by Jamaar Hawkins, i64sports
A battle of undefeated teams highlights this weekend’s Region championship when Maury visits Salem in the Region 5A final on Friday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00pm at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.
Salem, earned the Region A top seed thanks to an unbeaten Beach District run this year. The Sundevils, who fell to Maury in last year’s region semifinals, have not captured a region title since 2006. Defense has been the calling card for Salem throughout the season holding opponents to 3.4 ppg, including nine shutouts. Beach District Defensive Player of the Year Anwar Sparrow leads a dominant Salem front seven. The Sundevils also feature the Beach District Offensive Player of the Year, Kaelon Black.
Maury captured its second consecutive Eastern District title this season. The Commodores feature one the highest-scoring offenses in the state topping 40 points in 10 of 12 games this season, including a season-high 64 against Nansemond River last week. Sophomore quarterback Eric Gibson hasn’t missed a beat in his first year as starter. Senior wide receiver KeAndre Lambert (Penn St commit) receives most of the national recognition, but Maury features perhaps the deepest collection of skill talent in the Hampton Roads area. Running back CJ Beasley, previously a Virginia Tech commit, is always one carry from a big gain.
Sparrow and the Salem defense will have to negate a fast Maury start or else it could be a long night for the Sundevil defense. Also, look for Salem head coach Shawn Wilson to rely on Black and the run game to keep the Maury offense on the sidelines.
In terms of common opponents, Maury defeated Ocean Lakes 31-6 while Salem beat the Dolphins 45-0. It took a Luca Weber last-second field goal for Maury to pull out the win in last year’s meeting between these two teams. You can expect a similar ending on Friday night.
This match up has been heavily-debated for months on social media. Eastern District teams have dominated the first two rounds of playoff action, bringing a 7-1 record into this weekend’s games. Salem is the lone Beach District team remaining in the playoffs. Will Maury advance to a second straight region final or will Salem enact a bit of revenge for last year’s defeat?
Follow us on Twitter @i64sports for live updates from Friday’s contest.