William and Mary set to host state football championships

Zable Stadium, which was newly renovated and expanded for William and Mary's 2016 football season, will host the Virginia High School League Group 3A and 4A football championships on Saturday.

Previously, the title games had been held at Liberty University.

Tickets are $10 and children 6 and under will be admitted free with a parent.

Matchups

3A: Blacksburg (9-5) vs. Staunton River (13-1), noon

4A: Dinwiddie (14-0) vs. Salem (12-1), 4:30 p.m.

Blacksburg (4A West)

Nickname: Bruins

Colors: Blue/gold

Head coach: Thad Wells, 2nd season

State titles: 2 (2 runner-up)

2016 playoffs: d. Lord Botetourt 56-34, Brookville 63-35, Heritage-Lynchburg 24-17, Phoebus 26-12.

Background: Blacksburg started the season 2-4, finished the regular season 5-5 and lost to five of the six playoff teams it faced before its postseason run to the final.

The Bruins have a number of ties to Virginia Tech athletics including starting sophomore H-back Craig Weaver, the son of Jim Weaver, the late and former Tech AD. Drew Babcock, the son of Weaver's successor, Whit Babcock, is also one of Blacksburg's receivers.

The Bruins' star is junior running back Cole Beck, who had a 942-yard regular season before a prolific playoff surge that has included a 246-yard, three touchdown performance against Heritage. Beck is more blazing than bruising; he is the reigning 100 and 200 meters champion on the track in 3A.

Brad Shelton, a 365-pound defensive tackle, is one of the defensive anchors.

Staunton River (4A West)

Nickname: Golden Eagles

Colors: Vegas gold, white, black

Head coach: Chuck Poston, 7th season

State titles: 0

2016 playoffs: d. Western Albemarle 87-40, Magna Vista 68-21, Rustburg 55-22, Hopewell 62-36.

Background: If you're a football junkie, Staunton River and its old school single-wing offense might be the most intriguing team to glimpse Saturday. Those scores aren't typos; the Golden Eagles are averaging 68 points in the playoffs including that 68-21 win over two-time reigning Magna Vista, which beat Lafayette for the title in 2014.

Staunton River's lone loss came to 4A William Byrd and the Golden Eagles boast a trio of 1,000-yard rushers led by 6-2, 215-pound fullback Grayson Overstreet. A junior with a wicked stiff arm, Overstreet has 2,804 yards on 264 carries and 48 total touchdowns. With 31 2-point conversions, he has a VHSL-record 350 points this season and should break state career records for career TDs, yards and points next season.

If that isn't impressive enough, Overstreet has 16.5 tackles for loss at linebacker.

Dinwiddie (4A East)

Nickname: Generals

Colors: Navy blue, white

Head coach: Billy Mills, 12th season

State titles: 1 (2 runner-up)

2016 playoffs: d. Courtland 40-7, Monacan 59-18, Lake Taylor 29-15, Lafayette 28-14

Background: Aside from 6A Thomas Dale, Lake Taylor and Lafayette, the competitions hasn't come close to challenging Dinwiddie, which eliminated Lafayette from the state semifinals last week.

The Generals, who won a state title in 2013, are 98-26 the past 10 seasons under Mills and led by some explosive two-way athletes including K'Vaughan Pope, a 6-2, 210-pound junior tight end and linebacker being courted by Ohio State, Clemson and Virginia Tech. Tye Freeland, a standout running back and receiver, grabbed a pair of picks against the Rams and running back Zyan Sturdivant eclipsed 100 rushing yards and is well over 1,000 on the season. Bryce Whitt, a 6-3, 205 pound quarterback, has thrown for 2,500 yards and defensive end Timothy Fields is a sack machine.

Salem (4A West)

Nickname: Spartans

Colors: Maroon/gray

Head coach: Stephen Magenbauer, 13th season

State titles: 7 (3 runner-up)

2016 playoffs: d. Millbrook 59-14, William Byrd 24-17, Dominion 38-22

Background: Salem is 40-2 in the last three seasons and seeking its second-consecutive state title after snapping Lake Taylor's 29-game winning streak in a double-overtime win to claim last year's championship.

Senior quarterback Noah Beckley threw four touchdown passes to lead the Spartans by Dominion in the state semifinals. Beckley (6-0, 195) has more than 1,700 passing yards on the season with more than 500 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. His top target is Viante Tucker, who had three scoring grabs last week.

The Spartans' defense, led by two-way standout linebacker Riley Fox and defensive end Vincent Pinello, answered a tough challenge against Dominion, which featured Virginia recruit Tommy Christ at offensive line, another Cavaliers' target on the O-line and Division I prospect Vashon McCants at quarterback. Salem kept Dominion to negative rushing yards through the first three quarters.

Salem's lone loss came in its first game, a 42-40 defeat to Amherst County.

Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.

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