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June 28, 2011
By PAUL MONTANA - Bulletin Sports Writer

In Harvey Taylor's senior year, Magna Vista's offense will probably score plenty of points.

But what may win or lose games for the two-time defending Piedmont District champions will be an inexperienced defense. That was as glaring as the scorching-hot sun during the Border Bash 7-on-7 Passing Tournament on Tuesday, as the Warriors reached the semifinals of the 12-team tournament before falling in a 53-52 shootout to Randleman High School. "We have all new secondary personnel, and we've just got to help out the young guys," said MVHS linebacker Zaukeus Witcher, one of four returners to the team's 3-4 defense. "We're gonna be good. Once we're all united, we're gonna be fine." On the heels of a number of high-scoring thrillers to decide the championship matchup came an anticlimactic game - Hillside High School, the defending Group AAAA state champion in North Carolina, crushed Randleman 35-4 after its quarterback and several others had to leave early due to prior commitments. Randleman quarterback Kyle Farlow - the grandson of the late NASCAR great and Martinsville Speedway legend Richard Petty - torched Magna Vista en route to the championship game, but then had to leave to catch a flight. "I hate we didn't show a little bit better" in the championship, Randleman coach Shane Handy said. "But we were worn out, man." But even if it had Farlow, Randleman still would have had its hands full with Hillside, which sent seven players to NCAA Division I schools this year. "It's just building team chemistry, cohesiveness, communication - the kind of stuff that helps go through the season," Hillside coach Antonio King said of the team win. The Warriors fared the best of the four area teams in the tournament, which annually pits Virginia teams against squads from North Carolina. Bassett went 3-2 before falling in the quarterfinals, and both Carlisle (1-4) and Tunstall (0-5) lost in the first round. Magna Vista's offense couldn't be stopped. But the defense had almost as much trouble getting off the field. On a 40-yard field where 20 yards earned a first down, the MVHS defense had just two stops in its quarterfinal win over Cummings. But it only needed one, as the offense scored on all eight of its possessions in the 60-50 win, with Taylor throwing repeated bombs to the end zone - many on the possession's first snap. DeShaun Penn and Jalen Hayden were his chief recipients. But against Randleman, the defense gave Taylor and Co. no help. Farlow's offense scored on every possession as he repeatedly found pockets in the teeth of the Warriors' defense, and one interception from Taylor - which earned three points for the defense in the tournament - was all Randleman needed. "Defensive-wise, some of the DBs, and safeties, we've just got to play harder, practice harder, just get better," said Taylor, who will also likely play cornerback for the Warriors this season. And, Favero noted, it will be a little different when his speedy linebacker corps is allowed to rush the quarterback - and hit people, as opposed to the touch-and-you're-down rules of 7-on-7. "We played a lot of zone; we run a lot of zone on Friday nights," Favero said. "I was telling the guys, they're gonna catch the ball in the holes of the zone, people can do that. You've just got to be able to close down on that space really quick. And then on Friday nights it's a collision; today, it's a little tap." Bassett, which will have to replace talented athlete Shaq Finney in all three phases of the game, was also knocked out by Randleman, 37-18 in the quarterfinals. "I thought our guys did OK," BHS coach Jay Gilbert said. "We didn't play well at times, but that was the first real organized tournament we've done all summer." The most productive Bengal player on both sides of the ball may have been Daniel Martin. At the very least, Martin was one of the day's more dazzling players; on one play against Randleman, he juked several players near the line of scrimmage before exploding down the length of the field for a score. "Daniel's a very smart kid, and he's very athletic," Gilbert said, but he "just needs to start playing at the level that he's capable of playing. I don't think he plays as hard as he could. When he does, I think he's going to be an exceptionally good player at whatever sport he plays." Carlisle got its only win against T.W. Andrews before a loss to McMichael ended its day. But the Chiefs didn't exactly start out on the right foot; already with a typically small roster, Carlisle's two captains, quarterback/safety Tyshawn Mitchell and wide receiver/corner Eldrick Gunter, overslept and missed the first two games. "They were probably up playing video games - like every teenager does - all night," Carlisle coach Mancino Craighead laughed. "They were a little embarrassed, because that's my two captains, and going into the season, that's not a good way to start it. I was upset to start off with, but as the day went on, I got a little bit better with it." Tunstall's five losses included one by three points and another by six. The others came by at least 14 points. Hidden Valley and James River also participated in the tournament.