Just a matter of time


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WOODBRIDGE — By uniting a regional-champion team with a regional-champion coach, Hylton has stayed on top.

Following a 27-10 victory over Osbourn Park, the Bulldogs walked off their home field Friday night with the school’s fifth consecutive Division 6, Northwest Region trophy. Senior quarterback Jeff Overton rushed for three touchdowns, threw for another and ran for a two-point conversion as Hylton (11-1) set up a Group AAA state semifinal rematch at home next Saturday against Thomas Dale.

State champions in 1998 and 1999 and Northwest champions each of the last four seasons under Bill Brown, Hylton has continued its regional reign with Lou Sorrentino at the helm. Last year, Sorrentino won his second Division 5, Northwest Region crown in 10 years at Culpeper.

“Bill Brown’s such an excellent coach and the expectations on me were a little high, but it’s about the kids,” said Sorrentino, who also won a state title in 1999. “They play hard and they practice hard, and I think they have a lot of pressure on them.”

After two first-half punt muffs led to a 10-0 Osbourn Park advantage, the pressure could’ve mounted Friday night. But the Bulldogs closed within 10-6 by halftime and then scored on their first two possessions of the second half.

The Yellow Jackets (10-2), champions of the Cedar Run District, were the first team to lead Hylton at halftime all season. They scored midway through the first quarter on a 23-yard field goal by Andrew Dykstra and then early in the second quarter on a 2-yard run by quarterback Doug Suliga. Those two drives started at the Hylton 11-yard line (following a drop by punt returner James Parker) and the OP 46-yard line (after a miscue by James Salazar).

On the 54-yard drive that put the Jackets up 10-0, 5-foot-8 senior tailback Roland Hilliard rushed five times for 50 yards. He finished with a 94-yard night on 19 carries.

Meanwhile, Overton had the game’s biggest rushing output with 125 yards. Of his 18 carries, three were for touchdowns. His 9-yard run capped a 71-yard drive with 2:51 left in the first half, but Hylton still trailed by four points.

“When we got down, the first thing that ran through my mind was don’t panic,” Overton said. “If we panicked, we would start fighting with each other but we didn’t do that. I don’t think we were flat in the first half; we just had the quick fumbles and that gave them a boost.”

Hylton opened the second half with a 10-play, 70-yard drive that ended on Overton’s 8-yard pass to tight end Maurice Coleman. Overton rolled to his right on that play, just as he had on a third-and-five play at the beginning of the drive. From their own 35-yard line, Hylton picked up a first down on a 24-yard pass to Jerome Quinata.

“Coming out in the second half, you can’t give a good ballclub any momentum,” Osbourn Park coach Brian Beaty said. “We caused some fumbles [in the first half] and thought we had them right where we wanted them a little, but then we made some mistakes and they took advantage.”

With a lead for the first time in the game (at 12-10), Hylton quickly got the ball back as the Jackets failed to gather in the ensuing kickoff. Salazar was the first player to the ball as John Coletta’s kick found an open space at the OP 27-yard line. Coletta said after the game that the placement of the kick was unintentional, but it was a momentum-builder nonetheless.

Five plays after the recovery on the kickoff, Overton scored on a 7-yard touchdown run. He added a 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Friday night’s win sets up a rematch of last year’s state semifinal played at Thomas Dale and won 27-22 by the Knights, who then lost the state-championship game to Robinson. In Friday night’s Central Region final, Thomas Dale knocked off Chesterfield County rival L.C. Bird, 14-7.

“We’re looking forward to that game a lot because last year I believe we beat ourselves,” said Hylton senior defensive tackle R.J. Dawson, who intercepted a pass on OP’s last possession.

Brown, now an assistant principal at Forest Park after retiring from coaching, was not officially part of the team that hired Sorrentino last offseason. However, he did discuss the job with the man who turned out to be his successor. Just as Hylton has handled the head-coaching change, Dawson said the team has had the same attitude toward injuries and adversity.

“This year’s somewhat different for us because we have a little bit different style of coaching,” he said. “Coach Sorrentino, I think, utilizes a lot more players than what Coach Brown did. We have a lot more depth this year. If someone gets hurt, someone new fills in.

“Or like tonight, if our defense isn’t quite as good as it has been [with seven shutouts this year], the offense does its job. The offense definitely brought us back in this one.”

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