Stone Bridge running back Shamar Knight-Justice doesn't just talk about being a team player. After leading the Bulldogs in rushing as a junior, he happily spent much of his senior year in the shadow of junior quarterback Terrence Glenn.
It's Glenn who enters Stone Bridge's Virginia AAA Division 5 title game as the Bulldogs' leading rusher. But it's Knight-Justice whose performance in the past two playoff games assured Stone Bridge its first trip to the title game. The Bulldogs will face Hampton at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at the University of Richmond.
"I've never been a player who cared about individual stuff because football is a sport you can never win by yourself," Knight-Justice said. "There were games this season when blocking was my main role, and I was fine with that. Whatever it takes for us to win I'm willing to do.
"But that doesn't mean it's not more fun when you're the one getting the ball."
The past two weeks, Knight-Justice has more than carried his share of the load. The 5-foot-8, 170-pounder has totaled 39 rushes for 311 yards and six touchdowns, including a career-high 183 yards and five touchdowns in last week's 52-12 state semifinal win over Matoaca. That performance included scoring runs of 27, 37, 68, 18 and 1 yards -- the kind of production that is a tribute not only to Knight-Justice's perseverance but to the continuity of the offensive line.
"Shamar is seeing the holes and hitting them hard," Glenn said. "It's like he keeps getting better and better. But it definitely helps when everything is working with our offensive line. When those guys are clicking like they were last week, our whole offense just goes."
It also has helped the Bulldogs' running game that out-of-area opponents are even less familiar with Stone Bridge's single-wing offense than their regular season opponents.
"Once we got into the playoffs and people were unfamiliar with our offense, we were able to go to more of our base stuff," Coach Mickey Thompson said. "And that in itself allows Shamar to get more carries. But, also, we're getting much better up front. And that allows us to work in our double-tight set much more, too."
Hampton Coach Mike Smith, the winningest coach in Virginia High School history, with 371 victories, said he used to run the single wing when he was in high school. He said no team in the Virginia Beach area has run the single wing for years.
"Every week in the playoffs we've had to prepare for something different, and this week is no exception," Smith said. "We've kind of seen it all. But their version of the single wing is a little different than anything I've had to prepare a team for. That presents a lot of problems for us."
It could open the door not only to another dazzling performance by Knight-Justice but also to a first state championship for Stone Bridge.
"I can't even begin to explain what it would mean to us to win this game," Knight-Justice said. "It would make everything complete."