Oscar Smith QB Ethan Vasko with the handoff (Photo: Joe Barnes/recruit757)
The state title quest continues for Massaponax and Oscar Smith
Massaponax (8-0) at Oscar Smith (7-0) Saturday at 2:00 p.m.
There is no history between Massaponax and Oscar Smith. After Saturday, there will be.
Oscar Smith was a downtrodden program until the arrival of Coach Richard Morgan. From 2003 to today, across four coaches, the Oscar Smith Tigers have built a legacy of football excellence.
Massaponax opened in 1998. By 2003, the Panther made it to the VHSL Division 5 state championship game only to lose to Hopewell. Massaponax has had only one losing season in the last decade, and they’ve made four state semifinals.
Oscar Smith has been the bridesmaid in the state championships five times over the last seven seasons. Their last state championship was in 2011.
Massaponax can claim a lot of success without winning a state title, but Oscar Smith can claim even more success over the last decade and they’re a decade removed from winning it all.
The Panthers’ triple-option offense is run with precision. That’s what punishes opponents, and Massaponax has used it to average 50 points a game this season. No one has given the Panthers a close game this season.
After last week’s 56-21 win over Patriot in the Region 6B Championship, Massaponax senior running back Elijah Christopher told the Fredericksburg Freelance Star, “We always get here, and we can’t get over that hump. But we have the team, and we have the guys to do it.”
Massaponax has depth that could match up well with Oscar Smith. Add a plodding, ball-control offense that could explode on any play, and you could see fans on the edge of their seats for two and a half hours on Saturday afternoon. Where Oscar Smith can out-athlete many teams, Massaponax may have an answer.
Last Saturday, Massaponax scored seven touchdowns with the run game and one on special teams. Seven different players had rushing yardage but no one finished with over 100 yards rushing. Quarterback Luke Morley was 2 for 4 passing for 28 yards with no touchdowns. That’s just enough to keep a defense honest, and the Panthers didn’t have to stray from the run in order to win the game.
OSCAR SMITH AND THE “D”
We could spend a lot of time talking about the Oscar Smith offense. They have many weapons and they put up a ton of points. Against Thomas Dale last Saturday, the Tigers put up 49 points easily and gave up only three. That matched 50% of the total given up on the year going into the game. Smith had only allowed Indian River to score six points. All other games have been shutouts.
If you’re going to make comparisons between Massaponax and Smith, one obvious comparison is that Massaponax actually allows teams to get on the scoreboard. The Panthers allow almost ten points a game.
Junior quarterback Ethan Vasko is a dual-threat. Where Luke Morley won’t throw the ball often for Massaponax, Vasko loves to throw the ball, gets plenty of opportunities, and he’ll still make defenses pay by tucking the ball away and running for the first down marker when he has to.
Then there is the Tiger special teams. Devante Cooper and Kole Jones can make teams pay when teams kick or punt to them. Junior DB Sherrod Covil holds over 30 college scholarship offers and he’s good for an interception in any given game and he’s dealing out punishment to opposing receivers. There might not be many passes going his way on Saturday.
If Massaponax is going to run the ball first, they’re going to have to stay in striking distance in order to stay the course with that strategy. The Panthers haven’t played from behind much at all this year, and the Tigers aren’t in the habit of allowing opponents on the scoreboard.
Do we have a defensive battle? An explosive slugfest? Fans can’t wait to find out.
– Andy Hilton