It didn't take Phoebus High coach Bill Dee long to trot out the now-familiar challenge to next year's football team.
"Seniors, we're going to miss you," he said. "For the guys coming back, we're going right back to work in January. The bar's up there now."
Dee was smiling as he talked to the jubilant pile of players, mere minutes after their 39-13 win against Stafford in the Division 5 championship in Richmond. He was smiling, but he was also serious.
After years of living in the shadow of cross-town rival Hampton, Phoebus solidified its reputation as a football powerhouse by winning its second consecutive title on Saturday. Players and coaches felt it. So did alumni scattered across the state.
"I wasn't fortunate enough to get one," former Phoebus defensive end Nathaniel Adibi said, "but it's good to see my brother (Xavier) get two in a row."
Nathaniel, now a starting end at Virginia Tech, received permission to miss practice. He was one of several former Phantoms basking in the glow of victory. Travis McCright, last year's Daily Press Player of the Year, was there as well to watch his brother Quincy McCright.
"The people who played in front of them did a good job, me, Antwoine Womack, Maurice Shanks," Adibi said. "and the players are doing a great job now. Hopefully, they can continue."
With players such as Elan Lewis and Anthony Robinson coming back next season, the Phantoms have a good chance at achieving a coveted three-peat. Lewis rushed for 1,866 yards and 18 touchdowns this season, and Robinson was an all-Peninsula and all-Eastern Region selection at center.
"Elan is the next horse of Phoebus football," Dee said. "He's got speed and power, and he played defense for us in the second half today. He's a great player and he's only a sophomore."
Outgoing offensive tackle Jason Bowles remembered Dee's challenge from a year ago and said it inspired him.
"I actually enjoyed this one," he said. "This year I'm more satisfied with how I played."
For Bowles, the second championship means the Phantoms will receive more respect. It seems that, despite a 26-game winning streak, many of Phoebus' players still resent the fans who have doubted them.
"Last year when we lost to Warwick, people left us," said Bowles, referring to the Phantoms' last defeat --- the district opener in 2001, "and then this year, going into Kecoughtan, everyone said we weren't going to play well. In the meantime, they jump on someone else's (bandwagon).
"This says we're here to stay and that we have a great program and work hard."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times