Running back Rodney McNeil of T.C. Williams High School, who was limited to two plays against Fort Hunt last week, is expected to play against South Lakes in the Virginia AAA Northern Region championship game at W.T. Woodson at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
McNeil, the Titans' leading rusher with 1,234 yards and 11 touchdowns in 10 regular season games, had an injured ankle during the 20-0 victory over Fort Hunt in the regional semifinal.
His return does not bode well for South Lakes' chances against the top-ranked Titans, who are 11-0. Williams' offense was a bit out of synch without McNeil, but the Titans had little trouble in beating Fort Hunt.
The Seahawks (9-2) defeated Stuart for the second straight season in the semifinals to advance to a meeting with the area's top-rated team.
Williams won handily because it is loaded with talent. McNeil's running mate, senior Bren Lowery, rushed for 1,255 on 150 carries in 11 games. Lowery, who scored 14 touchdowns, averaged 8.4 yards per carry and McNeil 8.6. A defense cannot key on either or the other will run free.
Quarterback Glenn Williams directs the offense. He completed 49 of 92 passes (53 percent) for 866 yards and 17 touchdowns and also rushed for 411 yards on 78 carries (5.3 average), with three touchdowns.
Williams throws mostly short passes, but his favorite is probably an out-and-up pattern to Shawn McNeil, which has led to numerous touchdowns. Shawn McNeil caught 21 passes for 436 yards (20.8 per catch) and 12 touchdowns. He also returned a punt for a touchdown and, at 6 feet and 185 pounds, is an excellent blocker.
He is not the Titans' only dangerous receiver. Eric Quinto caught 16 passes for 270 yards (16.9) and four touchdowns. Chuckie Grimes (seven receptions, 67 yards) and Todd Stubblefield (six for 69) round out the receivers. The offensive line is anchored by 6-2, 210-pound center Mike Porterfield. When the Titans run right, they run behind guard John Vaughan (6-0, 198), tackle Carlton Hallums (6-3, 245) and Shawn McNeil.
With such an offense, it's easy to overlook a defense. The Titans' defense does not get overlooked. It has allowed 49 points and has shut out seven opponents, including five in a row earlier this year. It has allowed 1,427 yards, an average of 129.7 per game, and is especially stingy against the run: 689 yards on 311 attempts (2.2 per attempt).
The unit has 30 sacks, has recovered 14 fumbles and has intercepted 16 passes.
Last Saturday, Fort Hunt drove 59 yards on its first possession, then fumbled. After that, the Federals lost 21 yards on 29 plays.
Williams' coach, Glenn Furman, made a couple of position changes from last year that improved this year's defense. Quinto was switched from linebacker to end. Sidney Ellis was moved from linebacker to nose tackle. All defensive backfield starters returned so Williams had the makings of an outstanding unit at the start.
"Both Quinto and Sidney are great quick pass rushers," said Furman said. "Sidney reads offenses so well from the middle and he's quicker there; he reacts better. Quinto always knows where the ball is. He has great pursuit and is virtually impossible to block."
Larry Bryant leads the secondary with five interceptions.