Asked who he sees winning Friday night's Hampton-Phoebus showdown at Darling Stadium, Heritage coach Dan Tomblin takes a pass. That doesn't mean he fails to grasp the game's significance.
"It could go either way, but I do know this," he said. "The district will be decided that night, that's for sure. There's nobody else in the district who can hang with those two."
Here's another safe prediction: They will meet again on Nov. 26 in the Eastern Region, Division 5 championship game. In the latest VHSL ratings, the Crabbers and Phantoms are 1-2 in the region. Each looks unstoppable — though one will be stopped Friday night.
Not that a rematch is automatic.
Norcom, 7-0 for the first time since 1993, is third in the ratings. But last week, the Greyhounds beat Churchland 20-14. Hampton and Phoebus beat the Truckers by a combined score of 97-0.
Another tough out could be fourth-rated Great Bridge, which is 7-0 and averaging 41 points a game behind a spread offense. But the Wildcats lost to Phoebus 42-0 in last year's regionals.
"I haven't seen anybody on the other side of the water except for Maury (which the Wolverines beat 35-0) and we scrimmaged Lake Taylor," Woodside coach Danny Dodson said. "But my feeling is, these are the best two teams in the region in Division 5."
If they do meet again in the playoffs, it will be the seventh time it's happened. Of the previous six, four were for the Eastern Region championship. Since the field was expanded from four to eight teams in 2007, the only time Hampton and Phoebus met in the postseason came in the '07 semifinals.
Of course, good luck getting either of the two coaches — Mike Smith at Hampton and Stan Sexton at Phoebus — to discuss a hypothetical game that would take place five weeks from now.
All they want to focus on is this week, and that's fair.
So let's focus.
Both teams come into the 41st game of this series on a serious roll.
Not only are they undefeated, they are crushing opponents week to week.
The Phantoms, who have won 37 straight games overall (36 in the Peninsula District), have scored 344 points and given up 22. All seven wins have come with a running clock. They are allowing 73 total yards a game and have given up two offensive touchdowns all year.
Phoebus has the district's top rusher in Tyree Lee (1,013 yards, 15 touchdowns) and an improved passing game behind quarterbacks Jordan Roby (a Hampton transfer) and Eric Enderson. And they have tall and deep group of receivers led by 6-foot-4 Romond Deloatch.
The Crabbers have outscored their seven opponents 346-33 with six of their wins, including last week's 63-7 demolition of Bethel, coming by running clock. Like Phoebus, Hampton has four shutouts. The Crabbers have allowed 19 points in their last six games.
Hampton has the district's best running game at 263 yards per game. Running backs Kavon Bellamy (612 yards, 13 TDs) and Dallas Cogdell (496, 9) and quarterback David Watford (442, 8) are among the PD's top 10 rushers. Between them, they're averaging 8.5 yards a carry.
What will decide it?
"It could come down to who has the better passing game," Tomblin said. "Both have the capability of stopping the run, so it could come down to the pass. Hampton has the better quarterback, but as far as who they're throwing to, the skilled guys on Phoebus' side are better."
"Both are really good defensively and really fast to the football," Dodson said. "It will be interesting to see which team blocks best."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times