Wk 16 LYN 2021 Phoebus vs LCA 3A State Championship Game

Wk 16 LYN 2021 Phoebus vs LCA 3A State Championship Game 574 382 SWVA High School Sports

Phoebus uses two ‘pick sixes’ to oust Liberty Christian in 3A State Final

Williams Stadium, Lynchburg, Va – Big plays often decide big games. On the biggest stage in Virginia high school football, the state championship, it was the Phoebus Phantoms, and particularly their defense that made the plays needed to get the win this night. Specifically, two ‘pick six’ interceptions, one in the first quarter and one late in the fourth that were the difference in the game. The last one was spectacular by any standard, as Phantom Ath/DB/WR 13 Don Gatling Jr. made a leaping interception, going straight up and snagging the pass, bringing it down without bobble, gathering himself and running the last fifteen yards to pay dirt. Two plays and two called holding penalties earlier, it was LCA Freshman RB 8 Gideon Davidson that looked to be the games hero with an electric 80+ run for a TD. But the Bulldogs were whistled for a holding penalty. Liberty Christian’s defense held the explosive Phoebus team on the night to a mere 180 total yards of offense, and only one first quarter, offensive touchdown. But the same could be said for the Phantom ‘D’. They played their part as well, keeping the Bulldog offense in-between the ‘twenties’, and but for two short, QB 7 Davis Lane to TE/LB 18 Dillon Stowers TD passes of 7 yards and 1-yard, respectively, were tough all night. LCA started the night’s scoring in the first quarter, but Phoebus quickly answered on a pass from QB 10 Mark Wagner to WR/DB 9 Jalen Mayo for a 16-yard score. The backbreaker for LCA happened just :50 seconds later when Ath/DB/WR 5 Jordan Bass stepped in front of a QB 7 Lane pass over the middle and brought it back to the end zone from 38-yards out. Having missed their first PAT, Phoebus got it back with Gatling Jr’s catch of a well thrown ball from Wagner to make it 14-7. It stayed that way, until Stower’s caught a fourth and one jump pass in a crowd of phantoms just beyond the goal line (see Crunch cover). That led up the Gatling’s late game heroics. Liberty Christian Head Coach Frank Rocco was disappointed for his kids, but proud of this year’s team, “We have had a tremendous year, these kids are tremendous young men. We got down, we battled back and tied the game up. Our guys never gave up. It was just one of those years.”

LCA Captains – 7 Lane, 50 Rice, 18 Stowers, and 1 Belford
Phoebus Captains – 2 Gray, 8 Hurd, 9 Mayo, and 10

First Quarter – LCA scored first at the 8:26 mark on a seven yard pass from QB 7 Davis Lane to TE/LB 18 Dillon Stowers. K 16 Chase Dupin initially missed the PAT but a penalty allowed the Bulldogs another go at it. This time Dupin hit the right upright and the ball careened off hitting the cross bar, bounding over for the point. This may have been foreshadowing for how tough it was going to be for both squads to score points offensively. Liberty Christian led 7-0 at the 8:26 mark of the first quarter. Stowers was a man among men this night, as the Phantoms knew he was going to get the ball, but still couldn’t stop QB 7 Lane from connecting to the big Tight end.

LCA TE/LB 18 Dillon Stowers catches games first TD from QB 7 Davis Lane
WR/DB 1 Jaylin Belford celebrates with Stowers

Phoebus would answer as good teams will. The Phantoms tied it up on a pass from QB 10 Wagner to WR/DB 9 Jalen Mayo. With 2:13 left in the first stanza, that made it 7-6 . The point after was missed.

Phantom QB 10 Mark Wagner II throws a strike….
…to WR/DB 9 Jalen Mayo

Then with 0:29 seconds left in the first quarter, the Phoebus defense did what they do so well. Lane looked to hit TE/LB 18 Stowers on a seemingly safe pass over the middle, but DB 5 Jordan Bass read it perfect. The long Junior D-back stepped in front of the pass, and took it 38-yards back to the end zone. The theft took the air out of the rain soaked, well attended home crowd, many sitting higher up in the stands to try and gain some shelter from the steady rain.The Phantoms went for two and QB 8 Wagner’s pass to WR 13 Don Gatling Jr. put Phoebus back on track at a 14-7 advantage over LCA.

Phoebus DB 5 Jordan Bass cuts off a pass over the middle
Bass uses his athletic ability (from behind the play)
to get into the end zone and give the Phantoms their first lead

Second Quarter – The second quarter was a clinic on defense, as both squads gave up some yards, but not points. The injury bug bit this night as well, which had not been a problem throughout the season.

DL/OL 64 Garrett Dewey smothers Phatom RB 7 Tyreon Taylor in the backfield

 The Bulldogs lost a couple key linemen, to leg injuries. WR/DB 3 Deandre Jones got knocked out of the game in the first half for awhile as Phoebus WR/DB 2 Kymari Gray caught the Senior with a big collision on a jet sweep, once he turned up field. Gray was also hurt in the affair and hobbled off later the game. Both returned to action.

WR/DB 2 Kymari Gray shakes off the physical game

Third Quarter– The third quarter was also a defensive stand off, as no points were tallied. The cold air and the physical style of play, affected the players, but football is a game of handling the unexpected. The injuries continued to be an important factor in the flow of the game. Virginia Gatorade player of the year, OL/DL 50 Zach Rice (a UNC Commit) came out and needed treatment for a leg injury. Rice also returned to aid the Bulldogs down the stretch.

Liberty Christian Academy OL/DL 50 Zach Rice

Coach Rocco spoke about the issues that injuries cause, especially on the lines, “We got pretty banged up tonight. You lose one guy then you have to move the tackle to the guard, then the guard to the center. It causes some indecision. We were on our heels, and certainly they are a good team, but a lot of that was self inflicted.”

Fourth Quarter– The final quarter, LCA begin to gain some momentum. Again, about the eight minute mark, the Bulldogs made their move. Stowers was at the center of it. DB 24 Caleb Sears picked off Phantom QB 10 Wagner.

LCA DB 24 Caleb Sears picks off Wagner to set up the Bulldogs to tie the game

Working their way to tie the score, LCA reached the one. Facing third down, Stowers came in motion, then settled under center, the ball was snapped. But the Phoebus defense had tracked the tight end and stuffed the middle of line, picking up Stowers and taking him down for no gain. Facing fourth and one, Lane faked the dive and dropped back, tossing a jump ball pass to Stowers who had worked off the line, just into the end zone (see the Crunch cover). The big receiver went up high and brought it down with four Phoebus defenders within arms length. The TD and subsequent extra point by K 16 Dupin tied it up.

LCA’s Stowers goes up for the TD

The Bulldog defense from here on out had found its teeth. Phoebus, as good as they have been offensively all year, couldn’t get into scoring position. The final straw of the game came down to a series of unfortunate events for LCA. First, after forcing a punt and taking over deep in their territory, sensational Freshman RB 8 Gideon Davidson broke through the center of the line and bounce outside. Even against the speed Phantom D-backs, they were not catching Davidson once he got going. The home crowd erupted into celebration. It looked like LCA had finally taken the lead again. But holding was called on the Bulldogs and the long run was for naught.  Rocco talked about the momentum swinging call, “Our kids are resilient. The last loss we had last spring (22-20 to Lord Botetourt in the State Semifinals) we came back and just felt like we ran out of time. Tonight, we kept battling. A couple things put us back. You score a touchdown then all of the sudden you are back further in your end zone. It was just unfortunate.”

LCA Freshman RB 8 Gideon Davidson looks to
score the go ahead touchdown in the final qtr
but a holding penalty nullifies it

 It was DB/WR 13 Donald Gatling Jr. that stole the show in the end for the Phantom’s with the game winning pick six and the subsequent 2 point conversion run.

Liberty Christian led in first downs – 12-10, total yards – 220-180, and time of possession 28:45 – 19:15, but Phoebus led in turnovers, 3-1. And the Phantoms led in the most important category which was the score at the end of the game. LCA’s defense held arguably Phoebus’ best player and the Peninsula player of the year, Kyrie Gray, in check with only one catch for 12 yards and one rush for 12 yards. But the Phantom leader made his presence felt in other ways, forcing plays away from him and being physical.

Phoebus DB 13 Don Gatling Jr. makes the game
winning ‘pick six’ to put the Phantoms up for
good with three minutes left in the contest

Stowers for LCA was the standout this night for the Bulldogs. He had 8 catches for 45 yards and two touchdowns on offense, while getting 5 stops with one and a half tackles for a loss on the defensive side of the ball. Freshman RB 8 Gideon Davidson was LCA’s leading rusher with 14 carries for 47 yards, with the one long 80+ yard TD run called back late in the game. With three more years in the backfield, the Bulldogs future looks bright. Coach Rocco talked about his Senior class at LCA, “a tally of their overall record would be pretty impressive. Above and beyond just the record, the impact that they have had on me, have had on their teammates… the right kind of memories. We are proud of our legacy and encouraged about our future. Everything about the game of football in our program is about learning lessons for life, and what it will mean to the future of each one of them.” – Cap’n Crunch

LCA had a dominant season in the fall of 2021

Phoebus Head Coach Jeremy Blunt
Liberty Christian Head Coach Frank Rocco

Rushing – Phoebus – Tyreon Taylor 11-64, Keyontae Gray 2-14, Kymari Gray 1-12, Team 1-(-1)  Liberty Christian – Gideon Davidson 14-52, Davis Lane 11-35, Caleb Davidson 9-31, Jaylin Belford 2-11
PassingPhoebus – Mark Wagner 9-22, 106, TD, INT  Liberty Christian – Davis Lane 16/23, 105, 2TDs, 3 INTs
ReceivingPhoebus – Kymari Gray 5-68, Jalen Mayo 3-36, and Tyreon Taylor 1-2  Liberty Christian – Dillon Stowers 8-45, 2TDs, Jaylin Belford 2-23, Jaden Skates 2-10, Deandre Jones 1-14
PuntingPhoebus – Don Gatling Jr. 5/39.8 yd avg  Liberty Christian – Dillon Stowers 5/41.2 yd avg
KickingPhoebus – Kelley Samson 0/1 PAT  Liberty Christian – Chase Dupin 2/2 PAT

Defense (leaders): Tackles
Phoebus – Emerson Hurd 9, Don Gatling Jr. 8, INT for TD, 2TFL, Jalen Bass 7, Jalen Mayo 7,
Liberty Christian – Gideon Davidson 5, TFL, Dillon Stowers 5, 1/5 TFL, Deandre Jones 4, Gavin Womack 3, 2 TFL

First Quarter –
   • Liberty Christian: D. Stowers 7-yard pass from D. Lane; Dupin PAT (8:26)
   • Phoebus: J. Mayo 16-yard pass from M. Wagner; PAT no good (2:13)
   • Phoebus: J. Bass 38-yard interception for a TD; Gatling 2-pt catch from Wagner (0:29)

Second Quarter –

Third Quarter –

Fourth Quarter –
   • Liberty Christian: D. Stowers 1-yard pass from D. Lane; Dupin PAT (8:06)
   • Phoebus: D. Gatling 15-yard interception for a TD; Gatling 2-pt run (3:18)

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