Bulldogs prepare for Hurricanes

Published 10:40 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2013

King’s Fork High School’s football team gets ready this week for Friday’s Group 4A South Region semifinal against host and No. 4-seeded Heritage High School. But they must appropriately handle new complications that accompany success.

The No. 9 Bulldogs (9-3) are receiving increased attention from print and television media after defeating No. 1 Phoebus High School (10-2) last Friday.

Coach Joe Jones and his staff have been working to ensure that excitement over the huge playoff win is not something players allow to distract them from advancing further.

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“We’ll enjoy it down the road later, when all this is done,” Jones said of the 17-14 victory.

For now, he indicated players can use it as a confidence-booster to help them weather the Hurricanes (11-1).

“We proved to ourselves we can play with anybody,” he said.

Three more wins would make the Bulldogs state champions.

“We’re at the point now where we’re so close we can smell it,” Jones said, referring to both a regional and state championship.

Heritage is not an unfamiliar foe, since King’s Fork scrimmaged them in pre-season, but Jones admits “you don’t get the full effect from a scrimmage,” and both teams have improved during the season.

After studying the Canes on film, Jones concluded Heritage shares traits with Phoebus, the only team Heritage has lost to this season. Both schools run similar formations.

The Hurricanes’ ground game is led by senior running back Juanye Patillo, who rushed for 1,039 yards and eight touchdowns on 107 carries in 11 games this year, according to MaxPreps.com.

Heritage also has a passing attack that gets the job done.

“They’re pretty well-balanced on offense,” Jones said.

Freshman quarterback Jeremiah Boyd has come on strong during the year for the Canes. In eight games, he has 39 completions for 1,165 yards and 13 touchdowns, with only one interception.

Junior Marcus Hook leads the team in receiving, catching the ball 21 times for 523 yards and nine scores in 10 games played. Junior wideout Timothy Holden Bethea will also need to be accounted for, as he has averaged 42.33 yards a catch over the course of 11 games, producing 12 receptions for 508 yards and six touchdowns.

Between receiving, rushing and kick returning, Bethea was second only to Patillo in all-purpose yards on the Hurricanes, with 1,037.

Jones said the Bulldogs know what kind of effort it will take to win, and they need to turn it up another notch. “We’ve got to play great defense,” he said.

Heritage is aggressive on defense, Jones said, and it will undoubtedly assign different players the responsibility of stopping each of King’s Fork’s options in the triple option offense.

“The teams that are successful stopping it are the teams that can get off blocks,” Jones said.

Despite some big plays against Phoebus, he said the Bulldogs’ offense was not great, and blocking is what needs to improve. “We’ve just got to do a better job getting bodies on bodies,” he said.

With each passing playoff game, the stage is getting bigger, literally and figuratively, as the stakes continue growing. Jones said the experience of being successful against a No. 1 team at the 8,000-seat Joseph S. Darling Memorial Stadium helps.

Friday’s game will be in Newport News at John B. Todd Stadium, which seats about 11,000. The trappings of the location and the pre-game hype will be intense, but Jones and his staff broke things down for their players, to settle them.

“Once all that’s done and we kick off, it’s a football game like any other football game,” Jones said. The teams are simply better and the margin for error is narrower.

The coach is encouraging as many people as possible around the area to show up in support of King’s Fork, even players or supporters of cross-town rivals. He said they can “wear their colors, just as long as they show up.”

Kickoff will take place at 7:30 p.m.