Jamestown QB Tyler Doane

JAMES CITY — It’s pretty easy to solicit the favorite play of the 2013 season among Jamestown High football players. It’s Tyler Doane’s 37-yard pass to Orlando McCoin for a touchdown on third down of the first overtime in the Week 9 game against Tabb.

The play extended the contest into a second overtime, where the Eagles upset Tabb 28-27. Even Stas Szczepanski, the Eagles’ leading rusher, calls it his highlight of the year, although he wasn’t directly involved.

“That’s definitely the biggest play, because if we don’t get that score, we probably don’t win the game and we’re not where we are today,” Szczepanski said.

Where the Eagles (4-6) are on Friday is at Dinwiddie (10-0) for a Group 4A South Region first-round playoff game. The Eagles’ task is Herculean considering that the Generals’ 55-7 margin of victory over Jamestown in their season-opening meeting is even more than their 40-point winning average.

Even so, Daivon Turner — a 1,000-yard rusher in 2012 who has run for 519 this year for the Eagles despite missing more than three games with a knee injury — can’t wait for a second shot at the Generals.

“When I saw that we were playing Dinwiddie again, I texted (Eagles head) Coach (Lee) Williams and said, ‘Coach, we have to beat these guys,’ "Turner said.

That’s music to Williams’ ears, because the Eagles’ coach has said for weeks while looking at potential playoff draws that he’d love a rematch at Dinwiddie. Williams did wonder, the first time he mentioned the preference, whether his kids would feel similarly.

“As a coach, it makes it a little easier to prepare when you’re playing a team a second time because you know what they’re going to do,” Williams said. “Daivon feels it’s our mission to beat Dinwiddie.

“Of course we know how big a challenge it is, but we’re a better team than we were then.”

Perhaps the most improvement has come on the offensive line. Just ask Doane.

In the first Dinwiddie game, he passed 12 times, completing just two for 16 yards while throwing an interception as he often ran for his life. In the nine games since, he’s completed 88 of 184 passes for 1,019 yards and six touchdowns, making him the only Bay Rivers District quarterback to pass for more than 1,000 yards this season.

“The line is blocking way better,” Doane said, pointing out that the group is young. “The first couple of games, they were learning a lot of different formations, but they settled down.”
Williams said the key to Doane’s success is that he’s good in games even when he’s not in practice.

“He just turns out a different product,” Williams said of Doane, a 6-foot, 171-pound senior. “He’s just a guy who has good footwork and can make plays with his feet, and is smart enough to keep plays going.

“He knows where guys are supposed to be. I didn’t think about it until last week, but he scrambled and hit the opening receiver (J.J. Boyd) for a 50-yard touchdown pass in a JV game two years ago, the same way he did with Orlando in the Tabb game.”

Following his 1,000-yard season a year ago, Turner was on pace again with 200 yards going into the Eagles’ third game, when he sustained a badly bruised knee. During the three-plus games he missed, Szczepanski and sophomore Mark Lipscomb (339 yards rushing, six TDs) handled the rushing duties capably.

Upon his return, Turner has split carries more evenly with that duo than he did in 2012 or early this year. He doesn’t mind.

“It’s better for us because defenses can’t key on just one guy,” said Turner, a 5-10, 188-pound senior. “That takes a lot of pressure off of you when you do get the ball.”

Williams said, “Daivon could easily be a guy like (Warhill star Devonte) Dedmon, and approach 1,500 yards if he was the only guy on the team. He really only cares about winning.”

At 5-8, 227 pounds, Szczepanski is built more like a guard or center than a running back. But Szczepanski was determined to run the ball in high school, has worked hard to improve his footwork and proved that he deserved to be a ball-carrier with consecutive 600-yard seasons.

“Stas is a smart kid who runs tough and is faster and shiftier than people think,” Williams said. “He’s improved most as a blocker, because he’s realized he can make it on the next level if he can do a little more.

“He’s been around the game a long time.”

He, Turner and Doane will play at least one more game for the Eagles after leading them to the playoffs for the second time in three years — the program’s only two playoff appearances ever.
“It’s definitely cool that we’ve left our mark on Jamestown football and made something of ourselves,” Szczepanski said. “We’ve worked hard and it’s paid off.”

O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.