With their 13-7 victory last Friday night over Cosby at Ed Karpus field, Thomas Dale secured a date with destiny this Saturday.
The Knights, who won the 2009 state championship, will get a rematch with Oscar Smith, the team they defeated 20-17 in the state semi-finals when late coach Vic Williams led them to the Promised Land.
“Let’s do this for coach Williams and Ben Brockwell!” a player yelled in the huddle after the victory Friday night’s win.
That has been a theme for the Knights this season.
From the recurring green and pink socks they have worn for renal cancer, the disease that took Williams life, to the rebirth of the “Dark Zone,” a coin termed one of Williams’ teams in the early 90s, Thomas Dale hopes that history continues to repeat itself.
Friday’s game was in a word, sloppy. That is what happens when two good defenses clash. Big hits, turnovers, muffed punts all were out in force for both teams. The difference was a little slant route that Matt Lawton completed to Brian Bullock that went for a 68-yard score in the second quarter. It was the first of just two completions that Lawton would record on the night.
Thomas Dale’s defense was the more impressive of the two. First, they limited Cosby running back Joe Hunt to 30 yards. In the week previous, he rushed for 213 yards against Riverbend. In the three weeks previous, he totaled 519 yards. The Knights also registered eight sacks. Johnny Gamble led the way with two while Shaundarius Carter, Roderick Wilson, Wayne Brown, Willie Covin, Max Evans and Sam Stark also got in on the action.
Stark, a Division-I caliber linebacker returned triumphantly in his first full action since the Matoaca game three weeks ago, playing nearly the whole game while registering 12 tackles. His presence on the field went far beyond that, though.
“Sam is the heart and soul of this defense,” said coach Kevin Tucker in an interview earlier this season. “He’s a big part of bringing the Dark Zone back to Thomas Dale.
Back to Oscar Smith.
The Tigers are 12-0 and led by junior quarterback Shon Mitchell. Mitchell’s an elite athlete and holds three offers per Yahoo’s Rivals – Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and UNC Charlotte. Most importantly for the Tigers and like Thomas Dale, they have got momentum. They just knocked off Ocean Lakes, a team that was ranked in the Top 10 in the nation according to MaxPreps and USA Today in a game where they were the underdog.
While it is now Thomas Dale’s turn to be the underdog, they are familiar with the situation. In 2009, they were tasked with facing Phillip Sims, Oscar Smith’s quarterback. No ordinary quarterback, he ended up at Alabama, then UVA, then Winston-Salem State. Now he’s on the Arizona Cardinals’ roster. In a messy affair, (especially weather wise) Thomas Dale tamed the Tigers and then defeated Lake Braddock to take the throne.
All of this coming from a team most had written off that came into the playoffs on a three-game losing streak. Despite the losses coming to quality teams, it wasn’t a desirable position. One of those teams, Hopewell, will play their own state semi-final this weekend as well.
Two more wins, Thomas Dale.
Thomas Dale at Oscar Smith will kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5.
Follow @RVAGameBreak for live updates during the game on Saturday.