Different championships have different origins. For Phoebus, which was bounced from last year's playoffs in such crushing fashion, this one was 12 months in the making.
It was Dec. 1, 2007, when the Phantoms lost to Stone Bridge in a Group AAA Division 5 semifinal, and to hear the players tell it, they began working to redeem themselves the next day. First came the team motto: Unfinished Business. Then came the closing motto: Finish Unfinished Business.
Saturday afternoon at a frigid Lane Stadium, Phoebus finished it with a 37-13 win over Dinwiddie for its fourth state championship this decade and its second in three years.
And yeah, it felt pretty good.
"Twelve months is a long time, and we worked hard from day one of those 12 months," linebacker LoVante Battle said. "Now that we've finished business, I feel like a celebrity. We all do. We accomplished our goal, and everybody loves us.
"We got the trophy. And we ended our senior year with a bang."
Behind a Shawne Alston-led offense and a defense that used a bend-but-don't-break philosophy, the Phantoms (15-0) extended a 14-6 halftime lead with 23 unanswered points in the second half.
Alston, Phoebus' workhorse during the playoffs, rushed for 237 yards on 30 carries. And though Generals quarterback Adam Morgan threw for 252 yards on 21 completions, his team made it to the end zone only twice - the final time with 1:34 left.
"We played Phoebus football," head coach Bill Dee said. "It was a great day, a great season, and a great way for these seniors to finish their careers."
The game began almost the way Dee would have scripted it.
Dinwiddie punted on its opening possession, and the Phantoms answered with a 12-play, 78-yard touchdown drive. Alston carried on 10 of those plays, and quarterback Tajh Boyd capped it with a play-action pass to a wide-open Daquan Romero.
Three plays later, Phoebus safety Colby Goodwyn knocked the ball loose from Dinwiddie receiver Terron Adams, and cornerback Markell Wilkins returned the fumble 33 yards to the Generals' 8-yard line. Alston scored on the next play, and not eight minutes into the game the Phantoms led 14-0.
"They don't give up a lot of yards, much less a lot of points," Dinwiddie coach Billy Mills said. "We knew it was a stiff challenge."
The Generals (12-2) got back in it when Morgan hit Jerrell White for a 21-yard touchdown. Phoebus had a chance to bump the margin, but Boyd was intercepted twice inside the Dinwiddie 25-yard line in the final five minutes of the half.
But the Phantoms began putting it away in the third quarter. Another grind-it-out drive after the kickoff ended with a 22-yard field goal by Eric Crocker. Dinwiddie went three-and-out, and Boyd connected with Omyn Newkirk from 17 yards to make it 24-6. Ballgame.
Dinwiddie's defense, which came in giving up 169 yards a game on the ground, had no answer for Alston. He never was tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
"We did a good job of coming out and playing smash-mouth football," Dee said. "We felt we could dominate them up front, and we did really well in the first quarter. I think we kind of let down a little bit (with) missed opportunities, but that set the tone for the second half."
Alston finished his senior year with 2,278 yards, 971 in the five playoff games.
Defensively, Phoebus knew its hands would be full with Morgan, the Virginia High School League's career leader in completions, touchdowns and yards. The Phantoms held him to a 46-percent completion rate and all but shut down the Generals' screen passes.
"That Davenport kid," Mills said, "he almost shut down our screens by himself."
Dominik Davenport, Phoebus' two-way lineman and all-around terror, went 52-3 in his four-year career with the Phantoms. Boyd finished 41-2 in three seasons as the Phantoms' starting quarterback.
And the rest of the seniors, from Alston and Battle to those who served complementary roles, will leave with another ring.
"These seniors are the role models of what this team is all about - gritty, tough, play hard all the time," Dee said. "And they finished business this year. It was a heck of a ride."
PHOEBUS 37, DINWIDDIE 13
PHOEBUS 14 0 10 13 - 37DINWIDDIE 6 0 0 7 - 13
Pho-Romero 3 pass from Boyd (Crocker kick)
Pho-Alston 8 run (Crocker kick)
Din-White 21 pass from Morgan (kick failed)
Pho-FG Crocker 22
Pho-Newkirk 17 pass from Boyd (Crocker kick)
Pho-Alston 32 run (kick failed)
Pho-Robinson 28 pass from Boyd (Crocker kick)
Din-White 7 pass from Morgan (Jones kick)
Pho DinFirst downs 22 16Rushes-yards 43-273 21-56Passing yards 111 252Comp-Att-Int 8-15-2 21-46-1Punts-avg. 2-26.5 5-32.2Penalties-yards 3-30 9-100Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
RUSHING - Phoebus, Alston 30-237, Robinson 8-52, Davenport 1-minus 1, Goodwyn 1-minus 6, Boyd 3-minus 9. Dinwiddie, Morgan 18-35, Jackson 1-13, Beville 2-8.
PASSING - Phoebus, Boyd 8-15-2-111. Dinwiddie, Morgan, 21-46-1-252.
RECEIVING - Phoebus, Romero 3-33, Newkirk 3-34, Robinson 1-28, Wilkins 1-16. Dinwiddie, White 9-127, Beville 4-38, Haskins 3-38, Jackson 3-24, Adams 2-25.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times