Shock Dolphins:On a sunny Saturday
afternoon at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex, the
sixth-seeded Salem SunDevils pulled the first upset
of these 2010 Eastern Region Playoffs, stunning the third-seeded Ocean Lakes
Dolphins 27-17.Salem scored two
touchdowns in the game's final four minutes, both by running back Darryl Jackson.
Six-foot-5 sophomore quarterback Bucky Hodges, who's already being recruited heavily by such ACC
schools as Virginia Tech and Maryland,accounted
for 266 total yards and two touchdowns through the air, matching Ocean Lakes'
fine quarterback LafonteThourogoodfor
big playsin a battle between two of
the finest signal callers in Tidewater.
"It's a big win for our school, I'm real happy for our
kids, happy for our staff, happy for the Salem community.Our kids took some knocks in the
beginning.They just kept fighting and
kept working.I can't say enough about
them," said Salem Head Coach Robert
Jackson, who guided the SunDevils to a region
title back in 2006 and viewed this victory as major step in their quest to get
back to that level.
"It brings some respectability to the program.We beat a good Ocean Lakes football team, and
they've been one for the last few years.We take nothing from them.We
said this was a game that we needed to kind of get our program back on the
map.We got a lot of young kids that are
coming back, so our future is bright.Lose or go home, this is the playoffs.Either you're winning and you're planning your practices or you're
planning your banquet.And we don't want
to plan our banquet any time soon."
Scoring Play (Salem vs.
10-yard run, PAT van Reesema
7-yard pass to Avant, PAT Morlock good
Hodges 26-yard pass to
Dailey, 2-point conversion no good
run, PAT van Reesema
25-yard field goal
Jackson 1-yard run, PAT Morlock good
Jackson 19-yard run, PAT Morlock good
Hodges was especially sharp on third downs, completing
4-of-6 passes for first downs in those situations during the second half on a
day where he was extremely efficient.Despite being picked off in the end zone early in the fourth quarter by Davon Richardson, Hodges completed 21 of 27
passes for 208 yards and a couple of first half scores.He also was a threat with his legs, breaking
off five runs of eight yards or longer and finishing with 13 attempts for 58
"We just need him to make plays," said Jackson."We've been on him, has gone this year whole
year and taken a lot of criticism, but we're talking about a tenth grader.I think this might've been his coming out
right here on this stage, too."
After he was bloodied and injured earlier this season
in a 22-0 shutout loss to Ocean Lakes where he was picked off three times,
twice for touchdowns, some wondered if Salem had this type of game in
them.Hodges and his teammates never had
"It feels good to beat them, especially after week two.We knew we were going to get them back.We wanted to spread the ball around, and kind
of like that first game (against Kempsville) when we
had that air attack," noted Hodges."The
first time against Ocean Lakes we had two of our starters out in Keith [Knight]
and [Jonathan] Milam, so they did a real good job today.By any means necessary, the goal is to make
plays.I'm glad we were able to do that
and execute the game-plan."
Since they were 3-3 overall around the midway point of
the season, the SunDevils have now won five in a
row.Salem's confidence is sky high.
"We're jelling and getting our chemistry together, and
made things real sharp going into these playoffs," said WR/DB Kwamane Bowens, one of 13 sophomores on the
Salem roster."We're a real young team,
but we figure age doesn't matter as long as we come out and execute and do what
we're supposed to do."
Defense Denies:In three of their final four regular season games, the Salem defense
pitched shutouts.While Ocean Lakes
managed to finish with 318 total yards of offense, 17 points and Thourogood threw and ran for 134 yards each, the Dolphins
didn't have much success offensively in the second half.That's because the SunDevils'
defense settled in, and only allowed a field goal over the game's final two
Trailing 20-17, Ocean Lakes had an opportunity late in
the fourth quarter.Thourogood
threw a pass over the middle that was picked off by junior middle linebacker Joshua Lawson.
"Icing it for the team for my first playoff win, it
definitely was a memorable moment.I've
had a couple opportunities this year to get some picks, but they haven't as
fortunate as this one.I've had a couple
drops, am not really expecting them to come, so the experience of dropping them
helped me make the play," stated Lawson.
"We've had a good defense from day one, been fighting
all year and we've had some games where it's been shaky in the beginning, but
we always find ways to fight back.Our
defense is solid, and when we got in at half-time down by a point, we decided
to keep plugging away.We believe we can
stop anybody as long as we execute."
In addition, the Salem secondary didn't bend much at
all.Corners D'Metrius Williams and Kimdrick Feaster combined
for 11 tackles, and contained Steven
Brown and Eli Harold, not
allowing either to catch a pass for more than 10 yards.
"They've been doing a good job all year.They've pretty much gone unnoticed, we don't
get wrote about and we kind of like it that way," Jackson commented on his
corners."We try to use stuff like that,
and we know the media doesn't mean anything by it, people play that respect
thing.But if it works, that's what we
Spread the Wealth:Eight different receivers caught passes for Salem on Saturday
afternoon, led by Ronald Dailey and Darius Fredrick with four receptions
apiece.It truly was a collective effort
for Salem's receiving core, and what enabled them to spread the ball around so
well in addition to the pinpoint accuracy of Hodges was an offensive line that's
healthy and steadily improved since their meeting with Ocean Lakes early in the
A couple of seniors, left guard Keith Knight and Jonathan
Milam, were out for the first meeting for the SunDevils.They were in the lineup this time around,
whereas Ocean Lakes was missing three starters in OT Chaz Lowery, DT Anthony Joffrionand DB Gianni
"This is the first game we had our whole offensive line
together.We were playing a 5-6,
160-pound guy, got away with it and no knock to him he was doing an adequate
job," pointed out Jackson.
Tough Ending for Ocean Lakes:For a team that started several sophomores in
the 2008 Eastern Region Championship loss to Oscar Smith, it's a very bitter
pill to swallow to go without a playoff win each of the past two years.Ocean Lakes was unable to qualify for
postseason play last year when they had to forfeit six games due to the usage
of an ineligible player, taking their record from 10-0 on the field to 4-6
overall.This season they got off to a
great start at 7-0, then lost a close game to Bayside, followed by one to Cox
and now the result is the third loss in four weeks for a program that was
hoping to compete for a district, regional and state titles.
"It's very tough to swallow all the way around for the
seniors.You get this loss and there's
no next week or next year for those seniors.They've given us everything you could ever ask for from them, from Josh Mann, LafonteThourogood and on down the list.You feel for them because they don't get it
again in a Dolphins uniform," said Ocean Lakes Head Coach Chris Scott.
"Salem's done a great job.It was a tough draw, and your hat has to go
off to Coach Jax, how his guys prepared and we knew
that going in.In that second half, they
were able to get a score and we were only able to get a field goal.That's pretty much the difference, along with
third downs and long and second downs and long."
But Thourogood, Mann and
company have nothing to be ashamed of because despite the loss their record on
the field over the past three years was 30-4, making the best three-year run in
school history.It just ended sooner
than they wanted.
Hatfield has covered Eastern Region Basketball & Football since 2004 for
VirginiaPreps.com - the #1 High School Sports Site on the Rivals Network.Check out Hatfield's website - www.matthewhatfield.com - for more on the pro and college
sports scene.To contact Matthew, please
e-mail [email protected], and listen to him with Rod
Johnson on the VirginiaPreps.com Hour every Saturday at 11AM on ESPN