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Prep Football: Foster sparks Panthers’ win
BY STEVE DeSHAZO
Massaponax’s players held a meeting without their coaches before Friday night’s visit to Commonwealth District leader Colonial Forge.
“I’m not sure what it was about,” Panthers coach Eric Ludden said with a smile. “I’m not sure I want to know. Just keep me out of it.”
If the topic was the need to get the ball into Joey Foster’s hands, it was sheer genius. The speedy senior scored four touchdowns—three from long distance—as Massaponax decisively handed Colonial Forge its first district loss, 59–30.
Usually, the Panthers like to establish 220-pound fullback Janvante Latney early in games, then spring Foster and quarterback Alphonzo Trice to the perimeter on option runs later as the opposing defense tires.
On Friday night, the strategy was reversed. Foster took pitchouts and raced to first-quarter touchdowns of 54 and 78 yards as the Panthers (6–3, 4–3) built a 24–10 lead.
Latney then took over in the second half, gaining 113 of his game-high 180 yards and scoring twice.
“They were putting a lot of people in the box, trying to stop Javante all night,” Foster said. “I was able to get to the corner a couple of times.”
Veteran Eagles coach Bill Brown knows the Panthers’ option attack is always difficult to prepare for, since no one else in the area runs it. When Massaponax is clicking, though, it makes the challenge even tougher.
“If you don’t stop the fullback, the game’s over,” Brown said, “and we obviously did not do it well enough. We did a terrible job of playing that. You might put us in the category of the worst job of playing that offense.”
Foster finished the night with 165 yards on just eight carries (including a 10-yard third-quarter run).
“This was my best game, by far,” he said.
His most pivotal play, though, may have been a 65-yard interception return for a score just 27 seconds before halftime, giving the Panthers a 31–17 edge at the break.
“Joey’s been nursing an injury, but he’s getting close to 100 percent,” Ludden said. “We’ve held him out on defense, but he’s really been champing at the bit to get back out there.”
Foster’s pick was one of three thrown by Colonial Forge quarterback Damon Daniel. The Eagles (7–2, 6–1) managed just one touchdown drive by their first-team offense. Backup quarterback Malik Shabazz ran for a score and passed for another in the fourth quarter, with the outcome long decided.
Jeff Moore’s 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave Colonial Forge an early 7–3 lead, but Kelvin Forson countered with a 94-yard score on the ensuing kickoff. From there, “it snowballed,” as Brown put it.
The Panthers lost three district games at midseason, thanks in part to injuries and disciplinary action that kept several starters out of action. Now, though, they seem to be peaking at the right time and should be in line for a Northwest Region, Division 5 home playoff game if they beat Albemarle in next Friday’s regular-season finale.
“They knew this was a big game,” Ludden said of his players, “but we talked about winning these last three games. I think they did a good job of focusing on ourselves and our strengths.”
While Massaponax’s Darren Gary celebrated the win with a postgame backflip, the mood on the other sideline was vastly different.
Still, Brown tried to stress to his team that one loss doesn’t define a season previously filled with overachievement. Hylton’s loss to Potomac Friday night keeps the Eagles’ hopes for a Division 6 playoff bye alive.
“If we win next week [at Riverbend], we’ll be 8–2, and we’ll at least share the district title,” he said. “And we still have a chance for a first-round playoff bye. There’s a lot still in front of us to achieve and get.”
Massaponax 24 7 14 14 — 59
Colonial Forge 10 7 0 13 — 30
Ma-K. Phelps 30-yard field goal
CF-J. Moore 92-yard kick return (M. Myers kick)
Ma-K. Forson 94-yard kick return (B. Parks kick)
Ma-J. Foster 54-yard run (K. Phelps kick)
CF-M. Myers 25-yard field goal
Ma-J. Foster 78-yard run (K. Phelps kick)
CF-M. Campbell 4-yard run (M. Myers kick)
Ma-J. Foster 65-yard interception (K. Phelps kick)
Ma-J. Latney 11-yard run (K. Phelps kick)
Ma-J. Latney 1-yard run (K. Phelps kick)
Ma-J. Foster 10-yard run (K. Phelps kick)
Ma-A. Wilson 1-yard run (K. Phelps kick)
CF-M. Shabazz 4-yard run (kick failed)
CF-R. Nicolas 39-yard pass from M. Shabazz (B. Smith kick)
First downs23 10
Rushing yardage58-472 22-116
Passing yardage43 39
Rushing: Colonial Forge—Malik Shabazz 4-53, TD; Mike Campbell 6-40, TD; Richie Nicolas 1-18; Daniel Ezeagwu 1-4; Damen Daniel 10-1. Massaponax—Javonte Latney 18-180, 2TD; Joey Foster 8-165, 3TD; Aubrey Wilson 11-52, TD; Alphonzo Trice 11-47; AJ Forbes 3-21; Darren Gary 1-5; Brandon Parks 3-2; Cortez Jones 1-0; Cason Whitt 2-0.
Passing: Colonial Forge—Damen Daniel 5-15-3 0; Malik Shabazz 1-2-0 39, TD. Massaponax—Alphonzo Trice 3-3-0 43.
Receiving: Colonial Forge—Richie Nicolas 1-39, TD; Daniel Ezeagwu 2-30. Massaponax—AJ Forbes 2-30; Gus Little 1-13.
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443