Hylton senior Delondre Simpson has intercepted at least one pass in each of the Bulldogs' three postseason wins, and he returned interceptions for 45- and 95-yard touchdowns against Oakton in Week 7.
Even so, Simpson's true home might be in the offensive--not the defensive--backfield.
"Really, he's a running back," said Hylton Coach Bill Brown, whose team will meet Varina at 4 p.m. Saturday at the University of Richmond in a rematch of last year's Division 6 state championship. "He could play running back for anybody. But we just don't put him back there because we don't have the receivers we need."
Besides recording two interceptions Saturday in the 38-13 state semifinal win over Princess Anne, Simpson caught a crucial pass after his first pickoff to set up a field goal just before halftime. The first-team all-district pick at defensive back has 10 catches this season.
That first interception and subsequent 64-yard return set up a field goal with the Bulldogs leading just 7-0 in the final minute of the first half. The play was reminiscent of the Oakton game, when Simpson stepped in front of a receiver to pick off a pass he returned 45 yards for a touchdown to break open another 7-0 game in the second quarter.
Hylton players were impressed with Simpson even before the season. They voted him a team captain along with fellow seniors Kenny Irby, John Brower and Billy Reyers.
Junior defensive end-fullback Karibi DeDe is another Bulldog successfully playing out of position. Brown uses him at end because of his pass-rushing ability, but DeDe might be more suited to defensive back. And he could line up at halfback as easily as he does fullback.
DeDe threw the final block that allowed junior D.J. Walton to score on a punt return Saturday, and last year DeDe recovered the onside kick at the end of the state championship win over Varina.
"He always shows up when you need him," said Brown, whose team will be shooting for its 30th consecutive win on Saturday.
Under the Weather
The Hylton offensive line is battling stomach flu. Reyers, Brower and senior David Ortiz are among the afflicted. The obvious culprit would be a shared water bottle, but that is not likely the case.
"We sterilize the water bottles every day," Brown said. "I wash them in the washing machine and put bleach in to kill the germs. We do it every day because we don't want this type of thing to happen."
Hylton junior linebacker-fullback Jason Kaminski tangles with punishing offensive linemen and combative defensive linemen. Those he can handle. It's pit bull puppies he has trouble with.
Kaminski was just about fully recovered from shoulder and back injuries he suffered in the season opener when he experienced another mishap late in the season while tending to his new pooch, Loco.
"I was trying to get the dog out from under the car, and a friend ran over my foot accidentally," Kaminski said.
"He couldn't put on a shoe for four or five days," Brown said.
The 6-2, 205-pound Kaminski has put his best foot forward in the postseason, rushing 13 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the last two playoff wins, over North Stafford and Princess Anne.
After Saturday, Brown will have coached against Varina four times--twice at Varina, last year at Norfolk in the state championship and Saturday at the University of Richmond, about a 15-minute drive from Varina.
"I'd like to see Varina come up to Hylton sometime," Brown said.
Nevertheless, Brown is 3-0 against the Blue Devils. Hylton beat Varina in the state semifinals in 1995 and beat the Blue Devils in the state championship last season, 21-13. The other meeting came in a 1990 Division 5 state semifinal when Brown coached at Potomac. The Panthers won, 17-0.
Varina trailed Centreville by two touchdowns midway through the first quarter last week but rallied for a 23-17 state semifinal win. The Blue Devils had trailed just once all season.
Strength of Schedule
The road to a state title apparently goes through Woodbridge. The Vikings finished 4-6, but three of those losses might turn out to have been to state champions.
Eleanor Roosevelt won the Maryland 4A final, and Hylton and Culpeper are playing for the Division 6 and Division 5 crowns, respectively, in Virginia this weekend.
In addition, Woodbridge lost to Northwestern Region semifinalist Gar-Field, Northern Region semifinalist Robinson, and Potomac.
Look for more championship game coverage in Saturday's Extra.
Upon closer inspection, Hylton's defensive statistics--121 points allowed in 13 games--are even more impressive than they appear because 62 of those points have come in the fourth quarter, often against the Bulldogs' second-string defense.
HYLTON 55 101 94 76 7--333
OPPONENTS 21 16 16 62 6--121
Hylton (13-0) vs. Varina (13-0)
at University of Richmond, 4 p.m.
CAPTION: Jason Kaminski scores during the first quarter of Hylton's 38-13 win over Princess Anne in the state semifinals. The junior had 126 yards and two touchdowns in the past two playoff wins.
CAPTION: Princess Anne's Kai Porham can't get a firm hold of quarterback Kenny Irby, who will lead the Bulldogs into Saturday's state final against Varina.