Sometime during the fourth quarter of Friday’s Region 6B first-round contest, a megaphone-wielding Massaponax fan had a question.
“Coach, what have you been feeding that defensive line?” he shouted into the handheld amplifier.
After terrorizing Stonewall Jackson quarterback Dashon Reeves with eight sacks in a 35–18 victory, the answer revealed itself: the Panthers’ pass rushers feed off fear.
“We when see it, we’re even more hyped to go after [the QB] and keep going until he’s just completely done,” senior Lanxton Athy said.
After finishing off a tenacious, if mistake-prone, Raiders squad, Massaponax (9–2) will set its sights on a region semifinals date with top-seeded Freedom next week in Woodbridge.
Athy and fellow senior Quentin Wilcox, who recovered a fumble, have honed their pass rushing skill sets as a tandem for four years under defensive line coach Drew Young. On Friday, they relied a steady diet of power and speed moves to contain the elusive Reeves. One particularly protracted play saw the duo bring him down at the 28-yard-line—on a 2-point conversion attempt.
“It’s pretty tiring chasing around a quarterback like that, I’m not going to lie,” Wilcox said. “I get gassed sometimes.”
When Massaponax coach Eric Ludden lauded a “total team effort” in the postgame huddle, he wasn’t lying. Each of the Panthers’ five touchdowns each came from a different player.
Derell Stokes opened the scoring, diving into the end zone from 2 yards out with 2:58 left in the first quarter. Luke Morley’s 20-yard scoring gallop, punctuated by a stiff-arm at the goal line, put Massaponax ahead 14–0 at halftime.
The Panthers, who deferred after winning the coin toss, marched 85 yards in 11 plays to open the third quarter, and Jacob Romero’s 2-yard touchdown run made it 21–0.
On offense, Massaponax was forced to account for a pair of top Football Bowl Subdivision prospects, Raiders’ sophomore linebacker Shawn Murphy and junior defensive lineman Tyleik Williams. Neither impacted the outcome in any significant way.
“We were going to have to block those guys in order to be successful,” Ludden said.
Panthers junior Izaiah Dowell recorded a pick-six, stepping in front of a swing pass and sprinting into the end zone before the Raiders knew what happened.
In his most extended action since making a brisk return from a torn ACL, Massaponax senior Josh Hale eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark and scored in his final home game.
When Hale jogged off the field following a fourth-quarter rushing touchdown, Ludden embraced him on the sideline.
“He’s been through so much and he’s never hung his head, never pouted about it,” Ludden said. “I’m just really proud of him.”
Ma—Derell Stokes 2-yard run (Stephen Hudson kick).
Ma—Luke Morley 20-yard run (Hudson kick).
Ma—Jacob Romero 2-yard run (Hudson kick).
M—Izaiah Dowell 11 interception return (Hudson kick).
SJ—Xander Albea 64-yard run (kick blocked).
SJ—Dashon Reeves 2-yard run (pass fail)
Ma—Joshua Hale 14-yard run (Hudson kick).
SJ—Ra’Sean Coates 56 kickoff return (pass fail).
RUSHING: Stonewall Jackson—Xander Albea 9-94, TD; Dashon Reeves 9(-12), TD; Team 1-(-6). Massaponax—Joshua Hale 17-121, TD; Elijah Christoher 9-73; Jacob Romero 12-54, TD; Luke Morley 7-66, TD; Derell Stokes 1-2, TD; Mike Swain 1-11.
PASSING: Stonewall Jackson—Toviel Jung 4-8, 51 yards; Reeves 6-17-1, 87 yards. Massaponax—Luke Morley 2-6, 29 yards TD.
RECEIVING: Stonewall Jackson—Jovon Jackson 3-55; Albea 3-61; Coates 2-7; Khalid Shabazz-Williams 1-4; Marquez Davis 1-15. Massaponax—Romero 1-4; Jaiven Plumber 1-25.