Phoebus RB Jeremiah White stiff arms a Hopewell defender (Photo: Andy Hilton/recruit757)
Phoebus avenges a 2019 loss and advances
by Andy Hilton, recruit757
The Hopewell Blue Devils won the VHSL Class 3 State Championship in 2019, and Phoebus was a mile marker on the way to a perfect season.
This time, Phoebus gained the home team advantage and it worked well for them in spite of limited attendance due to COVID precautions.
You have to feel sorry for the fans who showed up ten minutes late for the 2:00 p.m. kickoff. By the time those fans were settling into their seats, half of Phoebus’ scoring was done.
Phoebus kicked off to the Blue Devils and last year’s starting quarterback, Joseph Eliades, commanded the offense for the first drive. Before getting a first down, Eliades looked to throw into the right flat, the ball was tipped and defensive back Kymari Gray snatched the ball and raced into the end zone for a touchdown.
On Hopewell’s second drive, sophomore quarterback Mason Cumbie, who led last year’s JV squad to an undefeated record, took a turn leading the offense. On the first play from scrimmage, he looked to the right and threw the ball directly to Kymari Grey who turned that into his second pick-six of the game.
“In one coverage I had deep, and in the other coverage I had flats,” said Gray. “Coming out on defense, I knew I had to turn up, so that’s what I did.”
The score was 14-0 in favor of Phoebus, there was a little more than two minutes off of the game clock, and the Phoebus offense had yet to take the field. In fact, half of the first quarter was gone before the Phoebus offense got the ball.
From there, the Hopewell offense settled down. The Phoebus offense was slow to get going, but a 14-point lead certainly gave them some cushion.
A second-quarter touchdown run by Robert Briggs put Hopewell on the board, and the Phantoms’ inability to score had the team and coaches on edge at halftime.
“(We told them to) refocus on the game plan. They put a good little drive together and I felt we missed some opportunities defensively during that drive. We should have stopped them two times in that one drive, but you gotta tip your hat to them. Those guys won the championship last year for a reason. They know what they’re doing and they were poised in that situation,” said Phoebus head coach Jeremy Blunt.
In the third quarter, the Phantoms found a way to make Hopewell uncomfortable again. After a battle of field position, quarterback Mark Wagner found senior Jalen Mayo over the middle and Mayo extended his arm and put the ball over the goal line with six seconds left in the frame.
Hopewell’s last gasp was a drive that put them at the one-yard line after a Cumbie keeper with around ten minutes left on the clock. Cumbie fumbled the exchange on the next play, then penalties hurt the Blue Devil drive. Even with two shots at a fourth-down play, Hopewell ended up turning the ball over on downs at the Phoebus 12-yard line.
Phoebus capped the game by pushing the ball down the field and completing a six-yard touchdown connection between Wagner and Gray that gave Kymari his third touchdown of the game.
“Those guys bring it every time we play. We know it’s going to be a hard-nosed game that’ll go to triple zeros (on the clock). We knew we had to stay focused and locked in. (Our) guys had to play,” Blunt stated.
The win, combined with a 35-0 Lafayette win over New Kent, pairs Phoebus and Lafayette this Friday night at Wanner Stadium in a matchup of undefeated teams for the Region 3A title.
FINAL: Phoebus 28, Hopewell 0
– Andy Hilton