Archie lamented the commute involved with working in Portsmouth and coaching in Norfolk at the time. Since then, he landed a job in the Norfolk Public Schools and that sparked a return to Granby’s sidelines.
“The skill positions will be one strength of the offense and will be relied on heavily. Good speed and playmaking ability from our wide receivers is a must with only two returners on the offensive line,” Archie said. “The lack of experience and depth is a major concern. Success will depend on learning and executing schemes with many
new players that must compete together with very little time together.”
That new quarterback was not necessarily obvious just weeks before the season. Key returners for Granby include Marcellus Roscoe (2021 WR/DB 6-0 165) and Jayqwan Cuffee (2021 LB 6-0 190).
vs. Lake Taylor 2/27 Saturday 3:30 p.m. (Powhatan)
vs. Booker T. 3/5 Friday 7:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
vs. Maury 3/12 Friday 7:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
vs. Churchland 3/20 Saturday 6:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
vs. Norcom 3/26 Friday 7:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
vs. Wilson 4/2 Friday 7:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
Woodrow Wilson (1-9 in 2019)
Coach Anton Cannady took his first year at the helm of the Presidents’ football program in 2019. 2020 presented plenty of challenges and now a spring football season arrives with very little time to prep the team as a unit.
“I am concerned about injuries players may encounter due to the impact COVID has had on the practice season. CDC guidelines restricted the team from being able to incorporate physical contact during the practices,” said the coach. “A majority of the players (in the program) are approaching their second year. These players are more focused and better able to understand as well as correctly execute the plays.”
The athletes in the program may take a big leap forward between year one and year two. Anthony “A.J.” Waddler returns after spending the 2019 season at I.C. Norcom.
“Waddler and Shawn Stevenson are seniors and have the potential to be leaders as well as the ability to play at a college level,” Cannady stated. “This year’s team is more disciplined and more determined to play harder from the beginning to end of the game.”
at Norcom 2/27 Saturday 1:00 p.m.
vs. Norview 3/6 Saturday 6:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
at Churchland 3/12 Friday 7:00 p.m.
vs. Booker T. 3/20 Saturday 1:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
vs. Maury 3/27 Saturday 1:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
vs. Granby 4/2 Friday 7:00 p.m. (Powhatan)
– Andy Hilton