September 6, 2012

Eastern Region Predictions - Week 3

Week 3 in the Eastern Region offers up some compelling Eastern District versus Peninsula District matchups. Some teams are looking to bounce back after defeat, while others hope to keep the momentum rolling and the wins adding up so that by season's end they are in position to be playoff-bound.

Before we start to break down the matchups, let's review the Eastern Region Prediction Standings with State Football Editor Rod Johnson, VHSL-Reference.com and yours truly.

Through 9-2-12

Wins

Losses

Pct.

Matthew Hatfield

23

4

85.2%

VHSL-Reference

21

6

77.8%

Rod Johnson

21

6

77.8%


Yours truly, Matthew Hatfield, stays in front with a 15-3 week. Rod was able to get me on Cox/Green Run, but I answered back with Western Branch over Norcom as he too went 15-3 to keep pace, and in fact, knot up VHSL-Reference, which went 14-4 last week.

Game of the Week:

Norcom (1-1) at #5 Hampton (1-0) . . . Each of the last three years, the Hampton Crabbers and Norcom Greyhounds met up in the Eastern Region Division 5 playoffs either in the semifinals or quarterfinals. Hampton won with shutouts in both 2010 (24-0) and 2009 (28-0). The two played in the regular season a year ago with Hampton rallying for a 14-13 victory in Portsmouth. It was a Norcom felt they could've and should've won. When they faced off again in the regional semifinals in November, the Greyhounds exacted revenge with a 20-14 come-from-behind victory of their own, marking the team's first trip to the Eastern Region D-5 title game since 1996. The Greyhounds' season came to an end there, losing to Phoebus in the regional final.

Hampton comes in confident with what its defense can do after blanking Heritage 16-0 and holding the Hurricanes to just 94 total yards of offense on 44 plays. They have several key players going both ways like RB/LB Marshawn Williams, QB/LB/DB Deon Newsome and WR/DB Daquin Moore as the main headliners. Williams, a junior, and Newsome, a senior, are both committed to Virginia Tech. They combined for 223 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 38 carries last week as Coach Mike Smith notched career win #429. Moore, who's committed to ODU, is a hard-hitter from the back end of the secondary and reliable target in the passing game.

For Norcom, which opened with a 20-0 shutout of Wilson and then followed that up with a 27-13 road loss at Western Branch, their success hinges will hinge on two simple things. They are being able to run the ball effectively and stuff the run on defense. Against Western Branch, they struggled at times in both areas, and against the Crabbers their tackling is sure to get tested. Quarterback Darron Downing has been serviceable in his first year as a starter throwing the ball with 220 yards through the air in two weeks, and he has playmakers around him that can get the job done in RB's Traquan Martin and Aaron Parker as well as wideout Kevin Jones. On defense they are going to count on d-linemen Marques Harvey and Matayas Mitchell along with LB's Antony 'Tweety' Styles, Triquan Holman and Fred Harris to limit the big run by Newsome or Williams for the Crabbers.

If Hampton's offensive line anchored by Daunte Wilson and Troy Garrett, a couple of returning starters that figure to be All-Region candidates, gets great push up front, then the Crabbers should have no trouble moving the ball and having an opportunity to score early and often. The difference early on with this Norcom team and last year is they aren't quite as experienced at the skill positions, being wide receiver and defensive back. By the end of the year, they should be a little stronger and more confident in what they can do at those positions. For now, taking on a Hampton team that is both talented and deep at those spots makes for a tough matchup.

In my opinion for the Greyhounds to pull off an upset, they must win the turnover battle, avoid third down and long passing situations and force Newsome to beat them with his arm rather than his legs, where he has the potential to break the game open on one play. Hampton has something to prove in this game because Norcom is the team that knocked them out of the playoffs a year ago, so look for them to be hungry and motivated to show they are a bona-fide Championship contender in Division 5 at the regional and state level this year.

Prediction:
Matt Says: Hampton 21-6
Rod Says: Hampton 27-7
VHSL-Reference Says: Hampton 32-10


#1 Salem (2-0) at First Colonial (0-1) . . .
What's not to like about Salem? Quarterback Bucky Hodges hurts foes with his arm or legs, Torron Person is developing nicely in the backfield, WR's James Church and Kwamane Bowens give them one of the region's top receiving tandems and the defense has made 13 sacks through two games. Believe it or not, First Colonial does have some pluses on their side. For one, they had a bye week, so they got extra time to prepare for the SunDevils and heal up any injuries they suffered against Bayside, although starting QB Joey Brown is out and Bodie Sheehan will get the nod. Also, this is a game after Salem's big showdown, which could result in them coming out a little flat and sleep-walking a bit to start. Nonetheless, Salem has too much talent and speed on both sides of the ball for this to be a real serious scare when the third and fourth quarters roll around.

Matt Says: Salem 34-14
Rod Says: Salem 43-13
VHSL-Reference Says: Salem 54-9


#2 Oscar Smith (0-1) at Great Bridge (0-1) . . .
Oscar Smith has dominated this series with ten straight victories and all of them comfortably by 25 points or more except one. The Tigers have had several days to stew over their 42-21 loss to nationally-ranked Byrnes (SC) on ESPN. Quarterback Dashawn Blow didn't have the best of debuts, but should have a better grasp of the offense and get ample time to spread the ball around to WR's Melvin Vaughn (ODU), Zack Jones (UVA) as well as RB's DeShawn McClease and Marcus Smith. Great Bridge has to establish a somewhat reliable run game with Marvin Taylor and getting some help from Aaron Speziale in the kicking department so field position is respectable or in their favor would be a boost, too. Expect this to be the game where the Oscar Smith defense flexes its muscles and particularly its star-studded defensive line led by junior phenom Andrew Brown and recent Old Dominion commit Kanyia Anderson, who will be looking to get after Great Bridge QB Ryan Bottoms early and often. The Wildcats have their hands full in this one.

Matt Says: Oscar Smith 48-3
Rod Says: Oscar Smith 44-7
VHSL-Reference Says: Oscar Smith 49-


#3 Phoebus (1-0) at Churchland (0-1) . . .
The reigning four-time Division 5 State Champion Phantoms have won all four meetings since 2008, including a 63-6 rout in the playoffs that year. Their closest meeting came in 2009 when the Phantoms walked away with a 19-7 victory. That was a sloppy Phoebus effort that night, and the Phantoms were anything but in their 59-7 trumping of Warwick last week in which Tony Pittman rushed for 154 yards and 2TD's on only nine carries, and Quatez Ruffin returned two interceptions for scores. Churchland's offensive line is going to have its hands full blocking the Phantoms d-line of Mark Wilson, Kevin Lyles, Harry Lewis and Richie Staton, who made a couple of sacks from the end position last week. Truckers QB Malik Sexton will have to improvise some, but be careful not to force the issue early and a snowball effect occur.

Matt Says: Phoebus 46-9
Rod Says: Phoebus 48-7
VHSL-Reference Says: Phoebus 42-3


#4 Lake Taylor (1-0) at Bethel (1-0) . . .
This Thursday night tilt at Darling Stadium features two teams fresh off 41-0 shutouts to open the season. Lake Taylor blanked Indian River 41-0 as the Braves finished with negative 18 yards, while Bethel throttled Gloucester 41-0 in a game where the Dukes ended up playing its fourth-string quarterback. Much like the case is with Hampton/Norcom this weekend, Lake Taylor has revenge on its mind as they led the Bruins by double-figures a year ago when Bethel rallied for a 26-18 victory. Of course, that Bethel team featured standout receivers in Rashawn Proctor and Willie Davis. This Bethel team relies heavily on its ground game with Jihad Hudson and company, and their defense, which is led by BCS prospect Ricky Walker from the Class of 2014.

Lake Taylor is one of the few contenders in the region that enjoys winning with its defense first; 10 players made tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including nine sacks between Marquise Poole and Brandon Lynch. Lately, the Titans' offense has become more explosive and two-dimensional, able to mix in the passing game with QB Delmon Williams to balance out what is always a strong running game, led by a 1-2 punch with Brandon 'Pork Chop' Moore and Daquan Davis that complement each other well.

Matt Says: Lake Taylor 35-10
Rod Says: Lake Taylor 31-14
VHSL-Reference Says: Bethel 24-20


#6 Ocean Lakes (2-0) at Cox (1-1) . . .
One could make the argument that Ocean Lakes has started as hot as any team in the Eastern Region, outscoring two foes by a combined 111-0. Corwin 'Turtle' Cutler, who's committed to UVA, has been outstanding at quarterback, and the Dolphins have mixed in that air attack with some running with Brandon Simmons and Jordan Bobo. Much like their battle with Salem a couple weeks ago, the Cox DB's will have to be able to contain Ocean Lakes' big-play targets at receiver in Andre Dessenberg and Jason Lewis. Two years ago, Cox sprung the upset against the Dolphins, 21-14. They won that game by dominating the Time of Possession category, so they'll have to slowly but surely move the chains with QB Tommy McKee and RB Mike DeMasi. The key to this game might be the Cox offensive line, anchored by Gabe Hollins, against that strong Ocean Lakes defensive front, featuring BCS-level d-tackles Derrick Nnadi and Demetri McGill. For Cox to keep it close and have a shot, they have to hold ther own in the trenches.

Matt Says: Ocean Lakes 40-18
Rod Says: Ocean Lakes 44-21
VHSL-Reference Says: Ocean Lakes 28-14


#7 Grassfield (1-0) at Nansemond River (1-0) . . .
In a week where there aren't a bunch of must-see games or expected heart-stoppers, this matchup could quietly be one of the better ones in the region. Nansemond River came oh so close to making the playoffs a year ago and they appear to have found an adequate replacement for tailback Lamont Brown, who's now at Morgan State, in Latrell Sandifer. Last week in a running clock triumph over Wilson, Sandifer managed to rush for 164 yards and 2TD's on 19 carries. He's not their only rushing threat either as QB Darwin Barbee and DeShon Saunders (2TD's last week) can aid him on the ground, too. Grassfield counters with a dynamic duo running the ball in Vince Lowe and Isaiah Harper, a pair of juniors that will probably threaten for 1000 yards apiece. Receiving targets like Chase Simonsen, Paris Smith and Markus Webb might be asked to come up big if the Warriors are able to contain the running game. This is a good measuring stick for both teams, and right now Grassfield has a slight speed and experience edge. They've proven to pull out close games over time.

Matt Says: Grassfield 24-17
Rod Says: Grassfield 23-13
VHSL-Reference Says: Grassfield 31-13


Hickory (1-0) at #8 Lakeland (1-0) . . .
The Lakeland Cavaliers have their sights set on making a deeper playoff run than they did a year ago when they crashed the Group AAA party for the first time in school history and bowed out in the quarterfinal round to Norcom. Their 49-0 shutout to start things off against Deep Creek was a pretty good indication that they'll be a team to be reckoned with moving forward. On offense, QB Zach Super completed well over 70% of his passes and RB Raekwon Johnson was hard to tackle. Against a Hickory squad that wants to keep everything mostly in the middle of the field, I'd expect Lakeland to open it up and try to get their WR's Antonio Jefferson, Derrick Edghill and Darnell McMillian involved a great deal. Hickory will need WR Richard Burney to step up and try to ride RB Andy Eaton as long as possible, trying to contain Lakeland's speedy, dangerous weapons on the outside.

Matt Says: Lakeland 42-7
Rod Says: Lakeland 40-13
VHSL-Reference Says: Lakeland 38-12


#9 Bayside (1-1) at Green Run (1-1) . . .
One can bet Bayside's coaches and players spent a good deal of the week preaching protection and ball security as they allowed 10 sacks and committed three turnovers in a 37-7 loss to Salem in their real big spotlight game of the season. Judging from last year and the amount of big-game experience players like QB Deion Stitt, RB Taquan 'Smoke' Mizzell, WR Quin Blanding, LB Will Dillard and others have accumulated over the past few seasons, they know how to bounce back from a setback. The Stallions have to get a couple of breakaway plays from RB Anthony Scott and be able to make the Marlins one-dimensional like Salem did. That's a lot easier said than done, though. If Green Run wants to take a giant step and make a statement that they are a contender in the Beach and at the Division 5 level, an upset win at home here in this spot would do wonders for them.

Matt Says: Bayside 27-16
Rod Says: Bayside 28-13
VHSL-Reference Says: Bayside 27-14


#10 Western Branch (1-0) at Deep Creek (0-1) . . .
The Western Branch Bruins began a new era off right against the Norcom Greyhounds, winning 27-13 in the opener for Coach Greg Gibson. Their triple-option gave the Greyhounds fits, controlling the Time of Possession category 18:45 to 5:15 in the first half alone as RB Josh Marriner racked up 130 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns. In this spot against a Deep Creek team that is still re-building under first-year Head Coach Calvin Copeland, look for the Bruins to stick with their triple-option attack, but mix in the pass more and take a few chances, use a couple other backs to keep Marriner fresh. Deep Creek got three sacks from defensive end Tyler Aughtman last week against Lakeland. The Hornets are still trying to identify a go-to guy on offense, though.

Matt Says: Western Branch 35-0
Rod Says: Western Branch 33-7
VHSL-Reference Says: Western Branch 49-0


#11 Woodside (1-0) at Maury (0-1) . . .
At Powhatan Field on Thursday night, the Maury Commodores welcome in a Woodside Wolverines squad that has owned this series in recent years. Since 2007, Woodside has won all six meetings, including a 56-15 playoff drubbing back in '09. The Commodores gave a valiant effort against Grassfield before losing 51-21 as the game was 21-13 midway through the second quarter when the Grizzlies provided a couple back-breaking moments via special teams and the return game. Davion Taylor stood out for Maury with four grabs for 63 yards and 2TD's; he and QB/ATH Devonte Carothers are capable of making plays. Maury ran for 162 yards in that game, but gave up 262 yards on the ground and turned it over three times. Woodside will run it and won't mind doing so at will. Tyris Walker rushed for 208 yards and 3TD's in last week's 42-3 rout of Menchville. They'll also mix in JayQuan Lassiter and QB Darius Howell, running out of the spread and Wing-T. The Wolverines' offensive line is usually stout as well.

Matt Says: Woodside 42-12
Rod Says: Woodside 28-14
VHSL-Reference Says: Woodside 38-10


Denbigh (0-1) at #12 Kecoughtan (1-0) . . . The Kecoughtan Warriors got the Alonzo Coley era off on a high note, prevailing 20-14 over the Churchland Truckers despite four interceptions out of their passing game. Sophomore signal caller Nick Carrera will need to show steady improvement as a huge matchup with Phoebus looms around the corner. In this game though, the team in the green and white can rely on the running game, spearheaded by Trenton Cannon, who last week turned in 149 yards on the ground and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Corbin Baxter gave them a lift on special teams with a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown. Denbigh has to be pleased with the progress they showed defensively in a 12-6 loss to Booker T. Washington where one of the Bookers' touchdowns came via an interception return by a lineman. To break through here, WR Tyrik Burns and RB Donovan Scales will likely have to come up with star performances.

Matt Says: Kecoughtan 30-6
Rod Says: Kecoughtan 21-6
VHSL-Reference Says: Kecoughtan 56-8


Gloucester (0-1) at #13 Granby (1-0) . . .
The Dukes make a long trip to Norfolk and Powhatan Field on Friday to take on an improving Granby Comets squad that is hoping to keep the momentum flowing after a surprising 45-9 result versus Great Bridge. Granby winning that game wasn't as much surprising as the lopsided margin as Lawrence Harris and Sidney Fulford burned the Wildcats defense for 257 total yards and 4TD's between them. Gloucester's defense has to mount a pass rush early in this game and get Comets QB William Smith off his timing and rhythm to disrupt how their offense operates. If they can do that, it will take a ton of pressure off their own offense, which saw a slew of injuries thrust their fourth-string signal caller into action versus Bethel. Gloucester hopefully will have three-year starting linebacker Rickey Hayes back from a shoulder injury or else it'll be tough sledding against a team that's brimming with confidence right now.

Matt Says: Granby 41-14
Rod Says: Granby 38-13
VHSL-Reference Says: Granby 29-13


Kempsville (1-1) at Princess Anne (0-2) . . .
For Princess Anne after their near win a couple weeks back over Green Run, this is a game they are circling on the schedule as a possible victory. A couple weeks back, they led the Stallions at the half before succumbing, 28-21. Ocean Lakes wasn't as kind to the Cavaliers, pitching a 51-0 shutout. Shelton Beale at quarterback will get his chances against a Kempsville defense that has some holes. He'll need to get Javen Fiesta and Jordan Glover, his two primary wide receivers, some touches in space early. Kempsville has been able to run the ball fairly well in two games against Kellam and Tallwood, who they out-lasted in triple-overtime last week. They've been able to distribute the carries pretty well between Rashaun Johnson and Quinton Haynes, something that if they can do again and avoid any monumental mistakes, could wear PA down in the long run.

Matt Says: Kempsville 19-15
Rod Says: Princess Anne 16-13
VHSL-Reference Says: Kempsville 30-13


Landstown (0-1) at Tallwood (0-2) . . .
These are two teams that need a win badly, and in the case of Landstown, can ill afford another loss to keep its playoff hopes alive. In last week's 14-7 loss to Kellam, Landstown failed to score an offensive touchdown. Tailback Trevon Byron accounted for their lone touchdown on a 97-yard kickoff return. The Eagles have to rev up their running game with Byron and Shyheim Swinson. Those two combined for 180 yards on 35 carries, and they should be capable of breaking the long run on a Tallwood defense that has given up 87 points in two games and numerous big plays. In their triple-overtime loss to Kempsville last week, Tallwood got one of its touchdowns on an interception return by Rafael Moore. To upend the Eagles, it may take a defensive score or momentum-changing play on special teams to prevail. Defensively, Landstown has enough depth on all three levels to throw out at the Tallwood offense and keep them at bay.

Matt Says: Landstown 26-9
Rod Says: Landstown 20-6
VHSL-Reference Says: Landstown 37-13


Warwick (0-1) at Booker T. Washington (1-1) . . .
Last year when these two got together it was all Warwick to the tune of 39-7 as QB Josh Butler and RB Cardon Johnson made several plays. Butler had one game-changing run that was reminiscent of Michael Vick in the contest. Booker T. squeaked out a win last week over Denbigh 12-6 as d-lineman Zain Upshur returned an interception for a touchdown early. Whichever team's defense makes its presence felt early will give them a chance to set the tone and control how the rest of the game plays out. To me, neither defense is real strong at this point, but both have a playmaker in the trenches with David Smith for the Raiders and the aforementioned Upshur of the Bookers. Booker T. stopping Warwick's two rushing threats in Butler and Johnson might be a lot to ask, though.

Matt Says: Warwick 31-16
Rod Says: Warwick 28-20
VHSL-Reference Says: Warwick 33-10


Heritage (0-1) at Norview (0-2) . . .
The intrigue in this game is that Heritage Coach George Massenburg and Norview Head Coach Eddie Handsome went to school together at Virginia State. They know each other fairly well. Can Norview's defense handle the run? After holding Hickory to 64 yards on the ground on 35 carries in which the Pilots' linebackers and defensive linemen did a sound job, they gave up over 400 yards rushing to Roosevelt in last Saturday's loss. Heritage won't get too exotic offensively. Their bread and butter will be running between the tackles with tailback Khalid Abdullah. If Norview stacks the box to defend the run, then the Hurricanes may pop open the play-action pass with either QB Terrence Crosby or Richard Outlaw targeting a young cast of receivers. The Pilots will lean on LB Bryce Atkins on defense to deliver key hits and RB Cavon Bradford to keep the chains moving.

Matt Says: Heritage 22-6
Rod Says: Heritage 20-13
VHSL-Reference Says: Heritage 23-17


Wilson (0-2) at Menchville (0-1) . . .
These are two very evenly matched teams not with playoff aspirations, but hoping to get any kind of win as a morale and confidence booster in an effort of staying out of the cellar in their respective league; Wilson in the Eastern District and Menchville in the Peninsula District. For Wilson, the advantage they have is an extra game under their belt as their two losses came against Norcom and Nansemond River. They were much more competitive against their Portsmouth rival Norcom as the defense had a couple of decent stands. For Menchville, they couldn't mustard up much offense at all in a 42-3 loss to Newport News rival Woodside. The Monarchs do have the better kicking game with Dillon Christopher, who has booted through a 60-yard field goal before. If it's close and it might be, that could be a factor. Wilson is hoping the QB/RB duo of Derwounte Greene and Rochelle Peebles don't let Christopher's leg come into play.

Matt Says: Menchville 10-7
Rod Says: Wilson 34-28
VHSL-Reference Says: Menchville 26-6


Indian River (0-1) at King's Fork (1-0) . . .
This series has been pretty evenly matched as of late with the teams splitting the last six meetings. King's Fork won last year's contest 19-16. Two weeks ago in their narrow escape against Booker T. Washington, the Bulldogs did a good job of running the ball to the tune of 255 yards on 66 attempts. If they can't get the ground game going and have to throw is when their offense could have some trouble. To me, having a bye week last week was a huge help for King's Fork because it allowed WR Davon Grayson, an East Carolina commit, another week to get healthy from an ankle injury. If Indian River's defense has to worry about him and DB/RB Charles Clark, a Virginia Tech commit, consistently, it'll pose a problem. For the Braves to pull this one out, they have to sustain a few drives offensively with QB Daniel Cross and RB Jaque Sawyer leading the way. Wideout Richie Williams and TE Ronnie Tennessee of Indian River against the King's Fork DB's is the matchup to watch and may dictate the outcome.

Matt Says: King's Fork 20-13
Rod Says: Indian River 20-14
VHSL-Reference Says: King's Fork 28-17


Matthew Hatfield has covered Eastern Region Football & Basketball since 2004 for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail hatfieldsports2k4@yahoo.com, and don't forget to listen to him on the VirginiaPreps.com Hour every Saturday at 11AM on ESPN Radio 94.1 plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.




 

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