It was the year of the Ram in Bay Rivers District football, as Lafayette dominated the league like few, if any, have in its 24-season existence.
The Rams went 12-1, featuring the best offensive player in running back Jahlil Green and the best defensive player in linebacker Schekel Wallace, while going unbeaten in district play in winning all nine games by 22 points or more. The overtime loss to state power James Monroe in the 3A state quarterfinals was disappointing, but doesn't dim the luster of a terrific season.
Here's our recap and look ahead to 2014.
Five memorable players
1. Jahlil Green | Lafayette. Whether cutting outside or slashing inside, the William and Mary recruit was unstoppable in rushing for 2,055 yards and 34 TDs. His tackle at DB in the Brunswick game was one of the best of the season.
2. Kapri Doucet | Bruton. With more than 1,000 yards rushing and 500 receiving, the James Madison- bound senior was among the district's most versatile players. The hard-hitting linebacker was named his region's best defensive back.
3. Schekel Wallace | Lafayette. His 900-plus yards rushing were a bonus. The more than 100 often bone-jarring tackles he tallied at middle linebacker epitomized the Rams physical dominance.
4. Grayson Boyce | Poquoson. The 6-3, 245-pound Hampton University recruit got better as the season went on, often dragging multiple tacklers with him en route to 1,348 yards and 19 TDs rushing. He had 15 tackles for loss at defensive end.
5. Devonte Dedmon | Warhill. What could have been? Though he played in only a quarter in more than six games, the W&M-bound senior rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Five memorable games
1. Tabb 12, York 10. The lead changed hands three times in the final 4:05. Grant Kelchner's 35-yard field goal as time expired gave the Tigers the victory — their first in the past six tries against their rival.
2. James Monroe 34, Lafayette 28 (OT). It was a classic duel of pass vs. run, with the underdog Yellow Jackets throwing for 326 yards, the last 3 for a TD in overtime, to upset state No. 1 Lafayette.
3. Jamestown 28, Tabb 27. (2 OT). Orlando McCoin's leaping grab for a 37-yard touchdown on third down in the first overtime kept the Eagles in the game. A missed PAT by the Tigers in the second OT gave the Eagles the upset.
4. Warhill 34, Smithfield 28. This was Devonte Dedmon at his best: 416 total yards, including 283 yards rushing, and five TDs. His one-handed grab for 25 yards kept alive the game-winning drive, which he capped with a 1-yard TD run with 22.7 seconds left.
5. New Kent 11, York 8. Sawyer Rountree's 31-yard field goal with 30 seconds remaining snapped the Trojans' 11-game losing string. From that high, the Trojans suffered the lowest low several weeks later, when starting linebacker Jacob Vick collapsed at practice and later died.
Five players to watch in 2014
1. Darius Reynolds | York. That he had 12 sacks was impressive enough. That he did it playing tackle even more so. The 6-1, 225 pound sophomore is probably the district's next serious Division I recruit.
2. Brent Hinson | Tabb. Just a tough, no-frills workhorse who is hard to bring down. He ran for 1,573 yards and 14 TDs in 10 games to eclipse 1,000 yards for the second straight season.
3. Brandon Villanueva-Pernell | Lafayette. Perhaps the district's most explosive returning player based on his 38 receptions for 492 yards and six touchdowns and three kick returns for scores. He was one of the district leaders with six interceptions.
4. Coleman Goad | Lafayette. Intelligent and technically sound, he'll lead an offensive line expected to include experienced returners Mitch Barrick, Anthony Thorn, Ian McManus and Charlie Woollum.
5. Antwuan Hicks | Tabb. His ability to get up and get to any pass thrown in his direction — he averaged 21.0 yards on his 25 receptions — gives the Tigers the ability to go vertical through the air. A superior athlete, he had 65 tackles, seven for loss.
Five questions for 2014
1. Will there be a really great team? We're talking about one the caliber of Poquoson's 2010 state champs or this year's Lafayette team that spent half the season ranked No. 1 in state 3A. No one, it seems, returns that level of talent.
2. Can Lafayette 3-peat as district champs? The Rams very well could. Five experienced interior linemen return on offense, along with skill standouts WR Villanueva-Pernell and QB Brendan McGinty. Graduation departures on defense are huge, but six starters do return.
3. Who will push the Rams the most? Not only will Tabb push Lafayette for the title, the Tigers might be the favorite. RB Hinson, QB/DB Nick Hunter and WR/DB Antwuan Hicks are just a few of numerous very good athletes returning.
4. Who loses the most from 2013? Minus Dedmon, Reggie Lipscomb and Bryce Johnston, Warhill is starting over again. Poquoson and Jamestown lost many of their key players off of playoff teams.
5. Who's on the rise? In 1,000-yard rusher Donald King, WR/DB Chris Pierce, LB Ryan Jones and two-way linemen Jack Darden, Smithfield has four talented freshmen to anchor the program for years to come. DL Reynolds and RB Chris Spruill (740 yards rushing) lead an experienced returning crew at York.
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun