Somehow, an unbeaten team that had outscored the opposition by 47 points a game considered itself the underdog Saturday afternoon. And in reality, Phoebus probably was. Stone Bridge was the proud owner not only of a 26-game winning streak, but of last year's state-championship trophy.
Perhaps this explains why the Phantoms came out as if they had been insulted. Maybe it's why they took the lead a full minute before the game even was scheduled to begin. And why the Group AAA Division 5 semifinals, also known as Round 2, was a quick knockout.
Phoebus forced six turnovers, including a fumble recovery for a touchdown 10 seconds into the game, and cruised to a stunningly easy 38-8 win before a packed house at Darling Stadium. In handing the Bulldogs their worst loss in school history, the Phantoms moved on to next week's final against Dinwiddie (12-1).
"True, everybody was saying we wouldn't come out on top because Stone Bridge beat us last year and they were so good," said tailback Shawne Alston. "But we wanted this game the whole year. We've been preparing for this.
"We left our heart in the weight room and came out and executed every week. Saturday practices, 7 o'clock in the morning practices, whatever … we wanted this. And we came out today and played well."
In every conceivable way. Alston ran for 167 yards on 26 carries, showing his usual power as well as some breakaway speed on a 43-yard touchdown play. He also went over 2,000 yards for the season. Quarterback Tajh Boyd hit on 10 of 17 passes and directed the offense with efficiency.
And the defense … wow, where do you start? How about with the first play from scrimmage, which was snapped at 1:29 p.m. — one minute before the scheduled kickoff.
As Stone Bridge quarterback Patrick Thompson dropped to throw, he was hit by defensive end Daquan Romero and fumbled. Demetrius Ward, Romero's bookend, picked up the ball and went 26 yards for a touchdown.
"Everybody got hyped with that play," Ward said. "Everything started right there."
And it set the tone.
"That play," Stone Bridge wideout Michael Prince said, "put a dagger in us."
Thompson threw five interceptions after that and spent most of the day either running for his skin or getting crushed. Phoebus had six sacks — four by Romero, who was relentless.
"Man, he played some type of game," Phantoms coach Bill Dee said. "He just kept coming and coming."
A team that came in averaging 49.2 points 431 yards a game had no answer for Phoebus' speed. The Bulldogs (13-1) finished with 17 rushing yards — that's 160 fewer than what they had in last year's 38-24 state semifinal win over Phoebus.
Turnovers killed Phoebus in last year's game, and they did in Stone Bridge on Saturday. Rasheed Clark's interception with 6:11 left in the first quarter set up Eric Crocker's 24-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
Then, after a bad snap in the single wing on fourth-and-1 gave Phoebus a short field, Alston bulled in from the 2 to make it 17-0.
"The early turnovers hurt us because we couldn't stay in the single wing and try to go right at them," Stone Bridge coach Mickey Thompson said. "To negate speed, you have to go right at them. But the game got away from us so quickly, we never had that opportunity."
Trailing 24-0 at halftime, the Bulldogs took some momentum by scoring and getting the 2-point conversion with 7:47 left in the third quarter. But Colby Goodwyn intercepted Thompson on the Bulldogs' next possession. Boyd's 22-yard touchdown throw to Romero pushed Phoebus' lead to 31-8.
And then, LoVante' Battle picked off a Thompson pass and returned it 35 yards for the Phantoms' second defensive touchdown of the game and their 13th of the season.
"All year long, we preached defense, defense, defense," tackle Dominik Davenport said. "They put up 50 points every week, but we were determined it wouldn't happen this week."
Ever since last year's loss in Ashburn, a Stone Bridge towel has hanged from a wall in Phoebus' weight room as a constant reminder. Now, it's no longer needed. And it's no longer there.
"It's down permanently," Ward said. "Never going back up again."
"Maybe," Alston said with a smile, "they should put us up in their weight room now."
PHOEBUS 38, STONE BRIDGE 8Stone Bridge0080 — 8Phoebus1014140 — 38 Pho—Ward 26 fumble return (Crocker kick)
Pho—FG Crocker 24
Pho—Alston 3 run (Crocker kick)
Pho—Alston 43 run (Crocker kick)
SB—Sheehan 6 pass from P. Thompson (Z. Thompson pass from P. Thompson)
Pho—Romero 22 pass from Boyd (Crocker kick)
Pho—Battle 35 interception return (Crocker kick)
SBPhoFirst downs1014Rushes-yards27-1737-179Passing yards11181Comp-Att-Int10-27-510-17-0Punts-avg.3-424-31.3Penalties-yards8-788-55Fumbles-lost2-14-1INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRUSHING — Stone Bridge, Allen 9-16, Harris 3-12, P. Thompson 12-minus 7, Prince 1-2, Slay 1-1. Phoebus, Alston 26-167, Robinson 3-5, Goodwyn 7-minus 2, Wilkins 1-9.
PASSING — Stone Bridge, P. Thompson 10-27-5, 111. Phoebus, Boyd 10-17-0, 81.
RECEIVING — Stone Bridge, Sheehan 3-38, Prince 4-37, Ansell 2-33, Harris 1-3. Phoebus, Romero 5-52, Newkirk 3-14, Griffin 1-6, Wilkins 1-9.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun