First-year coach Kevin Tucker led the Thomas Dale Knights to an opening night victory over Manchester in a fiercely competitive 20-16 ballgame in which the outcome was not decided until the very last minute.
The final points came on a 39-yard touchdown strike from rookie quarterback Quinton Taylor to Desmond Frye. The score came after a do-or-die defensive stand, followed by a gutsy fair catch by Daniel Reid on the ensuing Lancer punt. The Knights battled all evening on Manchester’s home field, displaying just enough offense, timely defense and solid special teams play.
For Tucker, it marked the beginning of a dream come true for the coach who was born into the Thomas Dale football family. A third generation Knight, Tucker played fullback for coach Vic Williams prior to continuing his playing career at Hampden-Sydney. Described by defensive back Lorenzo Fields as “determined and loyal,” Tucker took the helm last spring after William’s retirement. Tucker had been an assistant at Thomas Dale for the previous nine seasons.
“Any pressure I feel is completely self-imposed,” Tucker said after his first victory. “The administration and athletic department have been incredibly supportive.”
Thomas Dale is a team in transition after its march to the 2009 championship last fall. There were 33 seniors on the squad, which featured nine athletes who were recognized as all-state performers. Several of the graduating players are on the college gridiron this fall.
“We returned Lorenzo Fields, Demetrick Jackson, Sam Hartman and Adam White as starters. We are also blessed with a fabulous kicker in Anthony Prevost,” said Tucker.
Although everyone else is new to the starting line-up, most have experience as back-ups or as starters on the successful JV squad. “They understand what is expected and they worked extremely hard over the summer.”
In Friday’s opener at Manchester, Tucker was extremely pleased with the leadership displayed by quarterback Quninton Tucker. He also mentioned Desmond Frye as coming up huge in his first varsity game. “Demetrick Jackson really took over in the fourth quarter, showing the kind of player he is,” added Tucker.
Tucker is blessed with a stable and experienced staff. “Some have said we are doing things differently, but we really aren’t. Coach Williams is a great coach. We haven’t been a pure power team in a long time,” said Tucker, who played in a spread offense in college. “We will be showing multiple formations. Hopefully we can keep them guessing.”
Dale faces Varina and Bird in home games each of the next two weeks. The crowds and the football should both be tremendous.