Bulldogs going for three-peat


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In countering a Gar-Field blocking unit that includes four first-team all-Cardinal District selections, Hylton has size and talent of its own. With six shutouts, including one against tonight’s opponent, the Bulldogs enter the Division 6, Northwest Region semifinals as the top seed.

“We’re blessed this year because we’ve got a lot of strong, big kids,” Hylton coach Lou Sorrentino said. “We can come at teams in waves. We’ve had to tap into that a little bit because of injuries, but we still have kids with experience and size. [Gar-Field’s] not your average high school line by any means, but we’re not too small either.”

Though all-district defensive end Chris Winston is expected to miss this year’s third Hylton/Gar-Field matchup because of a knee injury, replacement Dustin McManaman also has started at times this season. McManaman (a 6-foot-2, 270-pound senior) joins all-district senior Jono Petrovitch (6-foot, 235 pounds) as the bookends on a defensive line with two inseparable forces in the middle.

In Hylton’s 4-4 defense, seniors R.J. Dawson and Dennis Thompson play in the middle of the front four. Both are in their second years, both are Dallas Cowboys’ fans, both are about the same height (6-0) and their weights are almost identical (Dawson’s 256 pounds and Thompson 265).

But the ultimate coincidence between Dawson and Thompson: Both have the middle name Everette. And that’s a fact neither one discovered until — and here, of course, they answer the question at the same time and with the same words — “about a year ago.”

Tonight, the Bulldogs’ line will get another crack at Gar-Field as they’ll try to help limit Rasheed McClaude and the rest of the Indians’ running game. McClaude, a 1,400-yard rusher in the regular season, had two decent showings against Hylton this year as he averaged 95.5 yards. Yet despite outgaining Hylton over those two games, Gar-Field was outscored 32-12.

Dawson, Petrovitch and Winston were all first-team all-Cardinal District this year. So were Hylton linebackers Jackie Watkins, Endor Cooper and James Parker, as well as defensive back Deon Butler. Among Gar-Field’s all-district choices were offensive linemen Flordell Kissee (6-5, 310), Mo Steward (6-3, 270) and George Frye (6-1, 240) and tight end Clint Sintim (6-2, 250).

“Going up against them again is going to be a challenge,” Dawson said. “They have a good line and a lot of good backs, so we’ll have to make sure our alignments are correct and play like we were coached.”

Thompson, who plays on the weak side while Dawson anchors the strong side, added that the Bulldogs “always gotta run to the ball.”

Last year, Hylton won the Northwest Region before falling to Thomas Dale in the state semifinals. Gar-Field nearly forced an intra-district regional final, but lost 42-35 in four overtimes at George Washington-Danville. During the offseason, that game was awarded to Gar-Field because the Eagles had used an ineligible player — but it was too late to force Hylton/Gar-Field III, a showdown that finally takes place tonight.

“We’re a little bit more excited than if this was a playoff game against another team,” Thompson said. “We’ve beaten them two times but it’s always a good game against Gar-Field.”

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