Indians, Broncos see gridiron gains as season ends

Published 6:15 pm Friday, November 25, 2022

By Titus Mohler and Frank A. Davis

The 2022 varsity football season came to an end for both the Southampton High School Indians and Franklin High School Broncos on Nov. 10 in the first round of their respective regional tournaments, but both teams drew praise from their coaches for both their playoff and overall season performances.

THE REGIONAL PLAYOFF GAMES

No. 5-seeded Southampton faced No. 4 I.C. Norcom High School in the first round of the Region 3A tournament and lost 27-14.

“First of all, our guys played very well,” Indians Head Coach Travis Parker said. “We knew it would not be an easy game because the two teams matched up pretty evenly. It would come down to which team would make the most plays needed to win the game. We were in the red zone twice during the game but were not able to score. Had we been able to convert on those two series, the outcome could have been different. 

“However, we played and coached our best and left everything on that field,” he added. “I am disappointed, of course, because we did not win on the scoreboard, but I am proud of the way we competed.”

Despite the loss, there were still individual standouts for Southampton.

“Our defensive unit made some great plays during the game,” Parker said. “On the first play of the game, Leslie Dildy caused a fumble, and Chris Blue recovered it. Then on our very first offensive play of the game, Jayden White ran the ball in for the first score of the game. This set the tone for much of the game. All the players in the game had great moments, and we definitely played as a unit. I.C. Norcom was just able to capitalize on the few miscues we had to win the game.”

No. 5-seeded Franklin faced No. 4 Sussex Central High School in the first round of the Region 1B tourney and fell 20-2.

“We actually played well,” Broncos Head Coach Lamont Hill said. “We had opportunities inside the red zone, and we just didn’t capitalize on them. We had one call-back on a penalty, and then they had a big fourth-down stop that really kind of changed the tide of the game, because all of that happened in the first half.”

Sussex Central led only 6-0 at halftime, and Hill noted that if Franklin had gotten a score, it probably would have gone into halftime with some momentum, came back out fired up, and the game could have changed as a result.

Hill said his team had players after the Tigers’ quarterback all night and after a high snap, they forced the signal caller to throw the ball from his own end zone to an area where no receiver was present, leading to the safety.

A trio of seniors stood out in particular for the Broncos in the playoff game.

“Aquarius Turner played a tremendous game at outside linebacker,” Hill said. “Shawn Battle played a heck of a game at the center position. Derrick Perry, he runs hard, as usual. Aside from those, it was just a tremendous, all-around team effort.”

END-OF-SEASON EVALUATIONS

The Indians finished the 2022 season with an overall record of 8-3 after going 6-4 in 2021. They went 8-2 in the ’22 regular season and earned the title of 2022 Tri-Rivers District Champions by going 6-0 in the district.

Parker explained that winning the district title “was one of our goals at the beginning of the season, and we earned it. We are proud of this accomplishment because it is the first championship since I was blessed to become the head football coach at Southampton.”

Parker became head coach of the Indians in 2019.

To him, the biggest highlights of Southampton’s 2022 season included the district title, and then he listed battling back in the Colonial Heights High School game to go into overtime after being down 30-0 very early in the third quarter. The Indians ultimately fell 36-30, but Parker said, “The resiliency of our team was definitely exhibited in this game.”

Lastly, he highlighted Southampton’s 24-16 win over Greensville County High School after struggling in the first half. 

“Adversity was very high during this game, but the unity was evident among the team to get the win,” he said.

Parker said he would grade Southampton’s overall season as an eight out of 10.

“The eight is made up of the district championship, 6-0 district record, 8-2 overall regular season record, finishing (as the) No. 5 seed in the 3A Region — highest seed during my tenure, the dedication and passion of the coaching staff, our offense averaged 33 points per game and the defense only gave up an average of 15 points per game, the leadership of our seniors, being voted Tri-Rivers Coaching Staff of the Year, and players earning 23 all-district honors,” he said. “The remaining two out of 10 is made up of not getting the playoff win, the regional championship and the state championship. Also not accomplishing an undefeated season, and not playing our best football on away games.”

Franklin finished the season with an overall record of 4-7, improving on its 2021 campaign during which it went 2-9 and did not make the playoffs.

“In no way am I disappointed with the performance of the kids, even the outcome of the season,” Hill said, referencing the Broncos’ 2022 effort. “I know going into it, there were critics out there that probably didn’t even give us a chance to win one game.”

“For the seniors that was their second playoff appearance, but their first appearance since their ninth-grade year,” he said. “And it gives our young guys something to build upon.”

He acknowledged that it was unfortunate that the Broncos were not able to keep the momentum going during the season, “but it wasn’t for lack of effort — from the coaches or the kids.”

Hill, who was hired in May, is looking forward to having a full offseason with his players this time, helping them to get stronger and in better shape.

HOW THE COACHES WILL REMEMBER THEIR TEAMS

He said Franklin’s 2022 squad ended up with around 14 to 15 seniors, and then he shared how he will remember the team.

“I don’t want to sound ahead of myself, but I want to say this team will be remembered as the team that restored tradition, that was beginning to restore the tradition of Franklin football,” he said. “We’ve got kids that are going to open doors for the next classes that are beneath them, as far as our seniors.”

There are some seniors that Hill and his staff are trying to help get to the next level. 

“I’ve been in contact with (college) coaches and sending out film,” he said. “It’s almost like the season never ended.”

In sharing how he would remember the 2022 Indians, Parker noted that they are the most successful team, record-wise, in his four years as head coach at Southampton.

“However, the standard and expectation is for each team to be better than the previous year’s team,” he said. “Also, I will remember the unity, resiliency and loyalty that this group showed throughout the season. Nothing is perfect, however stepping back and taking a ‘look’ holistically at this 2022 team, they did some very special things this season. I have much love for the players and coaches of this 2022 team, and they have continued to raise the bar of excellence.”

‘BACKYARD BRAWL’ — 2022 EDITION

The regular season of varsity football for both the Broncos and the Indians always ends with the famous “Backyard Brawl,” and this year’s game was held at Southampton High School on Thursday, Nov. 3, with a large turnout of spectators from both schools and perfect weather conditions. 

For this annual game, all records and standings are thrown away, but the 7-2 Indians were able to pull away in a major way to earn win No. 8. As the final horn sounded, history had once again repeated itself as Southampton prevailed with an easy 50-0 victory over the Broncos. 

At the end of the first quarter, the Indians led 8-0, and it looked like the game was up for grabs, but in the second quarter, the Indians pumped up their offense and racked up 20 points to have a 28-0 lead at the end of the first half. 

It did not get any better in the second half, as the Indians continued to showcase their offensive power while also keeping the Broncos far from the goal line. 

The leading rusher for the Indians was senior running back Alvin Hicks Jr. with 154 yards and two touchdowns. 

In comments after the game, Parker said, “The Franklin win was a very good win for us heading into the playoffs. We played some good football as a team for four quarters. We were happy to achieve over 400 yards in total offense and played great defense. Our special teams units did a great job as well. We just had a good night of football. 

“God has been very good to us, and we continue to give Him the glory,” Parker added.

Reacting to the outcome of the “Backyard Brawl,” Hill said, “This just wasn’t our night as we were up against a good, well-coached team, and they got the better of us tonight.”