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Continuity on veteran coaching staff has been key for Phoebus
Technically speaking, he's the new kid on the block. Although everyone understood from the outset that Stan Sexton was anything but new to the Phoebus football program.
He had, after all, been an assistant under Bill Dee for 14 years. But in the four seasons he spent as head coach at Warwick, the Phantoms won two Group AAA Division 5 state championships and just missed a third. The program had become arguably the best in the state during his absence.
So when Sexton returned to Ireland Street, he vowed not to change much. First and foremost, that included the coaching staff.
"I can't even begin to explain how valuable they've been," Sexton said.
The staff includes veterans Greg Narvid, Greg Day, Dick Van Dyke, Ron Johnson and James Holbert. It includes Alonzo Coley, the junior varsity head coach and Demetrius Sanders. And it includes former Phantoms Jeremy Blount, T.J. Shields, Jerry King, T.J Carrington, Skip Perry and Micah Littlejohn.
The continuity has made life easier for the new guy.
"I go in and tell them, this is what I want to get accomplished, and they do it," Sexton said. "I never have to look over their shoulders. I know what their expectations are. I know, for instance, that Greg Narvid will come up with the best possible defensive game plan."
This time of the year, that confidence is crucial. Tonight at Darling Stadium, the Phantoms host Great Bridge in an Eastern Region Division 5 semifinal. And Phoebus' defense, which is giving up only 137 yards and five points per game, faces a major test.
The Wildcats (9-2) have averaged 37 points a game in their nine wins. And Great Bridge has a pass-oriented offense.
Quarterback Brad Hudson, only a junior, has completed 147 of 246 passes (59.8 percent) for 2,206 yards and 23 touchdowns. His top receiver is Marc Meier, another junior, who has 42 catches for 746 yards and 12 touchdowns.
"I've heard a lot of people say he isn't very mobile, but in watching film, he doesn't get sacked a lot," Sexton said of Hudson. "He's got a quick release and makes good decisions. He reminds us a little bit of the quarterback Dinwiddie had last year (Adam Morgan)."
That's pretty high praise. Morgan only rewrote the Virginia High School League record book last year. But the Phantoms' secondary — cornerbacks Tyree Lee and Dontrell Jones, safeties Colby Goodwyn and Paul Morant — has been outstanding this year. Phoebus is allowing only 78 passing yards a game and has 15 interceptions.
"It's going to be a very tough challenge for our secondary," Sexton said. "And it's going to be a challenge for our defensive line to get some pressure on him. If we can come in and get shots on him, like we were able to do with (Bethel's Rashad) Manley last week, I think we'll be in good shape."
With four more wins separating them from a second consecutive state championship, the Phantoms are eager to get the job done.
"I've been so anxious to get it all out for this game," linebacker/fullback Chaz Robinson said. "Everybody's working hard."
Tonight's game No. 5 GREAT BRIDGE (9-2)
vs. No. 1 PHOEBUS (11-0)
WHAT: Eastern Region Division 5 semifinal.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Darling Stadium.
VIDEO: Tape only; first shown at 6 p.m. Saturday on LSC 48 in Hampton.
THE BUZZ: The Wildcats got here by beating Churchland on a last-second field goal by Aric Speziale, who has made seven in 11 attempts, including a 51-yarder. Great Bridge rides the arm of QB Brad Hudson, who has passed for 2,206 yards and 23 TDs. Phoebus' offense bounced back last week behind a 162-yard night from TB Colby Goodwyn, who is averaging nearly 140 per game. The Phantoms' defense has allowed 56 points all season.
THE PICK: Phoebus 31, Great Bridge 17.
— Dave Johnson