Hampton High School is so proud of its current four-year run as Virginia AAA Division 5 state football champion that the school athletics department's voice mail greeting trumpets the Crabbers' accomplishments.
Tonight, the most celebrated program in the state will make a call of its own by dropping in on Hylton. Those schools, and overlooked but not necessarily overmatched Lake Braddock, will compete in a three-way scrimmage at Hylton.
Each school will compete against the other for three quarters, starting with Hampton and Division 6 state champion Hylton at 6 p.m. Hampton and Lake Braddock are in the second slot, leaving the host Bulldogs and Lake Braddock for the third tussle.
Hampton is riding the four-year championship streak, but the Crabbers' winning tradition stretches back much further than that. They've been taking home state titles since 1936, 18 in all, counting shared crowns. Hampton has won at least one state title each of the past seven decades.
"I think this is a good opportunity for people in Prince William County and Northern Virginia to see what they're all about," said Hylton Coach Bill Brown, who at the same time is no doubt interested in seeing what his offensive line is all about. The Bulldogs open the regular season Friday at Petersburg.
Hylton and Hampton each won state championships last season on the same day and on the same field in Norfolk, but the Bulldogs didn't stick around and watch Hampton's 35-0 humbling of Amherst. Many of them are anxious to see the Crabbers in action.
"Since I was a freshman, people were always talking about [former Hampton quarterback] Ronald Curry, and Hampton was always winning championships," Hylton quarterback Kenny Irby said. "Then last year we won one. When two teams like that that just won states are playing, there's going to be a lot of hype, a lot of talking."
There's a lot to say. Each school was ranked in the inaugural Fox Fab 50 national poll--Hampton fifth and Hylton 46th. USA Today rates multiple players from each school as among the top 25 in the state. The Hampton players are junior receiver Carlos Campbell, senior quarterback Marques Hagans, senior fullback/linebacker Mack Jones and senior offensive lineman/linebacker Raymond Mann. The Hylton honorees are Irby and running back/defensive back Chris Fields, both seniors.
That assemblage of talent has made Lake Braddock a scrimmage afterthought of sorts, even though the Burke school's regular season record this decade is 71-19, tops in Northern Virginia.
Hylton might have to defend its state title without the services of senior fullback Greg Kantz, who has not recovered from a knee injury suffered during lacrosse season. Kantz (5-10, 190) is a reliable blocker and tough runner.
"We don't feel we're going to have him," Brown said. "If at all, it would be the second half of the season. He's hard to lose."
In the state semifinal win over Centreville, Kantz rushed 15 times for 98 yards.
Good Turnout at Gar-Field
Gar-Field not only has physical strength, but it also has strength in numbers. Coach Tony Labozzetta said he had 70 players try out for the team, about 20 of whom he moved down to the junior varsity.
"It's the first time that many kids had come out for just varsity," said Labozzetta, whose team reached the Division 6 Northwestern Region championship last season. The Indians open Aug. 27 at George Washington-Danville.
Several key Gar-Field players are transfers. Linebacker Nick Nicholson moved in last year from Louisiana. Running backs Jamar and Larry Atkinson are Alabama transplants. Linebacker Frankie Brinson is from Pennsylvania.
Gar-Field might attract even more transfers, those of the local variety, in the coming years. It is now an International Baccalaureate school that can draw students from the Woodbridge, Hylton and Potomac attendance areas. The IB program, also offered at Stonewall Jackson, is a rigorous college preparatory curriculum.
Frankie Goes to Osbourn Park
Speaking of transfers, one of the most noteworthy this season is a familiar name. Frankie Hogan, the starting quarterback at Osbourn last year, is now at Osbourn Park.
"He'll make an impact somewhere on the team," Yellow Jackets Coach Mike Feldman said. "Tailback, wideout, cornerback, safety, quarterback. If I said, 'I need a guard,' he'd be up for that, too."
In Osbourn's 41-0 win over Osbourn Park last season, Hogan threw for 114 yards and one touchdown and ran for 56 yards and two touchdowns.
"Our kids know a lot about him," Feldman said. "He certainly played well against us, so he earned their respect."