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Preview of the 2007 state semifinal matchup between Phoebus and Stone Bridge
Of all the plays Tajh Boyd has made this season, and there have been plenty, Phoebus coach Bill Dee chooses to discuss one you wouldn't expect. One that resulted in a 6-yard loss in last week's 26-0 win over Indian River.
"We had a screen called, and they jumped it," Dee said. "So Tajh just took the sack. A lot of kids would try to throw it anyway, and you end up with a bad play. But he understands. We talk a lot about not forcing things, and he's done a great job of that."
Boyd has done a great job of pretty much everything - leading the offense, making throws, not giving the ball away, and bouncing back. Going back to last week, he followed that sack with a 36-yard throw to tight end Daquan Romero to set up the Phantoms' second touchdown.
He's been steady, poised and mind-blowingly accurate. And he's given Phoebus, which made its name as a grind-it-out team, a dimension it never had before.
"They can power anybody they want to," said Stone Bridge coach Mickey Thompson, whose team faces the Phantoms this afternoon in the Group AAA Division 5 semifinals. "They're getting 5, 6, 7 yards a carry - then they come off that and start throwing. That's the killer. And he throws a nice ball."
How nice? In 165 attempts this season, he has completed 117 passes for 70.9 percent. Since hitting on 4-of-9 throws in the season opener against Maury, Boyd's least-accurate game has been a 10-of-16 performance against Woodside. He threw for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns that night.
Think about it - 70.9 percent. The measuring stick for Peninsula District quarterbacks is Hampton legend Ronald Curry, who posted some untouchable numbers. But his best completion percentage, which came in his junior year, was 58.9. Boyd would need to throw 35 straight incompletions to drop that far.
"He has very nice accuracy, especially on that curl route and the slants," wideout Reid Evans said. "He's so accurate. And to be as young as he is ..."
Boyd is only a junior, but he already has four scholarship offers from Division I-A schools: Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Maryland. Virginiapreps.com ranks him among its top five juniors in the state (along with teammate Dominik Davenport, a two-way lineman).
The Peninsula District Offensive Player of the Year, Boyd is averaging 11.4 yards per attempt and 16.1 per completion. He has thrown for 22 touchdowns, with five interceptions.
"I still feel I could do better," he said. "I have five interceptions, and I should only have, like, one. They've been brain farts."
Quarterbacks often are judged on how they bring their teams back, and Boyd did that in Week 2 against Bethel. With 6:48 remaining, he threw an interception that Marcus Cooperwood returned for a touchdown to give the Bruins a 27-20 lead. An upset was brewing.
But Boyd answered with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jermando Towler for the tie. Then he hit Evans for 23 yards to set up the winning field goal. After the pick-six, Boyd hit on 6-of-6 passes for 92 yards. It was a turning point.
"In confidence and everything else," he said. "Coach told me I had to lead my team back, and I knew what I had to do. I think that helped me in the long run."
Phoebus has been relatively conservative in the playoffs, with Boyd attempting only 27 passes (completing 21) in three games. But last week, it was Boyd's 39-yard touchdown pass to Evans that sealed the Phantoms' win. Boyd withstood a blitz and threw a perfect ball to Evans.
"He's been throwing the ball well, he really has," Dee said. "He understands things. He knows where to put the ball, and he's got a heck of an arm. And he's throwing to the right receiver most of the time."
A year ago, Boyd's primary responsibility was handing off. Dennis Mathis and Haroon Brown carried the ball on 75 percent of the snaps during the Phantoms' state championship run. But Dee knew he had a good thing in Boyd, only a sophomore, and brought him along slowly.
Now, it's Boyd's time. And he's delivering.
"It feels totally different now," he said. "I still have a lot to work on, but I feel I've improved a whole lot."
The Boyd file
NUMBERS: Has completed 117 of 165 passes (70.9 percent) for 1,879 yards and 22 TDs, with only five INTs.