In a hard-fought battle testing
the conditioning, poise and wills of each team, No. 79 Richmond (Va.) Hermitage prevailed
over Richmond (Va.) Meadowbrook, 14-3, to move 2-0 on the season.
It was Meadowbrook's second-straight loss as the Monarchs fell to 0-2.
1. Defense plays to potential... The
buzz around the Hermitage program since the end of last season has been
centered on a defense that looked to rank among the best in the state anchored
by DI prospects Curtis Grant, the No. 8-ranked player in the nation, and defensive
end Diamonte Bailey (Virginia commit) who were being joined by a number of
Facing a talented group of playmakers from Meadowbrook,
Friday was surely going to be a test for the state's No. 4-ranked team and it's
one that it passed with relative ease as, though the Monarchs pushed into
Panthers territory a couple of times, the defense stiffened up keeping
Meadowbrook from the end zone.
Though Meadowbrook running back
Domico Phillips broke several runs, including a 57-yarder to the Hermitage
14-yard line on his team's first possession which led to a field goal, when
coach Patrick Kane most needed a stop, the group rose to the occasion, led
primarily by Grant at linebacker, Joquan Roney in the trenches and Justin Gist
from the secondary.
2. Special teams... Trailing
3-0 at the half, Hermitage was in need of a spark and got two big plays from
its special teams unit in a matter of minutes. Forcing Meadowbrook to
punt deep in its own territory after punting on its first possession,
Hermitage broke though the punt protection as junior Salvador Acosta made a
diving block of the punt attempt then scrambled to his feet in time to scoop up
the loose football.
However, on the next play, Daryl
Irby picked off a Hermitage pass ending what was, at the time, Hermitage's best
The defense held again, forcing a
three-and-out and the Hermitage special teams unit struck again. Attempting
to field the punt at his own 43-yard line, Justin Gist muffed the punt but
calmly scooped up the loose ball with Monarchs bearing down on him.
Getting hit immediately after making the pick up, Gist slid away from tacklers
and broke free up the right sideline where, two cuts later, he found nothing but
open space and a posse of blue jerseys in front of him leading to a 57-yard
scoring return and to the first lead of the contest for the Colonial District
3. Missed opportunities... When
two quality teams meet, especially early in the season, games can get a little
ugly as newcomers to Friday nights are still adjusting to the speed of the
varsity game, offenses haven't quite figured out their timing and coaches are
still searching for the right combination of personnel and formation packages.
Sometimes, quality programs do
enough to force other quality schools into making enough mistakes that strange
A little of both happened in this
On the night, two possessions
ended with missed field goals, three on failed fourth down conversions, six on
punts, three on fumbles and one on an interception as both offenses were solid
enough to piece together 20- and 30-yard drives, but neither defense was broken
big. That changed, though, when a fourth quarter slant pass from Brendon Riddick to B.J. Clark went
for 70 yards to the Monarchs' 5 yard line, leading to the one-yard touchdown run from
Riddick that virtually sealed the victory with just over ten minutes to play.
1. Curtis Grant, LB, Hermitage... With
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell in town to check out the All-American
linebacker, Grant did not disappoint, notching 16 tackles by running
sideline-to-sideline, stuffing rushes up the middle, overpowering blockers on
some plays and running around them on others as the Panthers linebacker seemingly
locked down his five-star status and solidified his standing as one of the top
defensive players in the nation.
2. Justin Gist, DB / PR,
Hermitage... His 57-yard punt return for a touchdown was the game's most
electrifying play and signified the moment that the game turned in the Panthers
favor as it seemed to light a spark under their collective seats. But,
even without that play, the senior would have easily joined this list as his
ability to fill the alley and send Monarch runners tumbling was on display on
several plays as his pressure outside kept Meadowbrook bottled up.
3. Domico Phillips, RB,
Meadowbrook... From his opening drive 57-yard run through the final whistle,
Phillips, who picked up his first DI scholarship offer from Kent State earlier
this week, gave the Hermitage defense fits as the
senior ran hard, low and quickly both between the tackles and outside the hashes
as a potential home run threat on every handoff. Though the Monarchs never
hit paydirt, Phillips had the defense on its heels and tackling air on several
runs, leaving a trail of players off balance. On the night, the workhorse
back carried 34 times for 212 yards.
Rod Johnson is the Football Editor for
VirginiaPreps.com, the #1 High School
site on the Rivals.com Network. He also co-hosts the VirginiaPreps.com
Hour alongside Matthew Hatfield weekly every Saturday at 11 AM on
ESPN Radio 94.1 FM in the Hampton
Roads area. Rod can be reached via e-mail at
email@example.com or via