Stonewall Jackson 0
Shortly after last football season ended, Darius Reynolds approached Hylton Coach Lou Sorrentino to voice interest in competing for the starting quarterback job the following summer.
Sorrentino did not expect the request -- at the time, Reynolds was a junior varsity receiver. What chance would there be of handing him the keys to the offense of a program that had won seven straight region championships?
As it turns out, the confidence that spurred Reynolds to seek the quarterback job is the same confidence that he displayed Friday night in his varsity debut.
The 6-foot, 155-pound junior completed 9 of 12 passes for 135 yards and four touchdowns in the No. 6 Bulldogs' 42-0 season-opening road thumping of No. 18 Stonewall Jackson, their 10th straight win in the series.
Reynolds settled in quickly. On Hylton's third offensive play, he connected with senior receiver Marshall Dill for the first of seven times. Three of those hookups went for scores.
"When he came and approached me, what I liked about it was that he met my challenge," Sorrentino said. "[I said], 'If you're a quarterback, here's what you need to do -- be very visible, be a workout guy, a leader, take care of your grades, be a guy we can count on.' He's done everything that I've asked him to, so I've been very pleased with that. So I could see that it was something that he wanted. At that point, I didn't know how much ability he had."
Reynolds, whose brother Keondric was a Hylton receiver-defensive back last year as a senior, played quarterback in youth leagues, and Dill remembered him from there. So Dill was not surprised that Reynolds could work his way into the starting job -- the two threw a lot during the offseason to get their timing down -- but even he was somewhat taken aback by Reynolds's performance Friday.
"I expected him to come out here and play good, and [instead] he played great," said Dill, whose seven catches totaled 106 yards. "I couldn't ask for more. He was almost perfect."
Hylton senior Courtney Anderson carried 13 times for 84 yards, and juniors Elijah Smith and T.J. Johnson also showed some backfield pop. The line provided Reynolds with ample time to throw, which made his debut relatively calm.
"I have a lot of playmakers around me in the backfield and [with] our receivers, so I really don't feel pressure," said Reynolds, who attended North Stafford as a freshman. "I'm just glad that [Sorrentino] gave me the opportunity to do it and didn't change the offense up or anything. . . . I'm glad he had trust in me to throw the ball."
Hylton drove 64 yards for a touchdown on its first possession, and senior Andrew Edwards blocked a punt a couple of minutes later to set up the first Reynolds-to-Dill touchdown with less than six minutes gone in the game. It was reminiscent of Hylton jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead on the Raiders in last year's Northwestern Region Division 6 championship, after an opening drive score and a key special teams play to set up another touchdown.
Stonewall failed to convert on a fake punt later in the first quarter Friday, leaving Hylton only 28 yards to go for a third score. The Raiders did not pick up a first down until the second period, when senior quarterback Ricky Milbourne eluded two defenders to dump off a pass to senior running back Domonique Vaughn.
That catch and run accounted for 52 of Stonewall's 64 offensive yards. With Milbourne's sack yardage factored in, the ground game netted zero. The Raiders are without 1,000-yard performer Ryan Williams (knee injury) indefinitely, and starting fullback John Carter missed the game for personal reasons. Both are sophomores. And the entire offensive line is new.
Despite the lopsided loss to a team it had taken to overtime in their final game of 2004 -- and despite the team giving up 20 or more points in nine of the past 13 games -- Milbourne remains upbeat.
"I might have gone through a lot tonight, and at points I might have gotten flustered, but each and every person in that locker room I believe in 100 percent," he said. "It's a wakeup call. It's exactly what we need at this point. . . . I don't think [the younger players] realized how fast the game is, and how quick they have to think."
"I know they'll get better in time," Stonewall Coach Loren Johnson said. "But you don't have a lot of time when you're playing in this area."