Varina WR Isiah Paige and Maury WR KeAndre Lambert (Photos: Andy Hilton/recruit804 and Lance Hinton/recruit757)
Are the stars aligned for Maury, or can Varina continue their role as giant killers?
by Andy Hilton, recruit757
Varina (11-2) vs. Maury (13-0) Noon Saturday at Powhatan Field, Norfolk
Saturday’s game between Varina and Maury is a battle full of heavyweights. It’s also a battle of two teams with something to prove.
Varina has made a statement by knocking off four-time defending Class 5 state champion Highland Springs, then knocking off Class 6 state champion Manchester. The Lancers dropped from Class 6 to Class 5 due to VHSL reclassification in the off-season. These wins avenged regular season losses to Highland Springs and Manchester. The last time Varina made it to a state championship game was in 1999 when they lost to C.D. Hylton.
Maury has run their record to 13-0 for the first time in decades. This team could be the best Maury team ever considering the athleticism of modern day athletes compared to those of decades ago. While last year’s team made it to the state semifinal game as well, they were 12-1 at the time and lost to eventual champion Highland Springs. The last time Maury made a state championship game was in 1972. The last time they won a state title in football was 1939.
Commodore football fans shouldn’t feel but so bad about the championship drought and perhaps there’s a good omen here. Maury basketball won the state championship in March of this year. That squad became the first team since 1927 to win a boys basketball title at Maury.
What does each team bring to the table?
In two words, speed and athleticism.
Varina will be bolstered by a strong offensive line and skill players that make plays all over the field. Quarterback Bobby Dunn is excellent at distributing the ball. Barry Hill, James Reid, Bryson Ross and Kent State commit Isiah Paige drive the offensive production. Hill had a banner day in the defeat of Manchester last week, racking up 144 yards receiving yards on only six catches with two touchdowns. Against Highland Springs, he did his damage on the defensive side of the ball with four interceptions.
On the season, Hill has 31 catches for 916 yards and 16 touchdowns. Paige has 39 catches for 911 yards and eight touchdowns.
James Reid is a beast in the ground game. Against Lake Taylor mid-season, Reid had four carries for 240 yards and four touchdowns. You read that right. An average of 60 yards per carry.
Maury will match that speed and athleticism and perhaps up the ante. Quarterback E.J. Gibson picked up his first college scholarship offer this week when Toledo stopped by the school. Gibson has lead the Commodores with great poise, tossing 38 touchdowns and racking up 3,123 yards. Penn State commit KeAndre Lambert is his top target and gets it done in all aspects of the game (1,363 all-purpose yards and 24 TDs). C.J. Beasley leads the Maury rushing attack with 1,644 yards and 23 touchdowns on the season. Expect Dashaun Peele, Dajon Evans, Khamran Laborn and Ty’shaun Granger to get touches as well. All of those players can turn around and contribute in big ways on the defensive side of the ball (with the exception of Gibson).
Again, there’s speed and athleticism in all positions. The defensive lines for both teams are no exception.
Both teams have won a lot of lopsided games this year, even against good competition. The Blue Devils have given up just less than 13 points a game all season. Maury has given up an average of only eight.
Maury has been scoring an average of close to 49 points a game, while Varina has scored 48.
On paper, this game could look like a draw if you account for Varina avenging their only losses. Varina has gotten hot at the right time. Maury has been hot all season long, and the memory of last year’s loss in the state semifinal still stings.
Will Varina be satisfied with knocking off Highland Springs and Manchester?
The closest game Maury has played all year came against Norcom where the Commodores won 33-14. Maury head coach Dyrri McCain said after that game that it was a wake-up call for his team, despite the 19-point margin.
Will last year’s game be a “remember the Alamo” moment for Maury?
Last year, Highland Springs beat Maury with depth. Coach McCain is not going to let that happen again, and it’s not likely that Varina would be able to deliver the waves of talent that Highland Springs could last year.
This is shaping up to be a great one.
– Andy Hilton