Annual rivalry matches explosive offenses

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

It's not Ohio State and Michigan, but don't tell the players that.

The annual rivalry between the Chesapeake Panthers and Fairland Dragons has more at stake than bragging rights.

"It's a huge game no matter what," Chesapeake coach Phil Davis said. "It's the first league game so there are going to be three teams unbeaten in the league and three with a loss. We certainly want to be on the plus side.

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"But just the fact Chesapeake and Fairland are playing is a big game. There are a lot of years we weren't very good and played them tough. You always throw records out. Kids on both sides play hard."

As for records, Chesapeake is 2-3 and Fairland 1-4, but both teams have played tough non-league schedules.

"They're not a bad team. They're better than their record," Davis said.

The game will pit two high-powered offenses which is causing both head coaches a lot of worries.

"They have a lot of skilled players with good speed. They're a threat to break one on any play," Fairland coach Brent Wilcoxon said.

"This year we're more worried about the pass than in years past. In previous years, the prime concern was stopping the run."

Chesapeake quarterback Caleb McComas is 27 of 67 for 373 yards and 10 touchdowns. Fullback Kersten Harris has rushed 52 times 387 yards.

On the receiving end of McComas' passes is usually Jeffrey Thornburg with 12 receptions for 199 yards and seven touchdowns.

"We're concerned about letting them make the big play," Wilcoxon said. "Most games we're involved in seem to be high-scoring. Our defense is improving. We played better in the second half last week. We're hoping to get four quarters out of them this time."

Fairland counters with quarterback Rich Staggs who has completed 88 of 151 for 1,041 yards and eight touchdowns.

Wide receiver Sam Huff has 32 catches for 470 yards and four TDs. Josh Johnson has 19 catches for 248 yards and two scores.

Running back Adam Fuller has rushed 84 times for 396 (4.7 yards per carry). He scored four touchdowns last week.

"Their quarterback has been pretty efficient and Huff is a good receiver," Davis said. "They're defense is stronger than it was last year.

"We'd like to keep their offense off the field. Our execution on offense is a key because they have good skilled players and they can break it at any time."

Chesapeake won last year 45-12.