Phoebus shuts down York, advances to Class 3 football state semifinals

·3 min read
Mike Caudill/The Virginian-Pilot

Phoebus earned a spot in the Class 3 football state semifinals for the first time in four years with an emphatic 27-3 win over York on Saturday in the Region A championship game at Darling Stadium.

The victory moves the Phantoms (12-1) into a semifinal against Brentsville District of Nokesville, which won the Region B title Friday by beating Meridian 13-7 on a last-second touchdown. That game will be played at Darling Stadium, likely on Saturday afternoon.

Mark Wagner led the Phoebus offense, completing 12 of 18 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns and running 30 yards for the first score of the game. His favorite target was Kymari Gray, who caught five passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.

But it was the defense, where Gray also played a key role at cornerback, that was most responsible for the victory. Its numbers were excellent as the Phantoms limited the high-scoring Falcons (11-2) to 117 yards and no touchdowns.

Most crucially, the Phantoms slowed Falcons running back Jordin Lennon like no one else this season. Lennon ran for 106 yards — putting him in triple digits in all 13 games this season — but he needed 25 carries to do it.

Lennon netted 62 yards on a four-carry stretch during the second quarter, setting up the 46-yard field goal he kicked for York’s only points. But Phoebus limited him to just 44 yards on his other 21 carries as Chris Thomas, Mychal McMullin, Emerson Hurd, Anthony Reddick and the rest of the defense seemed to be wherever he went.

“He’s an outstanding running back, so we talked all week about making tackles and finishing tackles,” Phoebus coach Jeremy Blunt said. “He’s physical, so we had to meet physical with physical.”

Lennon said, “They knew they had to stop me, so they were shifting to the strong side all day because they knew that’s most likely where I was going. Props to their defense — they were good.”

York’s second three-and-out to start the game resulted in a short punt that gave Phoebus the ball at the Falcons’ 30. Wagner ran those 30 yards on a keeper to make it 7-0 with 2:48 left in the first quarter. A play after the kickoff, Gray intercepted a York pass and returned it 26 yards to increase the Phantoms’ lead to 13-0.

Lennon’s 40-yard run — his only breakaway of the day — moved the ball to the Phoebus 9 in the second quarter. But a tackle for loss by safety Donald Gatling, a sack by Thomas and two York penalties forced Lennon to settle for the long field goal that made it 13-3.

Wagner’s touchdown passes of 10 yards to Jalen Mayo and 37 yards to Gray in the second half sealed the deal. The Phantoms’ state semifinal appearance will be their first since they reached 2018 Class 3 final.

“That’s all I’ve been able to think about is getting back to (the state playoffs) with my boys,” said Gray, a freshman on the 2018 team.

Wagner said, “It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s senior year and I’m trying to go out right.”

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