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Stone Bridge earns another date with Phoebus

After Coach Mickey Thompson addressed his players late Sunday afternoon and the Stone Bridge football team formed a circle around its captains, there was no extra speech or celebratory chant. Only two words were needed: Round Three.

Now, unless a large majority of Stone Bridge’s players moonlight as boxers, it’s my belief that this moment was in reference to the eighth-ranked Bulldogs’ upcoming game with Phoebus, the result of a 23-20 win over Massaponax in the Virginia AAA Division 5 semifinals.

The matchup with Phoebus (Hampton) marks the third consecutive time these two powers have met in the postseason -- but the first with a state championship on the line. Round Three is scheduled for 12:07 p.m. Saturday at U-Va.’s Scott Stadium.

Stone Bridge snapped Phoebus’s 20-game winning streak back in the 2007 state semifinals, rallying in the second half for a 38-24 win behind three touchdowns from Jeron Gouveia (Virginia Tech). But last fall, Phoebus got revenge and ended the Bulldogs’ season with a 38-8 blowout.

In both cases, the winning team went on to capture the Division 5 state title.

“This is big,” said junior Spenser Rositano, who recovered three of the four fumbles that Massaponax lost on Sunday. “Ever since last year, it’s been building up inside me. Now we get another opportunity to play the Phantoms. It’ll be fun.”

Phoebus advanced this far with a 10-7 win over Hanover on Saturday after bouncing back from a 7-0 halftime deficit to extend its current winning streak to 29 games -- the Phantoms’ last loss was to Stone Bridge in 2007. Now 14-0, Phoebus has outscored its opponents 489-82 this season and is ranked 25th in the latest ESPN RISE poll.

“It’s become a big rivalry within the state,” Rositano said. “Playing them is great because they’re a great team. We’re becoming a great team, and hopefully it’s a good football game.”

One can only hope it’s as exciting as the one on Sunday, which actually happened despite some seriously soggy conditions. With piles of mud and snow pushed off to the sidelines, Stone Bridge (13-1) had to re-line its field with blue paint -- and even that wasn’t totally effective. It was also decided to split the field into only 10-yard increments.

The mud, though, didn’t seem to slow anyone early on. Two of the first seven plays went for touchdowns, including a double pass from Brian Rody to Kyle Gouveia to Stan Johnson for 60 yards on the second play from scrimmage to put Stone Bridge ahead, 7-0.

On its first play from scrimmage after fumbling the ensuing kickoff, Massaponax quarterback Thomas Robinson scored on an 80-yard run before Stone Bridge running back Marcus Harris (22 carries, 39 yards) put the Bulldogs ahead, 15-6, with a one-yard run midway through the second quarter. But Robinson (16 carries, 143 yards) scored again before halftime to help the Panthers (10-3) pull to within two at 15-13.

After Massaponax’s Jauan Latney (20 carries, 104 yards) returned a punt 45 yards for a score with 7 minutes 53 second left in the third to give his team a 20-15 lead, Rody (106 yards) found Taylor Lambke along the right sideline for a 75-yard touchdown pass for the final margin.

“Just to see that a guy can make a crucial play in a crucial situation . . . that’s how you win championships,” Thompson said. “You have to guys who can make a play when the game’s on the line.”

Whether or not a crucial play can decide a championship, though, will have to wait until Saturday . . . for Round Three.

By Jason Mackey  |  December 6, 2009; 11:07 PM ET
Categories:  Football , Northern Region , Stone Bridge High School  
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