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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Eagles’ speed swamps ‘phins

BOX SCORE

VIRGINIA BEACH—The Colonial Forge defense knew it had the speed to match up with the highly touted Ocean Lakes offense.

And after a first-half shutout by the Eagles and some second-half bending (but not breaking) by Forge, now the Dolphins know it, too.

“We play with so much guts and heart,” Colonial Forge coach Bill Brown said. “Speed-wise, skill-wise, I think we match up with anyone.”

Daniel Ezeagwu provided the speed on offense—scoring on 32- and 38-yard first-half runs and returning a second-half kickoff 95 yards for a third touchdown—and the Eagles’ defense kept Ocean Lakes in check just long enough, lifting Colonial Forge to a 23–20 win Friday in the 6A–South semifinals.

Colonial Forge (10–3) is among the state’s final four teams for the first time in school history. The Eagles will play the winner of today’s Oscar Smith–Forest Park game next weekend, hoping to earn the school’s first berth in the state championship game.

“I’m proud of my team,” Ezeagwu said. “I knew we had this in us. This is a good group of guys and a good team. I think we are the best team in the state.”

Ocean Lakes (12–1) featured a high-powered offense with a 2,000-yard passer and a 1,700-yard rusher, but it was the Eagles’ defense that stole the show.

Colonial Forge allowed just five first downs in the first two quarters and held Dolphins quarterback Churchie Harold to miserable 2-for-12, 14-yard showing in the first half. Ocean Lakes had a distinct size advantage, but the Eagles’ quickness was the difference.

“They got those early stops,” Ocean Lakes coach Chris Scott said. “We couldn’t move the ball. We couldn’t catch it. We couldn’t throw it. We couldn’t run it. I knew it wasn’t just us. It had a lot to do with what they were doing.”

The Dolphins punted five times before the break and Eagles senior Malik Shabazz ended another drive with an interception.

Ezeagwu gave the Eagles all the punch they needed on offense.

He capped Forge’s second possession with a 32-yard run around the left end, outracing the Dolphins to the edge to find an open field in his path. He scored again on virtually the same play from the Ocean Lakes 38 midway through the second quarter to put the Eagles up 13–0 at the break.

“Big-time players show up in big games,” Brown said, “and he’s that kind of player. I’ve been telling every college coach in the country that all year, and I think if they start looking, they’ll understand what I’m talking about.”

And with a flash, Ezeagwu made it 20–0 on the first play of the second half.

Ocean Lakes did something not many schools more familiar with the Eagles do: The Dolphins kicked off deep to the Forge speedster.

Ezeagwu burst through the middle of the Ocean Lakes coverage team on the third-quarter kickoff, racing down field for a 96-yard scoring return.

“Most teams don’t kick it to me,” he said. “I saw it, and was just like, ‘Oh yes.’”

And then, with a three-score lead, Colonial Forge held on by its fingertips.

“They didn’t get to 12–0 by accident,” Brown said. “It’s like a good basketball team making a run. They’re not going to lay down.”

The Dolphins responded to the kick return with a big play of their own: Quincy Watts went 80 yards for a touchdown on a screen pass on the next Ocean Lakes possession. The Dolphins then forced a Colonial Forge punt, and tore off another scoring drive.

This one was keyed by a 79-yard run by Jason Lewis on fourth-and-2 from the Dolphins’ 26 and finished three plays later with a short run by Brandon Simmons.

The Eagles added a 26-yard field goal by Ian Johnson to make it 23–14, but again Ocean Lakes responded with a 65-yard drive that Lewis finished from a yard out.

Forge recovered the onside kick but had to punt again with one minute, 28 seconds remaining in the game. That left it to the Eagles’ defense to clinch the win.

The Dolphins drove from their own 30 to the Forge 34 with 5.6 seconds left.

But a last-gasp heave was intercepted by Colonial Forge’s Ryan Burns, and the Eagles celebrated their trip to the 6A final four.

“We use our speed. We use it to our advantage,” said Burns, who also blocked an Ocean Lakes PAT on the Dolphins’ final touchdown. “They didn’t know what was going to happen in the first half, and we shut them out.

“We were fired up to play. I think we proved we can play with those dudes from Virginia Beach.”

Justin Rice: 540/368-5045

jrice@freelancestar.com

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