Princess Anne (10-2)
at No. 2 Hylton (12-0)
For the Division 6 state football semifinal against Princess Anne, Hylton will have history and experience on its side, as well as the home-field advantage and a more densely populated sideline.
But such obstacles have not deterred Princess Anne (10-2) the past two games, when it knocked unbeaten teams Deep Creek and Bayside out of the Eastern Region playoffs. Defending state champion Hylton (12-0) will be the Cavaliers' third undefeated opponent in as many weeks when the teams meet at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Princess Anne's postseason run has startled the Virginia Beach area. The Cavaliers' most recent state semifinal appearance came 20 years ago. In the region final win, they shut out Bayside, a team they had lost to, 36-0, during the regular season. And Princess Anne dresses just 36 varsity players, most of the top ones juniors.
"People look at us when we come on the field and say, "Is that a Triple-A school?' " said fourth-year Cavaliers coach Jeff Ballance, the quarterback on that 1979 team that lost to Petersburg in the state semifinals.
Princess Anne's football success has been moderate--5-5 during each of Ballance's first three seasons--but the school took home the 1998-99 state boys basketball championship. The point guard on that team, junior C.J. Fayton, has been the Cavaliers' starting quarterback for three seasons.
The 6-2, 180-pound Fayton was not among his area's leaders in rushing or passing, but he is equally effective at both. Fayton, who also starts at defensive back, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in the win over Bayside.
"The things Ronald Curry did for Hampton, C.J. does for us," Ballance said, referring to the former Hampton quarterback now at the University of North Carolina.
Hylton Coach Bill Brown, whose team this week has tried to correct the flurry of offensive line mistakes that cropped up in the 24-6 Northwestern Region championship win over North Stafford, is mostly concerned about Fayton's deceptiveness.
"He does a great job with the play-action pass," Brown said. "He has a knack for hiding the football. There are defensive keys you have to read. If you look in the backfield first as a defensive back, you're in trouble already."
The Cavaliers' most productive ground gainer is 1,400-yard rusher Cedrick Humes, a 6-1, 190-pound junior. Senior Derrick Gatlin has 15 interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He picked off five passes in the region championship.
Junior two-way lineman Trey Greene (6-3, 240), sophomore tight end/linebacker Kai Parham (6-3, 225) and senior place kicker Devon Sanders are other top Princess Anne players. Sanders connected on six of seven field goal attempts, with a long of 45 yards. Humes, Gatlin and Parham played with Fayton on the state championship basketball team.
The Cavaliers will make the trip north Friday night. Brown, whose team is seeking its 29th consecutive win, is mighty grateful the game is at Hylton.
"If you get to play at home and be in a routine situation," he said, "it's 10 times better for you."
HYLTON GAME BY GAME
19: at Petersburg: 15
30: Friendly: 6
19: Dunbar: 14
21: at Osbourn Park: 7
35: at Stonewall: 14
31: Woodbridge: 6
31: Oakton: 9
17: Gar-Field (OT): 16
34: Osbourn: 7
14: at Potomac: 8
20: Gar-Field: 0
24: North Stafford: 6
Princess Anne (10-2) at Hylton (12-0), 1:30
Centreville (10-2) at Varina (12-0), 1:30
Saturday, Dec. 4
Semifinal winners at University of Richmond, 4