CHARLOTTESVILLE — Marching toward a tying, fourth-quarter touchdown against Phoebus on Saturday, South County ran a standard toss sweep.
Defensive end Miles Givers' response was anything but.
With 270-pound offensive tackle Cody Smith holding his left arm, the 200-pound Givers somehow managed to extend his right arm and lasso Drew Rector for a 5-yard loss.
"That's what a Phantom does," Givers said. "We just carry in our hearts a will to win."
Rarely has one play, one extraordinary effort so symbolized a game, a season, a dynasty.
Phoebus defeated South County 20-10 at Scott Stadium for its record-tying fourth consecutive Division 5 state championship. And will, more than sheer skill, carried the Phantoms there.
Not to discount Phoebus' talent. Many of the Phantoms are gifted, none more than 6-foot-4 senior receiver Romond Deloatch, whose five receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns stole the show.
But this was a season and a game defined by Phoebus' ability to clear obstacle after obstacle. The departures of two assistant coaches; disciplinary issues; myriad injuries; the program's first two losses since 2007; three fourth-quarter deficits in postseason.
So when a lineman latched onto Givers' arm on that sweep from the Phantoms' 30-yard line, it was just another hurdle. Holding penalty? Phoebus didn't need a stinking holding penalty. Givers simply made a play, just as teammates such as Jamar Jackson, Isaiah Jones-Clark, Justin and Kevin Lyles, DeShaun Summers and Davon Robinson did for much of Saturday.
"There's been a lot of turmoil and controversy throughout the whole year," coach Stan Sexton said. "I'm really proud of the way they've handled things."
Sexton is also proud of the way the Phantoms (13-2) handled the Stallions (11-4). South County was riding an 11-game winning streak, and two of its linebackers, Timmy Hunt and Virginia Tech-bound Devin Vandyke, often were unblockable, combining for six of the Stallions' astounding 13 tackles for loss.
"Their linebackers were great," Jackson said. "They flew to the ball."
But after Eric Enderson's 50-yard touchdown pass to Deloatch broke a 10-all tie, and after Givers' one-armed tackle foiled the Stallions' best chance to counter, the Phantoms were in command.
"He might have had 2 inches of separation," Enderson said of Deloatch. "But I knew if I threw it out there he was going to make a spectacular catch. … He's the best wide receiver in the state, hands down. No questions asked."
I'll leave that to the recruiting gurus to judge, but I can't recall a better high school receiver. Deloatch was Saturday's Larry Fitzgerald, and he's going to make some college program — Temple and Cincinnati appear to be the leaders — very happy.
But for all of Deloatch's acrobatics this season, he is not the transcendent player most dynasties showcase. Indeed, while All-American quarterback Ronald Curry led Hampton High to three of its four straight state titles (1995-98), Phoebus' run features four starting quarterbacks, four starting tailbacks and two head coaches.
The quarterbacks: Tajh Boyd, Paul Morant, Jordan Roby and Enderson.
The tailbacks: Shawne Alston, Colby Goodwyn, Tyree Lee and Tony Pittman.
The coaches: Bill Dee and Sexton.
"It's about being part of a team and being a part of something great," Sexton said.
Embodying that spirit was Jones-Clark, who returned to the lineup after missing last week's semifinal escape over North Stafford with a hyperextended elbow. All he did Saturday was make two special teams tackles, recover a fumble and deflect a pass that Robinson intercepted – all in the first quarter.
Embodying that spirit was Justin Lyles, who despite a nasty intestinal bug made nine tackles, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble.
Embodying that spirit was Jackson, who after an afternoon at offensive tackle, defensive tackle and on special teams could barely breathe.
"I'm just stunned right now," Jackson said.
"It's a blessing, for real," Jones-Clark said. "Every team in the state wants to be where we are."
Phoebus has been here seven times in the last 11 years. And Justin Lyles, Deloatch and Enderson have been part of the last four.
"I just wanted to have a last game," Enderson said, "that I would remember forever."