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Friday, July 13, 2018

Top 10 Moments of 2017-18: #1: Shirey's Touchdown For The Ages

Sepp Shirey always wanted to be one of the neighborhood gang when he was little. If there was a football game going on in someone's front yard, he was there.

One day, Shirey, who has cerebral palsy, joined in the game. It immediately stopped play.

Not because of fear, but because of an impromptu celebration which saw the players race to the Shirey household to pound on the front door to tell the rest of his family to come out and see what was happening.

"We're playing football in the yard, and I got tired of dragging the walker over the bumps of grass and stuff," Sepp said when we interviewed him for the December 29, 2016 edition of The Herald Progress. "I just left my walker. Nothing else would have piqued my interest to do that."

Sepp's football career was underway, and it didn't stop as he grew up. Our first encounter with Shirey was Atlee football's first practice before the 2016 season, running drills with his teammates using his walker. No one was more committed to the Raider program than Shirey.

Fast forward to the 2017 season. Shirey had seen in-game action on multiple occasions. On October 27, Sepp's Senior Night, he entered the game in the fourth quarter of what would be a disappointing loss to a playoff Varina team. Shirey had no idea that he was about to go viral.

On a handoff to Shirey, he began running up the middle of the field. Soon, not only were his teammates running with him, so was the Varina defense. The crowd began to react and come to their feet. Shirey would run 80 yards to the end zone, scoring a touchdown in his final game at home. Before the night was over, the courage of Sepp Shirey, coupled with the great sportsmanship of the Varina Blue Devils, was shown not just in Richmond on NBC12's "On The Sidelines", but began to be seen around the world.

To see NBC12's Marc Davis with a great report and commentary about the play, and to see the play itself, CLICK HERE.

To read a portion of our 2016 interview with Shirey, CLICK HERE.

Now headed to the University of Alabama, where he will no doubt make his mark again, we will not soon forget Shirey's fighting spirit, commitment to excellence, and the shining example he gives to everyone who deals with a disability day in and day out.

A moment that was a decade plus in the making, The Sepp Shirey Touchdown, the number one moment of 2017-18. It combined courage, teamwork, sportsmanship, and respect. And that is why we have high school sports.



Thursday, July 12, 2018

Top 10 Moments Of 2017-18: #2: Mark L. Fischer Field

The night of October 13, 2017 was an important milestone in one of the, if not the most, emotional high school football season in Richmond-area history.

When a head coach, who has defeated cancer, only to find himself fighting the battle again, announces to his team that the season about to begin would be his final on the sidelines, it is a monumental task for teenagers to process the stark reality of what he is facing, then find a way to emotionally funnel their support, their anger, and their love, into an historic season.

But the Louisa Lions not only poured their heart and soul into their 2017 campaign, by October 13 they were running opponents off the field. Coming off a 40-13 win over Powhatan, the Lions entered Homecoming against another undefeated team, Monticello. Before the game, the county renamed the home of the Lions as Mark L. Fischer Field.

Later, the Lions ran wild, posting a 62-21 victory that only added fuel to a championship desire fire. Louisa finished 10-0 in the regular season, but so did three other teams in their own region. They defeated two of them en route to the Class 4 State Championship Game on December 10th. Only then did the Lions find an opponent they could not conquer.

The ability of the Lions to channel all of the conflicting emotions they faced to take Fischer to the brink of a state title, all the while worried about their head coach, was nothing short of phenomenal. And among all the highs of their 14-1 season, perhaps, at least in the minds of some, the one that will be remembered longest is the one that produced a new sign that future Lions will see every time they practice, and every time they take the field for Friday Night Lights.

Mark Fischer changed Louisa County football, and, through a physical battle now six years long, one he certainly did not ask for, his resolve, positive personality, and unique ability to deflect attention from him to his players, no matter the circumstance, Mark Fischer has changed Louisa County. For the better. Period.

RVA Sports Network salutes Coach Fischer and the 2017 Louisa Lions for a season to remember, and our #2 Moment of 2017-18. The field at Louisa County High School will always be a reminder of how one should live life during great uncertainty; with incredible grace.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Top 10 Moments of 2017-18: #3 and #4

A day to remember at the Siegel Center and a night to remember for one of the best girls basketball players this decade in the RVA, as our Top 10 Moments Countdown continues.

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#4: TRIPLE PLAY AT VOLLEYBALL: The Siegel Center was the epicenter of celebration for Patrick Henry, Deep Run, and Cosby boys volleyball as all three teams won their respective state championships. For Patrick Henry, it was a second straight title after moving down from Class 5 to Class 4, sweeping Midlothian in three sets for another ring. After downing Class 5 power Princess Anne in the state semifinal, the Deep Run Wildcats succeeded Patrick Henry as Class 5 champions, defeating Indian River in four sets. The afternoon concluded with Cosby taking the Class 6 title with a four-set victory over Frank W. Cox, who had eliminated James River in the state semifinal.

CLICK HERE for photos from an unforgettable afternoon at VCU!

#3: BOYD BALLS OUT, BREAKS RECORD: Teams will double team, and triple team, Appomattox Regional Governors School rising senior Jada Boyd, and usually to little success. But nothing could stop Boyd on January 10th, her first game since before winter break, as Boyd broke the single-game Virginia High School League record for both points (69) and rebounds (33) in the ARGS victory in overtime, 79-77. Exactly one month later against Greensville, Boyd scored 66 points and grabbed 18 boards. She already has more than 2,000 career points. It will be amazing to watch her continued progress when the 2018-19 season begins in late November. As for her next home, she plans to announce her college choice before the start of the regular season.

CLICK HERE for an interview with Jada courtesy of our friends at NBC12 about the 69 and 33 game in January.

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Our #2 Moment, which represents a milestone during a very long and arduous journey, is released Thursday, and our top moment arrives on Friday.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Top 10 Moments of 2017-18: #5 Through #7

We continue our look back at the Top 10 Moments of the season gone by with three events all courtesy of Henrico County teams, two from championships, and one out of nowhere.

#7: RUNNING WILD: J.R. TUCKER VS GLEN ALLEN FOOTBALL: When the season began, no one knew what exactly to expect from football teams in Henrico County west of Hermitage. Deep Run had a playoff appearance from 2016 to build upon, Glen Allen and J.R. Tucker suffered disappointing campaigns that year, while Mills Godwin had a new coach. The Eagles started slowly, while Douglas Freeman stumbled out of the gate. But the back half of the season provided for some pretty wild Friday nights in the West End, from the Deep Run/Douglas Freeman comeback thriller to this November 3rd game that closed the regular season for the Tigers and Jaguars. J.R. Tucker still held out some hope for a postseason berth in Region 5B, and did its part due to a record-setting night by Keyonte Thompson, rushing for a Richmond-area record 467 yards. Glen Allen countered with a team performance just as enthralling, the two teams combining for over 1,100 rushing yards in a 63-56 Tigers win. But when Meadowbrook upset eventual Class 3 state champion Hopewell that same night, it ended their postseason dream.

Suddenly the 2018 season is filled with wonder, and a lot of questions, as to which teams in the West End can break out of the pack and be serious playoff contenders in Region 5B.

#6: JOHNSON'S STATEMENT: Sunday December 10th, Highland Springs had just completed its third straight run to a state championship, defeating Tuscarora 40-27 at Hampton University. The win placed the Springers into the realm of dynasty, which was only a dream five years ago, while L.C. Bird was in the midst of doing the same thing. The most potent, powerful statement from the team came, though, during the postgame press conference, as head coach Loren Johnson made it abundantly clear not only who his Highland Springs Springers are, but what impact that program is making on individual lives, on and off the roster, and throughout their community. Listen to Johnson for the first 2:41 of the conference, as posted on our YouTube Channel, to hear the impact sports can truly have, life changing impact, which Johnson plans to continue this fall as the Springers bear the weight of going for a fourth straight championship. Bearing the responsibility of becoming a man, a productive society contributor, continuing to turn the perception of a community around. These Springers carry much more than three rings on their fingers, and we all should be proud of their efforts.



#5: LACEY'S FACE: Varina boys basketball, over the past four seasons, has been a tale of tenacity and purpose. While rivals like Henrico and L.C. Bird captured headlines, and a state title apiece, the Blue Devils quietly grew their team, following their Blue Devil blueprint, feeling confident it would take them, too, to the promised land. In 2017-18, it did. Varina almost knocked off a Trinity Episcopal squad in the Times-Dispatch Invitational final in a rematch of a game where the Titans blew the Blue Devils out of the Richmond Coliseum the year before. In the calendar year of 2018, Varina built a 22-game winning streak. Expecting a playoff showdown with L.C. Bird, they got, instead, their pesky upset-minded rivals from Highland Springs. Twice. Through it all, head coach Andrew Lacey's mix of youth and experience worked perfectly, down to the championship game, using a second half comeback for a 64-60 win over Wakefield.

When Lacey was given the Class 5 State Championship trophy, a look came on his face that likely mirrored the look he would give as a young child on Christmas morning. Some coaches remain stoic, others smile, but Lacey beamed. His team believed, and now Varina was atop the high school basketball world. Watch the postgame press conference at the video below:






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TUESDAY: Our #3 and #4 Moments of the Year, featuring an unbelievable game performance, and, appropriately, a "championship sweep".




Friday, July 6, 2018

#1 Team of 2017-18: Highland Springs Football

After two state championships, Highland Springs football entered the 2017 season missing their quarterback, their top receivers, their best offensive lineman, now starting for Lamar Jackson and Louisville, and more to graduation, the Springers began play not the favorite to turn two titles into three.

Add to that an opening night loss to Hermitage, a team primed, and eager, to knock the Springers off their perch, and it would be an uphill climb, plus a learning curve for new starters. But head coach Loren Johnson and his staff built, and built well, as Highland Springs got better each week, and never left the championship conversation.

The August loss meant a Thanksgiving Friday trip for Highland Springs to Chester Fritz Stadium, where the Springers dominated the second half to avenge their only loss, and head back to the state semifinals. Eight days after a home win there, Highland Springs captured their third consecutive title, defeating Tuscarora 40-27.

Following the victory, Johnson took time out at the beginning of the postgame press conference to note the impact off the field of his players, and the program. His comments can be seen on our YouTube Channel by clicking here.

Congratulations to Highland Springs Football, now a three-time champion, and laser focused on winning a fourth when the 2018 season begins for real on August 24.





Top 10 Moments of 2017-18: #8 Through #10

"Moments" are defined in many ways. They could last seconds or months, depending upon the circumstances. The 2017-18 high school sports season certainly gave us moments to remember, moments which surprised us, took our breath away, and helped us find the positive, and what's good in life, reminders we all need.

We begin a week-long look back at our Top 10 Moments of 2017-18 with numbers eight to ten.

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#10: NEW FIELDS, NEW ERA: This "moment" actually began in November, 2016 when the voters of Henrico County approved a bond referendum which included new synthetic turf football fields for all nine high schools. This past spring, construction began on the first three fields, at Hermitage, Douglas Freeman, and Varina. When fans arrive to watch the new-look Panthers christen the new field August 24th against three-time defending champion Highland Springs, they will see one of three new fields in the county. New fields will come to J.R. Tucker, Highland Springs, and Henrico in the fall of 2019, with Deep Run, Glen Allen, and Mills Godwin completing the task, with fields set to be ready by August, 2020. The move will save countless man hours for the county and many volunteers, and make it easier to use the fields for multiple sports all year long.

#9: TODD V. BACOT: The Arthur Ashe Center was packed February 3rd for the final game of the annual Coaches 4 The Cure day-long basketball classic. John Marshall, led by top national 2020 recruit Isaiah Todd, bested Trinity Episcopal, featuring top national 2019 recruit Armando Bacot, 67-62. The hoopla surrounded the fact that both Todd and Bacot are big men, talented and both extremely versatile. And now with Todd departed to Trinity Academy in Raleigh, North Carolina to continue his high school career, it looks like this will be the only meeting, at least at this level, between two of the most promising players in Richmond in a long, long time.

#8: LEGENDS STEP ASIDE: Step by step, announcement by announcement, 2017-18 saw the end of several extremely important eras in high school coaching. We said thank you and farewell to:

Patrick Kane: 17 seasons at Hermitage High School, the all-time winningest coach at the school, surpassing the legendary Chester Fritz. Kane's Panthers reached the Group AAA, Division 6 State Championship Game in 2010.

Joe Fowler: 17 seasons at Goochland High School with 148 wins and state championships for the Bulldogs in both 2006 and 2012.

Charlie Dragum: The only head coach in Hanover High School baseball history. Dragum was an assistant coach for the 1997 Lee-Davis Baseball State Group AAA Championship, moved to become head coach first at Atlee, then Hanover in 2003. He led the Hawks to the state title in 2013, 2014 and 2016, appearing in the state final in 2017.

Larry Parpart: The man whose name graces the court in the Douglas Freeman gymnasium, Parpart announced his retirement just this week after 33 years as the head coach, and a total of 40 seasons with the Rebels.

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The countdown, and the walk down memory lane, continues Monday.



Thursday, July 5, 2018

#1 Game of 2017-18: Gallagher Grabs Championship For Cosby

With all the hoopla, and deservedly so, surrounding the 2015-17 run of Monacan girls basketball, led by the nation's most sought after recruit in Megan Walker, some people forget that their accomplishment of three consecutive state championships had already happened, just a few miles away.

The Cosby Titans took the former Group 6A state title in 2014, led by Dorothy Adomako, then again in 2015 and 2016, led by Tyra Whitehead and Jocelyn Jones, in a pair of nailbiting finishes. After a "down" season by Cosby standards, being eliminated in the region playoffs in 2017, a new look Cosby team roared back in 2018, and made their way through the postseason, arriving at the Siegel Center to face the Langley Saxons.

Needing a comeback with a quarter to go, it was the Titan defense that fueled the effort, forcing overtime. The Saxons took a 50-46 lead, but Cosby would score the game's final six points, including an unforgettable assist from Nia Covington to a waiting, and able, Marissa Gallagher, who laid the ball up off the glass for the championship clincher with just 3.2 seconds to play. In the video, which you can see HERE, watch Gallagher's arms fly high to give the driving Covington the option of drawing the defense and dishing off, which she did to perfection. Covington led Cosby with 25 points.

Cosby 52, Langley 50, an overtime classic which returned Rachel Mead and her Titans to the pinnacle of Class 6 girls basketball, the #1 game of the 2017-18 high school season as chosen by The RVA Sports Network.