It would appear that the old days of Thomas Dale defense have returned. Whether one calls it the “dark zone,” or d-block,” it’s here and it’s a reason the Knights are poised to make a playoff push in 2013. The Knights defense stifled a high-powered Meadowbrook attack, limiting them to just 167 total yards on the way to a 30-14 victory.
“This team took it upon themselves to fix the mistakes of last week [against Prince George],” said Thomas Dale Head Coach Kevin Tucker. “Even though it rained every day this week and these guys wanted to be out here practicing and getting better.”
The Knights built a 23-0 lead in the third quarter before Meadowbrook broke through with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Talik Mann to D’Angelo Amos to make it 23-8 after a successful two point conversion. The Knights answered right back, as Eric Finney rumbled for a 13 yard touchdown run, his third of the game to stretch the lead to 30-8. The Monarchs scored again late in the fourth quarter as Mann hit Terrelle Whitaker for a 36-yard score.
“They did a great job on defense,” said Meadowbrook Head Coach Troy Taylor. “They stopped the pass and run.”
Meadowbrook (3-3) also battled penalties all game, at one point picking up three flags on a single possession.
“Our guys have to play smarter,” Taylor frankly stated.
The Thomas Dale defense has played a major role in each of their four victories. Mixed in with playmaker and leader C.J. Reavis are several underclassmen who have contributed in big ways for the Knights, including sophomore linebacker Sammy Starke, and junior defensive tackle Darvin Taylor.
“Sammy has been big time,” said Reavis. “He played a great game tonight and has played well all season.”
Starke led Dale with 14 tackles and picked up a fourth quarter interception that halted any momentum that the Monarchs had gained.
“I’ve learned from the players around me,” said Starke. “They have mentored me since I got here last year.”
One of the team’s main mentors will now be junior Marco Carrabotta, as he was lost for the season with a torn ACL against Prince George on October 4.
“It’s going to be a big loss for the team when you lose a top player from your offense and defense,” stated Tucker. “The great thing about Marco is that he’s at every practice still, coaching and helping out,” he continued. “There’s no ‘I’ in this team.”
According to Tucker, Starke has also been mentored by fellow linebacker Justin Cooper, who received an invite to walk-on at William and Mary last week.
“It felt different coming into this season,” explained Taylor. “It’s been more about being a team full of guys that go 100 percent in practice and games.”
The play of running back Eric Finney has improved in recent weeks as well. Finney has taken care of early season fumble issues, and averaged 131 yards per game over the last three games to go with ten touchdowns. Dale seemingly manufactures running backs to feed it’s rich history at the position.
“It makes me feel amazing to be Thomas Dale’s running back,” said Finney. “I love Thomas Dale, I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
Thomas Dale, now 4-2, travels to Colonial Heights for a 7 p.m. kick-off Friday, while Meadowbrook looks to rebound for homecoming as they take on Prince George at home at 7 p.m.