RICHMOND—D.J. Parker and Matt Wright danced like children at the 20-yard line. Linebacker Maurice Boone couldn't stop crying.
Nearly four months after beginning its quest to defend its Division 5 title in football, Phoebus High got a chance to celebrate again after a 39-13 win against Stafford in Saturday's state championship game at University of Richmond Stadium.
With the win, the Phantoms completed a 14-0 season and marked the eighth time in 11 years that a Peninsula District team has won a state title in football.
"It's hard to repeat," Parker said. "This is special because it's my senior year and we're going out with a bang. I'm so proud of this team."
The Phantoms made him proud early.
After a 40-yard kickoff return by Philip Brown on the game's opening play, Phoebus executed an 11-play drive capped by Xavier Adibi's 1-yard touchdown run. The Phantoms scored again on their next drive on an 8-yard touchdown run by Elan Lewis. Three plays into the next possession Lewis was at it again, this time scoring on a 60-yard run to put Phoebus ahead, 19- 0.
For a player who began the week saying he just wanted "to put his two cents worth" into the game, Lewis finished with a game-high 225 yards and three touchdowns, his second consecutive game with more than 200 yards rushing.
"I put a whole dollar's worth in today," he said, laughing. "No, I'm just happy that we won. I didn't care about scoring. I just wanted to come out and win like we did all year."
A year ago, as a junior, Boone watched from the stands when the Phantoms beat Patrick Henry Ashland, 26-7 to win the school's first state title. Now a senior, he was overcome with emotion after Saturday's win.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "I can't explain. It's unreal that I'm here and we won it. I was looking at the trophy. That's what we worked for."
Following Lewis' second touchdown, the Indians began their possession on their 11-yard line. With fourth-and-1 at the 37, Stafford faced a difficult decision. If Phoebus got the ball back it could put the game out of reach by halftime. But Stafford's best player, running back Thomas McClelland, severely bruised his shin against Hopewell last week and didn't practice this week. Stafford's coaches gambled and gave the ball to McClelland.
He ran for 12 yards, picking up the first down.
McClelland carried the ball on the next five plays before throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Robert Thompson to cut Phoebus' lead to 19-7.
The Phantoms fumbled the kickoff, and Stafford's Donald Lamar recovered at Phoebus' 46. Suddenly, Stafford had a chance to make things interesting. That chance disappeared. D.J. Parker intercepted a pass by Indians quarterback Tim Sullivan at the 15, and the Phantoms took their 12-point lead into halftime.
"I thought we were in control, but I knew they would run the ball well," Phoebus coach Bill Dee said.
"I was a little upset, but the kids came out in the second half and played really well."
Dee had added support on Saturday. His mother was in the stands cheering him on.
"This is the first time she's been down here in years," said Dee, who is from Archbald, Pa. "We would have to send her home right now if we lost. ... No, it means a lot, my father's been kind of sick and he couldn't come down. But it means a lot."
Lewis rolled off another big run in the third quarter, this time a 51-yard touchdown. Stafford added a second touchdown to close the quarter when Sullivan threw a 12-yard pass to tight end Jay Montgomery, but the Phantoms weren't done. Adibi scored on a 3-yard run and Darnell Allen caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Parker.
"I didn't think this one could be sweeter than last year, but it is," Phoebus assistant Stan Sexton said.