Thomas Jefferson senior running back Shamar Graham showed junior backup Ron Rhone a text from coach P.J. Adams earlier this week.
The text said Rhone, typically the Vikings’ backup quarterback, was going to make his first varsity start under center Friday in the Class 2, Region A semifinal against Greensville.
Senior Jaylen Tyler, the usual starter, was out with an injury.
Rhone said the text gave him confidence knowing that his teammates and the coaching staff trusted him to step up.
“The whole week I felt confident, went out there and practiced 100%,” Rhone said. “I went all out with my teammates, they put their trust in me, and we got the W.”
Rhone completed 9 of 12 pass attempts for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and top-seeded Thomas Jefferson took down fourth seed Greensville 44-18 at Huguenot.
Graham was the catalyst in the ground game, carrying 23 times for 150 yards and two TDs.
The win gave TJ its first berth in a regional final, and the most wins in a season in program history with 10.
“It’s history … words can’t explain how we feel right now,” said a breathless Dahsean Smith, a senior wide receiver and cornerback.
Despite the wide margin, TJ didn’t find its footing until the second half.
Greensville led 18-15 at the break behind running back Kendel Blue, who finished with 156 yards and two TDs on 19 carries.
Adams said, during his halftime speech, he took a line from the popular television show “Last Chance U” to get his Vikings back on track.
“ ‘It’s not about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Jimmies and Joes,’ ” Adams told his team. “We had to make big plays in the second half.”
Smith, among others, provided the big plays.
His 72-yard interception return for a touchdown came at the beginning of the fourth quarter with the Eagles driving and looking to make it a one-score game.
“He launched the ball in the air and I took my chance, capitalized on the opportunity,” Smith said, adding that the Vikings take a lot of pride in their secondary.
Sincere Williams also had a pick-6 in the third quarter.
His return gave Thomas Jefferson the lead, and it stomped on the gas from that point on.
“My secondary, if you get in a throwing game with us, I got one of the best secondaries around here,” Adams said.
“Defense wins games,” Smith added.
Greensville 0 18 0 0 — 18
Thomas Jefferson 0 15 16 13 — 44
GRE—Blue 5 run (run failed)
TJ—J. Jones 27 pass from Rhone (Williamson kick)
GRE—Blue 87 run (run failed)
TJ—Graham 8 run (Graham run)
GRE—White 1 run (pass failed)
TJ—Sincere Williams 30 INT return (Graham run)
TJ—Graham 20 run (Rhone run)
TJ—D. Smith 72 INT return (pass failed)
TJ—J. Jones 53 pass from Rhone (Williamson kick)
GRE: Blue 19-156, Fields 3- -9, Sykes 4-23, White 4- -3. TJ: Graham 23-150, Sutton 6-35, Rhone 8- -12, Smith 1- -3, Vaughan 1-12, Jones 2- -2, Johnson 1-0.
GRE: White 6-9-2-94. TJ: Rhone 9-12-0-162.
GRE: Blue 3-11, Fields 2-75, Peebles 1-8. TJ: Jones 5-88, Smith 1-20, Ward 1-11, Harrison 2-43.