Days before playing for the Virginia 6A state championship, Ocean Lakes in Virginia Beach, has been named the winner of USA TODAY High School Sports’ Best Football Program contest.
Ocean Lakes beat a field that began with 255 schools nationally and received 247,097 votes in the final round. The school will receive a banner and a $1,000 donation to its athletic department.
“This has been really great for our school and community and has hopefully helped in gathering some extra support for our game this Saturday,” said coach Chris Scott.
“(The contest) really created a constant buzz for the team. If we fell behind it was another rallying tool. It helped build us up to our big game last week (against Oscar Smith) and really aided in that.”
Athletic director John Williams credited the school’s new booster club called Dolphins Inc.
“We have an outstanding football booster club … It’s headed by Doug Knapp, who is the principal at one of our elementary schools, and his wife Katie. They spearheaded the whole project,” said athletic director John Williams.
“It was mostly using social media to send out the message, and making announcements during the playoff games for people to get out their phones and vote.”
The contest – part of USA TODAY HSS “Best Of” series – was designed to find the program that best displayed success on the field over time, but also had great fan support, facilities, coaching and player development.
Knapp said the school had not had a booster club “for quite a while.”
“This is an example of what the parents and Dolphin nation can do. We started the summer saying we are going be ‘champions for our champions’ – which is our booster club slogan,” Knapp said.
“We tried to have a lot of fun with it and took a lot of pride in what we were doing. It was pride for our team and our way of showing them our appreciation.”
MORE: Contest Homepage
Ocean Lakes, with an enrollment of about 2,300 students, plays defending state champion Centerville (Clifton, Va.) this weekend in hopes of completing a perfect season. The Dolphins are 14-0, ranked ninth in the Super 25 and are a combined 40-2 in the last three seasons, including a 10-2 mark in the postseason. This is their second title game appearance in that span.
In terms of dominance, Ocean Lakes has outscored its opposition 1,921-378 in the three years.
To go back even further, the Dolphins are 86-9 in the last seven years.
The school has produced several notable football alumni including wide receiver Justin Hunter (Tennessee/Titans), defensive back Shamarko Thomas (Syracuse/Steelers), wide receiver Marcus Davis (Virginia Tech/Chiefs) and safety Scotty McGee (James Madison/previously with the Jaguars).
At one point this summer, Oregon offered scholarships to four Dolphins players during the Ducks coaches’ visit to the area. Among several FBS recruits in the Class of 2015, Wide receiver/safety Jason Lewis has committed to Arizona State and Jahvoni Simmons has committed to Virginia.
Second place went to Randolph High in western New York with 235,817 votes. The school receives a banner and $500 for the athletic department.
The Cardinals won Class D state titles in 2005, 2009 and then 2012-14, becoming the first team from the Buffalo area in any classification to win three consecutive state football titles.
The town in Cattaraugus County has a population of less than 3,000 people and the school of about 450 students.
The third-place prize goes to Derby High in Kansas with 192,063 votes. The school receives a banner and $250 for the athletic department.
Derby put on a game effort, especially considering the Wichita suburb has just 22,000 people and the town itself is less than 10 square miles. The community showed its Panther pride.
The Panthers won state titles in 1994 and 2013 and played in the state title game in 1975, 1993, 1995 and 2002. The program was 9-2 this year and lost in the state quarterfinals. Derby’s record in the last three years is 31-5.
The football program also has a website at DerbyPanther.com that would make many colleges jealous.
After reviewing the patterns associated with votes cast for Oscar Smith, USA TODAY High School Sports announced Tuesday that it was discarding 142,000 votes from the school’s total under the rules that prevent automated voting.
From the official rules, “Sponsor will disregard or disqualify multiple votes submitted by means of software generated or other automated processes … or votes of any voters who are tampering or impairing the administration, security, fairness or proper operation of the contest.”
- Ocean Lakes – 247,097
- Randolph – 235,817
- Derby – 192,063
- Metamora Township – 117,391
- Omaha North – 55,391
- Katy – 44,317
- Whitehaven – 39,012
- Oscar Smith – 36,556
- Totino-Grace – 11,201
- Lake Oswego – 10,619