Phoebus' players are too young to remember it, unless they've caught the reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel. But the second half of Saturday afternoon's Group AAA Division 5 semifinal was like a "Twilight Zone" episode. You half-expected Rod Serling to walk out to midfield.
Everything the Phantoms had done well all season suddenly began working against them. And everything they had made other teams do, they, just as suddenly, began doing.
The result was a 10-point lead in the third quarter blown and a 38-24 loss to Stone Bridge. Phoebus turned the ball over five times, which included an interception that was returned for a touchdown. The Phantoms also gave up a safety on a bad snap and did themselves in with untimely penalties.
Phoebus (13-1) had won every game this season - and 20 in a row dating back to last year - by doing the right things. But one step away from another trip to the state championship game, the Phantoms imploded.
"Man, we beat ourselves," quarterback Tajh Boyd said. "We made so many mistakes and gave them short fields. We should have won this game. We know we're better than them.
"We had five turnovers, and you can't do that in the playoffs. You can't have one turnover in the playoffs because that'll cost you. We just beat ourselves."
It's easy to understand that logic. Leading 24-14 with 10:45 left in the third quarter after Matt Cole's 29-yard field goal, Phoebus gave up 24 unanswered points. It started with Darius McMillan's fumble, which gave the Bulldogs (13-1) first-and-goal from the 6-yard line. Jeron Gouveia scored his first of three second-half touchdowns to make it 24-21.
"That was huge," Stone Bridge coach Mickey Thompson said. "That gave us the spark we needed. Without that fumble ... I don't know."
Then, with Phoebus driving, Boyd was intercepted for the second time. Stone Bridge then went on a 13-play, 84-yard drive - all of it coming on the ground - that took 6 minutes and 39 seconds off the clock. (Sound familiar?) Gouveia's 4-yard touchdown put the Bulldogs ahead 28-24.
Next, after a three-and-out, Cole was in punt formation when the snap sailed over his head. The ball rolled out of the end zone, giving Stone Bridge a safety that made it 30-24. The Bulldogs then took the free kick and put the game away with another Gouveia touchdown.
"It was one of those days," Phoebus coach Bill Dee said. "You saw the game. Everything just turned against us. They did to us what we usually do."
Especially when it mattered. At halftime, the Bulldogs had six first downs and 40 rushing yards. But in the second half, they had 12 first downs and 137 yards on the ground, as they controlled time of possession.
Conversely, Phoebus had two first downs and 25 total yards after halftime, when it ran only 13 offensive plays. Thus, Phoebus' ground game never was able to get going. Tailback Shawne Alston, who had rushed for 495 yards in his last three games, had only 25 yards on 10 attempts, carrying only three times in the second half.
Gouveia, who has committed to Virginia Tech, ran for 88 of his 101 yards in the second half. After quarterback Patrick Thompson was intercepted with 7:03 left in the third quarter, Stone Bridge ran on 27 of its 28 final offensive plays.
"Their momentum started going up while ours started slowly going down," Phoebus linebacker LoVante Battle said. "We tried our best, but they had more fight."
Though Phoebus was called for only four penalties, three of them were huge. On Stone Bridge's first touchdown drive, the Phantoms twice were flagged for incidental face-masks. The third came when the Phantoms went offsides on fourth-and-2 from the 9-yard line. The Bulldogs scored on the next play to make it 28-24.
Phoebus also wasted a couple of opportunities to take control. The Phantoms were leading 21-14 when cornerback Markell Wilkins intercepted Thompson on the second play of the third quarter and returned it to the Stone Bridge 7-yard line. Yet all the Phantoms got out of it was a field goal.
"We just made a lot of mistakes," two-way lineman Dominik Davenport said. "I feel we lost it ourselves as a football team. But the game's over now - not much we can do about it."
STONE BRIDGE 38, PHOEBUS 24
Phoebus 7 14 3 0 - 24Stone Bridge 0 14 7 17 - 38
Pho-Ward 35 pass from Boyd (Cole kick)
SB-Moody 8 pass from P. Thompson (Shaban kick)
SB-Olson 41 interception return (Shaban kick)
Pho-McMillan 5 pass from Boyd (Cole kick)
Pho-Evans 8 pass from Boyd (Cole kick)
Pho-FG Cole 29
SB-J. Gouveia 1 run (Shaban kick)
SB-J. Gouveia 4 run (Shaban kick)
SB-Safety, Phoebus center snaps ball out of end zone
SB-J. Gouveia 7 run (Z. Thompson pass from P. Thompson)
Pho SBFirst downs 14 18Rushes-yards 30-131 43-177Passing yards 172 131Comp-Att-Int 14-24-2 9-19-2Penalties-yards 4-20 2-20Fumbles-lost 3-3 4-2Punts-avg. 1-30 2-27.5
RUSHING: Phoebus, Alston 10-25, McMillan 1-1, Boyd 11-35, C. Goodwyn 2-16, Wilkins 3-24, Evans 1-58. Stone Bridge, J. Gouveia 19-101, Alexander 12-48, Thompson 3-12, Irwin 2-3, Allen 1-10, Stancik 2-9.
PASSING: Phoebus, Boyd 14-24-2-172. Stone Bridge, P. Thompson 9-18-2-131, J. Gouveia 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING: Phoebus, Evans 7-105, Romero 1-3, Wilkins 2-16, McMillan 2-18, Ward 2-30. Stone Bridge, Moody 3-52, J. Gouveia 1-17, Irwin 4-48, Allen 1-13.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times