The newspaper clipping from last year was on the sideline as motivation to win, and a Vince Lombardi quote adorned a sign held by Meadowbrook’s players as they charged onto the field to the sounds of Guns N’ Roses Welcome to the Jungle.
Like last year, when they were knocked out in the final week of the season by eventual state champion Thomas Dale, the Monarchs were playing Friday to keep their playoff hopes alive – and nothing less than a win would do.
But history did not repeat itself, as Meadowbrook defeated Thomas Dale for the first time in five seasons with a score of 20-16 in Central District football action.
“It means a lot to the team and the school and the former players,” said Meadowbrook high school head coach Troy Taylor. “They always seem to have our number.”
Friday’s win was only the third by the Monarchs over the Knights since 1986; there has been a steadily growing rivalry between the two schools. With a playoff-type atmosphere and nearly packed bleachers on the Meadowbrook sideline, it would be the Monarchs who stuck first, on an 18-yard run by Mico Phillips, who would finish with 197 yards and two touchdowns, adding to his career total and his mark as Meadowbrook’s all-time leading rusher.
“Tonight’s win meant a lot to the team,” said Phillips. “But it means a lot to everyone that didn’t get to beat Thomas Dale. We had to step up for everyone in the Monarch family that didn’t win.”
And they did step up as, after an electrifying return by Thomas Dale’s Ralpheal Wheat, they were able to force the Knights to a field goal despite starting their drive on the Meadowbrook five.
Meadowbrook played aggressively on offense, converting on several fourth downs in the first half. However, just inside the start of the second quarter, Dale was able to drive down the field on a botched Meadowbrook snap. Dale scored on a 26-yard strike from Quinton Taylor to Desmond Frye, as he caught the ball to give the Knights the lead after a Anthony Prevost extra point, 10-7.
But the Monarchs would answer quickly; after one of several solid returns by wide receiver Akil Dorsey, Phillips broke off his second touchdown of the day, a 42-yard run down the middle to put Meadowbrook back on top after the extra point, 14-10.
Gritty defense dominated the rest of the first half, including a couple of turnovers. On a late second quarter punt by Meadowbrook, the Dale returner muffed the punt, and Meadowbrook’s Leon Austin recovered the ball. But, the tough defense of Dale forced another turnover, as a Gerard Johnson pass was intercepted by senior Demetrick Jackson with nine seconds left in the half to save another Meadowbrook touchdown.
The second half began with a Dale fumble that was recovered by senior Monarchs linebacker Ron Carter, but again, the Dale defense rose up and stopped the Monarch offense. A Meadowbrook punt pinned Dale deep inside its own territory. After forcing a three-and-out, the Monarchs got penetration on the punt, which was blocked and recovered by junior Frank Dickerson for the score. A missed extra point would leave the score at 20-10.
On the very next drive, the Knights would answer with a 21-yard touchdown strike. A missed Knights extra point narrowed the margin to four, at 20-16.
After back and forth defense throughout the fourth quarter, Dale was able to force a Monarchs punt and get the ball back for an attempt at a drive to take the lead late with 1:46 remaining. After an incomplete pass to bring up second down, Dale dropped back and passed, and Devin Woodley was there for the Monarchs to pick the ball over, sending the Meadowbrook sideline and the crowd into a frenzy.
“Our team played tough, I’ll give them that,” said Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Tucker. “But special teams mistakes have hurt us all year, and tonight was no different.”
Meadowbrook was able to win despite turning the ball over three times in the first half. Standouts for the Knights included Frye, who scored both of Thomas Dale’s touchdowns. Phillips was able to bring his season rushing total to 1,783 yards.
The Monarchs, winners of four straight, will have another must-win contest on the road this Friday at Petersburg, with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The Monarchs must win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. Matoaca will finish its season on the road at Thomas Dale, with a 7 p.m. kickoff. L.C. Bird gutted out a win against Manchester last week and clinched its 12th straight district title. They will look to finish an undefeated regular season on the road at Midlothian, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m.