Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

Dale comfortabl­e as ‘underdog’

Oscar Smith has outscored its foes 322-6 in six games

- BY TIM PEARRELL tpearrell@timesdispa­ (804) 649-6965 Twitter: @timpearrel­ltd

An underdog with your team unbeaten?

Thomas Dale (6-0) is used to the perception this season, coach Kevin Tucker said, and takes on the role again in Saturday’s Class 6, Region A championsh­ip game against Oscar Smith in Chesapeake.

The Tigers (6-0) have outscored opponents 3226. Indian River claims the only points. Trailing 45-0, it scored on an 8-yard touchdown pass with 1:09 remaining in the first half — and celebrated, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

Oscar Smith’s closest games? Grassfield twice lost 48-0.

“We’ve been the underdog all year. Other than two games, I think we were the underdog. That’s just because of the youth we have on this team,” said Thomas Dale coach Kevin Tucker, whose squad has 15 seniors. “That’s where our advantage comes from because these young guys don’t realize hey, man, Thomas Dale was supposed to be

rebuilding this year.”

Oscar Smith has built itself into one of the standards in the state. After winning state titles in 2011 and ’08, the Tigers have been runner-up in five of the past seven seasons.

“We’re going to have our hands full,” Tucker said. “We’ve got to go out and do what Thomas Dale does and not worry about what other people do and what other people don’t do. If we be Thomas Dale and play the way Thomas Dale can play, we should have a great game.”

Tucker said injured freshman quarterbac­k Ethan Minter and junior running back Jordan Branch are back. Both missed last week’s 41-31 semifinal victory over Franklin County.

Minter, a dual threat at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, is 34 for 60 passing for 565 yards, with five touchdowns and two intercepti­ons. He’s run for 247 yards and five TDs. Branch (5-10, 211) has 384 yards rushing and seven TDs in four games.

Tucker said he’s been blessed “to have some really good athletes play quarterbac­k, and Ethan is a quarterbac­k who’s also an athlete.”

“He’s a lefty who can sling it,” he said. “He’s also a threat to run. … Minter is going to be a kid who I think will shatter every record we have because he’s going to be a four-year starter. He’s a kid who I think you’ll see in the future in a 10-game season will be a threat to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing.”

Junior Ethan Hamill (7-10, 43 yards passing, TD rushing) took over at quarterbac­k against Franklin County, with backs Dewayne Calloway (124 yards) and Brandon Rose (174) combining for 298 yards rushing. DeAngelo Gray, who lines up all over the field, had 80 yards rushing. Gray has 277 yards on the ground, 231 yards in receptions, and 250 return yards this season.

Tucker and Oscar Smith coach Chris Scott were teammates at HampdenSyd­ney. Their teams met in the region title game last year as well, with

Oscar Smith winning 29-7.

“It’s bitterswee­t every time we play them,” Tucker said. “We’re good buddies off the field. We have been texting back and forth this week. We love it that we get a chance to play each other, but we hate it for the fact we’ve got to play each other.

“Like I told him, as long as we keep doing our jobs and our kids keep performing, we’re probably going to have to do this for a number of years.”

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