The Phoebus sideline during the Phantoms' annual battle against Hampton is hardly unfamiliar territory to Stan Sexton. The role he played on that turf Friday night, however, was something new.
Sexton, who spent 14 years as an assistant to longtime Phoebus coach Bill Dee before leaving to take the head-coaching job at Warwick four years ago, returned to the Phantoms this year as head coach. His first game in that capacity against his team's fiercest rival was a rousing success, as Phoebus handled the Crabbers 17-0 at Darling Stadium.
"I love the opportunity to be able to come back to my home and be able to be on the sidelines for a big game like this and come out on top," said Sexton, who replaced Dee when his mentor resigned to take an assistant-coaching position at Christopher Newport. "I know what's expected here. I know what's expected of the kids. … It's always expected to beat Hampton, but sometimes it doesn't work that way."
Following in the footsteps of Dee, who won four state titles in the last eight seasons of his 24-year tenure with the Phantoms, has been challenging, even for a coach so steeped in the Phoebus tradition.
"It's a lot of hard work," Sexton said. "It's never what I expected. It's just a lot of hard work and getting things together, getting everybody on the same page, getting everybody to believe in me. It's just real hard to come in a program that's been this good and keep the tradition going. I credit my assistants on that. Those guys do a great job of keeping the continuity of the team."
While longtime Phoebus assistants Greg Narvid, Dick Van Dyke and Greg Day have decades of experience, the similarities between Sexton and his one-time boss have also made his transition more seamless.
"It's the same as Coach Dee," said senior quarterback Paul Morant, who was 5-of-10 for 70 yards and accounted for the game's only touchdown with a 1-yard sneak in the first quarter. "He was fun, and Coach Sexton, he's fun, too. He's laid-back, and Coach Dee could be a little stressed sometimes, (but) both of them are yellers."
Sexton didn't have much to fuss about Friday, as his Phantoms (8-0, 7-0 Peninsula District) never let the Crabbers (5-3, 4-3 PD) muster any offensive momentum. Hampton's best scoring shot came late in the fourth quarter after Phoebus went for it and failed on fourth-and-1 from the Crabbers' 43-yard line in a move Sexton said Dee probably would not have made. But the Phantoms' defense forced an incompletion on fourth-and-4 from the 11 to preserve the shutout.
Sexton, who said he talks to Dee three or four times a week, planned to call the former Phantoms coach later Friday night. But he won't be doing any trash-talking about a winning percentage against Hampton as the Phoebus head coach that, as of right now, stands at a perfect 1.000.
"I was 0-4 at Warwick against them, so I can't say I have a perfect winning percentage," Sexton said. "He's got a lot more victories than I do, so I'm not going to talk junk to him yet."