* Hylton 14, Gar-Field 0
As first-year Hylton coach Lou Sorrentino celebrated with his players in the middle of their home field Friday night after the 14-0 win over Gar-Field in the Virginia AAA Northwestern Region Division 6 semifinals, a couple of Bulldogs slipped away from the throng and headed for the cooler on the sideline, presumably to give Sorrentino a victory bath.
Some Hylton players and assistants foiled the plot, however, and waved the boys off before they got within striking range of their coach. The message was this: This might be a Hylton team under new leadership, but the Bulldogs' goals have not changed. Neither have Sorrentino's.
Four-time defending region champion Hylton is in the Northwestern title game for the fifth straight year. But Sorrentino's string of advancing to a region final goes back even further. His Culpeper teams reached the Division 5 championships from 1997 to 2001, winning the crown in 1999 and 2001.
Hylton (10-1) had posted two 10-point wins over Gar-Field (7-4) already this season. But from the first series of the game, when junior linebacker Endor Cooper bent back Indians senior quarterback Elihu Smith with a jarring collision, the Bulldogs showed that they were treating the Indians as fresh meat, not leftovers.
"We beat them twice, and then we beat them the third time, it's goodbye," said junior linebacker Jackie Watkins, who helped spearhead the defense's seventh shutout. "There are no excuses they can make. We're the better team and we shut them out the last two games. What else can they say now?"
"To beat them three times I think is quite a feat," said Sorrentino, whose defense in those encounters gave up 19 plays of 10 yards or more but only one offensive touchdown in outscoring the Indians 46-12. "That says a lot about the toughness of our ball club, and that's what I'm proudest of as a coach."
Gar-Field entered the season with twice as many returning starters as Hylton, without a coaching change to weather and hardened by a four-overtime region semifinal loss last season at George Washington-Danville. "If there's a crew that could get it done, this would be the crew," Coach Jim Poythress said in August in regard to knocking off the Bulldogs.
Instead, the five teams the Indians beat finished 15-35; the four losses were to the two Division 6 region finalists.
"I'll be honest, I thought we were really coming around," said Poythress, whose defense in the first half recovered two fumbles at the Hylton 37-yard line. "I thought we'd win the game. I had my victory speech ready. I thought we'd be able to move the football more effectively than we did."
"I thought this time was going to be the time to get them, but their defense -- that's the best I ever saw them play," senior running back Rasheed McClaude said. "It's just sad. I know we're as good as anybody to match up with them. It's like we can't buy one against them.
"I can't say even we had a good season, to be honest. It was okay. We accomplished things, but it always happens like this. We want to win something that counts. It's not even all about Hylton."
Hylton quarterback Jeff Overton, above left, rushed 18 times for 110 yards and a touchdown to lead the Bulldogs to their third victory over Gar-Field this season and their 10th consecutive in the series. At left, Shawn Badie, center, beats Gar-Field's Darren Garrigan, left, and Kevin Tillage for a touchdown. Bulldogs Coach Lou Sorrentino said of the win: "To beat them three times I think is quite a feat. That says a lot about the toughness of our ball club, and that's what I'm proudest of as a coach."