— Going into the season, one of the biggest questions facing Phoebus in its drive for a second state championship in three years was this: Who is going to assume the role of Reid Evans?
In the 2008 opener Thursday night at Powhatan Field, Markell Wilkins did a pretty good impression.
Wilkins scored two touchdowns, one on an 85-yard punt return and another on a 17-yard reception, and intercepted a pass to key the Phantoms' 47-7 win over Maury. Phoebus took a 21-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter and, despite some not-so-sharp moments, pulled away.
Evans, who had more than 1,100 receiving yards last year and was a big-play threat as a cornerback and punt returner, is now at Old Dominion. And Wilkins, playing on ODU's campus Thursday night, proved to be a capable replacement.
"Last year, Reid was my teacher," Wilkins said. "And he taught me everything. This year, I just want to take what he taught me and do even better. I'm the X-factor for this team on offense, defense and special teams."
Phoebus opened with a perfect drive that went 80 yards in nine plays — six runs and three passes. Then, Wilkins took a punt at his 15-yard line as the Commodores' coverage was overloaded to the left side. Wilkins looped back around and, after a crushing block from Dominik Davenport near the Maury 30, was gone.
"That punt return got us rolling," Phantoms coach Bill Dee said.
Offensively, Phoebus had its ground game clicking. After a poor showing last week in a scrimmage against Oscar Smith, the Phantoms rushed for 242 yards. Starting tailback Shawne Alston had 141 of that (along with three touchdowns) on 15 carries. Backup Colby Goodwyn added 59 on seven attempts.
The passing game had its moments, with senior quarterback Tajh Boyd hooking up with Wilkins in the third quarter to make it 40-7. But Boyd threw two interceptions, marking the first time he's thrown multiple picks in one game since his sophomore year.
There were other things sure to be mentioned in film sessions next week. Of Phoebus' seven penalties, four were 15-yarders, including two for roughing the kicker.
"Too many penalties," Dee said. "And three turnovers on offense. It was our first game, and it certainly wasn't perfect."
Phoebus dominated on defense except for one series, on which a 15-yard face-mask penalty on third-and-8 set up Keenan Lambert's 32-yard touchdown over the middle to Dorian Jackson.
Along with new uniforms, on which the numbers are almost impossible to read from any distance, Phoebus had some different looks. Leading 27-7 on their first possession of the second half, the Phantoms had first-and-goal from the 3. Davenport, the 270-pound lineman, lined up at fullback.
He got the call, and he scored his third career touchdown — his first on offense.
"We call that our 'Elephant Package,' " Dee said. "He wanted one earlier, but I told him, 'I'll get you later.' "
PHOEBUS 47, MAURY 7
Phoebus 14 13 13 7 — 47 Maury 0 7 0 0 — 7
Pho—Alston 13 run (Crocker kick)
Pho—Wilkins 85 punt return (Crocker kick)
Pho—Boyd 1 run (Crocker kick)
Mau—Jackson 32 pass from Lambert (Lee kick)
Pho—Alston 3 run (kick blocked)
Pho—Davenport 3 run (kick blocked)
Pho—Wilkins 17 pass from Boyd (Crocker kick)
Pho—Alston 49 run (Crocker kick)