The Result/Story: In front of a packed crowd of
over 8000 on a humid, cloudy Friday night in Chesapeake where it poured at
times, the rain didn't slow the defending Group AAA Division 6 State Champion
Oscar Smith Tigers' parade as they defeated the Venice Indians from Florida
27-13 with the ESPNU television cameras there to capture it all. Crisp and
efficient, the host Tigers totaled 371 yards on 48 plays without committing a
single turnover and having only three penalties for 15 yards. Afterwards, Oscar
Smith Head Coach Rich Morgan felt the message was clear.
"I'm just pleased that we're the first team in [Virginia]
history to take on a team from Florida and win. It's never happened before, and
we did it on national TV in front of the entire country, showed everybody what
we're made of," said Morgan, now 77-10 overall in his career at Oscar Smith.
"Like I said before, I think the message is we're still here so people can stop
doubting us. I would stop doubting us, we're still here."
With 6:11 to play in the first quarter, Venice opened the
game's scoring when senior quarterback and University of Florida commit Trey
Burton punched in a 1-yard touchdown run to cap a five-play, 27-yard drive
that lasted just over two minutes. Oscar Smith struck first when senior
quarterback and Alabama commit Phillip Sims connected with junior
receiver Quinta Funderburk for a 17-yard touchdown to tie the game. The
Tigers took the lead with 11:53 to go in the second quarter when sophomore
running back J.C. Coleman, a transfer from King's Fork, had a 2-yard
Perhaps the biggest play of the game came with two seconds
left in the first half when the Oscar Smith defense stiffened, holding Burton
and the Indians out of the end zone on a 4th & 7 inside the 10-yard
line. That opened the door in the third for Sims and the offense to go to work,
taking the short, underneath passes and marching down the field. Sims completed
4-of-4 passes for 67 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter, which was
capped by lineman Evan Hailes (Penn State commit) lining up in the
backfield and scoring on a 2-yard touchdown run.
"Well, because we got buried on field position so much, we
couldn't throw it as much. Then when we finally got field position, the rain
came. Everything was going against us," noted Morgan. "When we came out we
knew they were going to pooch kick because they didn't want us to run one back.
We knew we'd get the ball at the 35, and we said we're going to throw the ball
every play down the field because they took away all of Phillip's post routes,
but they were giving us 10-15 yards if we wanted it."
From there, Oscar Smith sized control of the game. Coleman
scored his second touchdown of the night with 8:39 left in regulation, pushing
the Tigers' lead to 27-6. Venice would get one more touchdown run from Burton,
but they were unable to close within one score.
\"We went right down the field, 10-15 yards, scored and
then once we got that second touchdown all we had to do was play D'," added
Morgan. "That's why we shut it down offensively with six minutes left and just
had to run out the clock."
Best Around For A Reason: If anyone wondered
whether or not Phillip Sims was the best quarterback around, they got their
answer Friday night, Morgan firmly believes as he watched the guy who should
shatter most all state passing records by the time he graduates prove once again
he won't be slowed down. Sims threw for over 300 yards and a record six
touchdown in last year's State Championship win over Osbourn amidst the snow and
cold in Blacksburg. This time he showed calm and poise during the rain.
"Phillip's the best quarterback in America, and if you're
the best quarterback in America you've got be able to play in any situation, and
so he does. Now, if he couldn't play in the elements, he wouldn't be the best
quarterback in the country. But he is. That's why he's going to Alabama. He's
the best there is," states Morgan.
"We saw in the first quarter we had a big play off of a
short stop route. They were playing Cover 4 against us, and they gave us flat
route, stop route stuff like that," commented Sims, who finished with 266 yards
passing on 13-of-20 with a touchdown, the 87th of his career. "We
figured we could come out with some better field position in the second half,
and just let it loose. We had receivers make big-time plays after the catch.
It's all on them. I threw a ball 10-15 yards [and] they ran 20 yards with it."
Sims credited his offensive line, led by All-State
performer Hailes as well as All-District players Corey Steward and
Dontrell Holmes. Though sacked three times, the line more than did its job
against a fierce Venice defensive line Head Coach John Peacock called the
best he's ever been associated with, featuring some mammoth players such as
6-foot-6, 215-pound junior DE Tyler Adrian and 6-foot-7, 290-pound
sophomore DT Omari Phillips.
"My big guys helped me out a lot tonight. They kept the
pressure off me as much as possible, and they gave me time," stated Sims.
"Everybody knows what time with a quarterback can do, and as long as they give
me time, I think we can make big plays down the football field."
Burton Not Bad Either: Venice's Trey Burton lived
up to his billing in the battle of future SEC quarterbacks, totaling 354 yards
and rushing for both of his team's touchdowns. The comparison of a mini Tim
Tebow might not be that far fetched either.
"Trey Burton's awesome. I've said it all along, that kid's
one of the best in the country. He's a great athlete [and] he can probably play
five different positions in college," remarked Morgan. "I'm a big fan of the
kid. If he was here, he'd probably start on offense - not at quarterback - but
he'd start at offense, defense and special teams. He'd be the man because he'd
be a tailback for us, too. He can do everything, so I've got a lot of praise
for that kid."
On 23 carries, Burton ran for 78 yards, often spinning away
and shaking off oncoming tacklers. Through the air he connected on 16 of his 28
pass attempts for 276 yards, becoming the first quarterback to throw for over
200 yards on the Oscar Smith defense since the 2007 State Semis when then
Westfield and now NC State quarterback Mike Glennon eclipsed that mark.
"Trey is a great player. He showed tonight that some of
his critics are wrong about what he can do on the football field as a
quarterback. He made some big-time throws that I don't see too many
quarterbacks around the country make. He also showed he can do it with his
feet. He made some crazy runs tonight, dragging and putting moves on people,"
said Burton's quarterback counterpart, Sims, who's also glad he held up his end
of the bargain in the highly anticipated matchup.
"I also feel I came out and played well enough to get the
victory. I think I did good enough the first game to come out with a victory,
didn't really do as much as I wanted to, but it'll all be corrected in time."
A Speedy Spark: Oscar Smith got a lift with the
quickness of J.C. Coleman, a much-needed asset for a Tigers team that graduated
Perry Jones and Tim Smith to the University of Virginia, arguably the state's
best running back/receiver tandem a year ago.
"J.C. is probably one of the fastest players I've ever
played with. I've played with great guys, but J.C. is one of those explosive
guys," Sims went on to say. "He's elusive, and he's smaller, so once he gets
behind his blocks you can't really see him. Once he's out in the open field,
he's gone. He made some big-time plays for us tonight."
Coleman finished with 79 yards rushing and a pair of
touchdowns on 16 carries, plus he added a 26-yard reception to go over 100 total
yards in his Tigers debut.
"I don't think J.C. could've played any better for us than
he did," Morgan said. "When there was a hole, he hit it and got us yards. When
it wasn't there, he got what he could get, went down and didn't fumble the
football. J.C. had a coming out party tonight. He's going to be tremendous,
and he's only a sophomore, so he's got three years of running the ball for us."
Stepping Up When It Matters Most: For the game,
Venice actually out-gained Oscar Smith 375-371, largely due to a 25:58 to 22:03
Time of Possession advantage, and the fact the Indians' offense was more
methodical moving the ball down the field than the quick strike offense of the
Venice was 0-for-4 on fourth downs, including three times
they were stopped inside the 15-yard line of Oscar Smith. Junior defensive back
Jason George had a career-high 11 tackles, Steward chipped in 8 stops and
linebacker Jeremy Majette, a transfer from Bayside in the off-season,
made 8 tackles in his first varsity game with the Tigers.
"That's all about heart. We don't like to be a bend but
don't break defense. When you play that caliber of quarterback, you can't blitz
him all the time because he's going to run. It's kind of like you've got to
pick your spots," Morgan pointed out.
"We had them, and how many times did they convert 3rd
& 15 because we made mistakes in the secondary and blew coverages? If we don't
do that, they probably don't score at all and we have more points because we
have the field position battle. When it came gut-check time, we showed the
heart and that's what has to happen."
Stats: *** Courtesy of Mike Whittington and
Oscar Smith 27:
Phillip Sims - 13-20 for 266Yds. 1-0TD/Int. ratio
J.C. Coleman - 16Car. 79Yds. 2TD; 1Rec. 26Yds.
Charlie Ricks - 5Rec. 104Yds.
Quinta Funderburk - 4Rec. 96Yds.
Evan Hailes - 1Car. 2Yds. TD; 6 Tackles, Sack
Jaston George - 11 Tackles, 2FF, PBU
Jeremy Majette - 8 Tackles
Corey Steward - 8 Tackles, 2TFL
Venice (FL) 13:
Trey Burton - 16-28 for 276Yds; 23Car. 78Yds. 2TD
Bo Ceravolo - 5Rec. 53Yds.
Beckett Wales - 4Rec. 77Yds.
Josh Boyle - 3Rec. 94Yds.
Dino Fanti - 6 Tackles, 2 Sacks
James Lawson - 5 Tackles (4 Tackles in 1st
Matthew Hatfield has covered Eastern Region Basketball &
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