Thomas Dale beats Meadowbrook for playoff berth

Whenever the Thomas Dale Knights and the Meadowbrook Monarchs have gotten together in the past few years, the game has had a lot of meaning. Last season, Meadowbrook had to beat Thomas Dale to stay alive for a wildcard in the playoffs, and did so 20-16. In 2009, the teams met and were both undefeated in the district.

Thomas Dale earned that victory 35-34 before making their run to a state championship.

This year, it was a mirror situation of 2009, as both teams met again undefeated in the district to decide who would have the inside track to a playoff spot. It would be the Knights winning again, defeating the Monarchs last Friday 21-14 to put a dagger in an emotional Meadowbrook’s playoff hopes.

 “Thomas Dale is a great team,” said Meadowbrook head coach Troy Taylor. “They were prepared and we missed early opportunities to score.”

Thomas Dale would field the game’s first substantial drive, starting at their 20-yard line and driving nearly 70 yards before being stopped by senior Marcus Beck with short of a first down on a 4th and 1.

Meadowbrook would follow with a long, sustained drive that ended with a fumble recovered by Thomas Dale linebacker Lamar Webster.

The game’s first strike would come on the first play of the second quarter for the Monarchs as Devin Woodley caught a perfectly executed bubble screen from quarterback Gerard Johnson and streaked down the field 70 yards for the score, giving Meadowbrook the lead at 7-0 after an extra point.

Thomas Dale running back D.J. Reid, who is on pace to rush for over 1,000 yards this season, had been pounding away at the Meadowbrook defense. Reid would break off a 69-yard run to tie the game at 7 with 3:10 left in the half.

“I told coach I wanted the ball, and that I could carry the team if needed,” said Reid. “Every week we start 0-0, we win them one at a time.”

The Monarchs would drive the ball down the field, threatening to score, but fell nine yards short of the end zone. Three times the Monarchs would reach the red zone and couldn’t convert, one via a fumble and two times at the hands of a tough Thomas Dale defense.

“Our defense was able to step up and make plays when it really counted; they bent but didn’t break,” said Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Tucker. “Meadowbrook is a well-coached team and probably had been preparing for weeks.”

Scoring stayed quiet until the fourth quarter, when Knights quarterback Quentin Taylor found a wide-open Reid in the flat for a 36-yard touchdown, giving Dale the lead 13-7. Anthony Prevost missed an extra point at the time, giving Meadowbrook an opportunity to take the lead with a touchdown.

The Monarchs didn’t miss that opportunity. On the very next drive, Johnson would elude the Thomas Dale pass rush and somehow found a wide open Jeremy Cuthrell, who weaved his way through the Thomas Dale defense to score. An extra point by Robert Vargas gave Meadowbrook the lead with 8:51 to go.

On the next drive, Thomas Dale would get a key return by junior Reagan Davis to midfield, giving them great field position late in the game.

After a steady dose of Reid, it would be Taylor who stood out, taking matters into his own hands for the last 35 yards of the drive, scoring with 5:35 left in the game. A two-point conversion by Christian Turley put Dale up 21-14.

Meadowbrook would drive twice more, but wasn’t able to score despite making things interesting on a last-minute drive with a couple of healthy gains.

Thomas Dale was led by Reid, who finished the game with two touchdowns, and over 200 total yards, 181 of those coming via the ground attack. Taylor finished the game with 60 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner. Meadowbrook was led by Johnson, who had 203 yards passing, 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns, but faced a staunch pass rush by the Knights and only completed 36 percent of his pass attempts.

The win for Thomas Dale essentially clinched the Central District for the Knights, as they will have a tiebreaker over Meadowbrook. With the win, the Knights advance to 6-2 and 6-0 in the district.

This Friday, it’s the Battle of Chester part two, as the Knights and Skyhawks face off at Thomas Dale this Friday at 7 p.m. With the loss, the Monarchs fell to 7-1 and 4-1 in the district, facing a grim outlook to qualify for this year’s playoffs. Meadowbrook will face Colonial Heights on the road Friday at 7 p.m.

In other action, L.C. Bird continued to fight for their playoff lives, dispatching Monacan 56-13 on the strength of five touchdowns by Yahkee Johnson. Matoaca fell to Dinwiddie 29-14 to drop to 4-4 and 3-2 in the district. Matoaca will travel to Prince George for a 7 p.m. tilt this Friday.

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