In last week's game against Bethel, Hampton quarterback David Watford misfired on 10 of his 11 passes and was intercepted twice. Yet he grew up that chilly and soggy night, and his team won because of it.
"David is working to become a better leader, and maybe he took a giant step the other night," Crabbers coach Mike Smith said. "I think the guys look at him with a little more respect for his toughness now."
With everything on the line and the passing game going nowhere, Watford ended up doing what he doesn't often do — running. In Hampton's final drive of regulation and its one possession of overtime, he carried eight times for 35 yards. That improved his game total to 27 yards. (Yes, he was at minus-8 before.)
Watford's 9-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds remaining tied it, and his 3-yarder in overtime gave the Crabbers a 20-19 win that bumped them to fifth in the Eastern Region Division 5 standings going into Friday night's game against Phoebus. But good luck getting him to brag about it.
"As a team, we all grew up a lot that night," he said. "Our defense played a tremendous game, and I give them a lot of credit for that win. Our offense decided we weren't going to let the team lose, so we put it together and got the win."
Watford has had more artistic games, like when he hit on 10-of-12 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Denbigh. Or when he completed 10-of-16 for 217 yards and two scores a week later against Warwick. But he was never more clutch than Friday night.
Then again, that sort of thing is expected of him. Not just him, but anyone who lines up behind center for Hampton. The Crabbers have produced some extraordinary quarterbacks, from Ronald Curry to Marques Hagans to Tyrod Taylor.
Watford, who grew up sleeping with his football, understands the history. He used to watch Hagans, his first cousin, play at Darling Stadium. He saw Taylor, too. And, of course, he knows about the Curry legacy.
"People are expecting a lot from me, but I'm only able to do what I'm capable of doing," he said. "I can only play like me. I have to be me and make a name for myself.
"But they were good quarterbacks and good leaders. And they have something I don't have — a state championship. That's what I'm working for."
You'll notice that Watford's uniform number is 5, just like Hagans and Taylor. He didn't pick it. Watford said assistant coach Alvis Mann gave it to him last year, saying, "Your cousin wore 5, so you're going to wear 5."
For the season, Watford has completed 45-of-87 passes (52 percent) for 979 yards. He has nine touchdowns and five interceptions. And though his rushing total after seven games is only 118 yards, he's capable of turning a scramble into a big gain.
He began the 2008 season splitting time with Jordan Roby but eventually became the starter. As preseason practice began last August, he was noticeably bigger — from 5-10 last year to 6 feet, and about 20 pounds heavier.
He has the tools. But Smith constantly stays on Watford to get better.
"He has a long way to go to become an accomplished quarterback, and he realizes that," Smith said. "And he's working hard to get better. He's still trying to see the field and get a feel for the game. One of these days he's going to be a very, very good quarterback."
How does Watford react to some occasional harsh words from his coach?
"It's the best thing he can do for me," he said. "He's always pushing me and it makes me want to work harder."
Added Smith: "You can get on David and chew him out, and he just looks at you and says, 'Yes sir.' "
Watford grew up around athletics and athletes. His mother, Angela, and five of her seven sisters played basketball at Hampton High. In addition to Hagans, Watford is also cousins with former Crabbers James Wilson, Tyrel Wilson and Myron Newsome.
"We'd always play games in my grandmother's back yard," Watford said. "Football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, fighting ... all kinds of stuff."
Angela Watford also made sure her son took academics seriously. Mission accomplished on that one. David is in the International Baccalaureate program at Hampton.
"He's always had a quiet demeanor; that's how he's been his whole life," Angela said. "He's soft-spoken, but when he gets on the field, he knows what he needs to do."
Smith would like to see Watford get a little meaner on the field. Angela wishes him luck on that one.
"He doesn't have a mean bone in his body," she said. "We play softball and kickball as a family, and he's a competitor. But you know how some athletes have that 'grrr!' in them? Not him. But he knows how to get the job done."
The Watford file
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6 feet,
NUMBERS: Has completed 45-of-87 passes for 979 yards, with 9 TDs and 5 INTs.
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