Blame Curt Newsome if you're a Crabber. Thank him if you're a Phantom.
Newsome coached the only two football teams that beat Hampton High from September 1995 to Thanksgiving 1999.
He played on Phoebus' first varsity team, returned as an assistant and never imagined the Phantoms approaching the Crabbers.
Indeed, no one rivals Newsome's perspective on what's set to transpire Friday: Phoebus breaking Hampton's state record of 40 consecutive victories.
Comparing the streaks would be senseless if the schools hailed from different regions and rarely played. Since they're neighbors that clash annually — with all the respect, jealousy and, yes, venom associated with college rivalries — the comparison is irresistible.
The Crabbers' streak was rooted in an iconic coach and transcendent talent. The Phantoms have been led by two head coaches and a multitude of players.
Hampton defeated Phoebus three times during its run by 77 points combined. The Phantoms have bested the Crabbers three times during their streak by 78 points combined.
The Peninsula District of the 1990s — Newsome coached Kecoughtan to a state final and helped Heritage blossom; Bethel still thrived under Dennis Kozlowski, and Phoebus was building with Bill Dee — was stronger than today.
But the most significant numbers are four and two.
Hampton won four straight state championships from 1995-98, during which time the Crabbers were 53-2, losing only season openers to Kecoughtan in '95 and Heritage in '98 — Newsome roamed the opposing sideline in both.
No other Virginia public school in any division or classification has won four consecutive state football titles.
Phoebus has won two straight and appears poised for a third, and as Phantoms coach Stan Sexton says, championships trump winning streaks.
Newsome wants no part of the Hampton-Phoebus food fight for three reasons: Hampton coach Mike Smith is his friend and mentor, Phoebus is his school, and as a Virginia Tech assistant coach he wants the best players from both programs to become Hokies.
But Newsome is not shy about this: "Still the best high school football team I've ever seen was Ronald Curry's junior year. … I know Phoebus is doing some great things, but I don't get to watch them as much now."
Curry's junior season was 1996. He was indefensible at quarterback, elusive as a kick returner and underrated in the secondary and helped Hampton score a state-record 819 points en route to a 14-0 finish.
"They could score in a second and play defense," Newsome said. "They had guys like Ronald, Ahmad Hawkins and Bobby Blizzard going both ways. (Darryl) Smith was the tailback. They had more weapons than any team I've seen."
Newsome's Kecoughtan squad lost to Hampton that year 20-17, the only Crabbers' game decided by fewer than four touchdowns, the only one in which Curry and Co., scored under 40 points. Hampton rolled four playoff opponents by a combined 227-47, and in 1997 as a senior, Curry was the national player of the year.
But Newsome had his moments against the Crabbers.
He coached Kecoughtan past Hampton 12-8 in the 1995 opener, when Warriors cornerback Jermaine Marrow stopped receiver Marc Bacote a yard shy of the goal line on the game's final play.
The Crabbers won their next 40, and the 1998 opener against Heritage was their first game since 1993 without Curry at quarterback. The '98 season also was Newsome's first at Heritage, and the Hurricanes made his debut unforgettable with a 14-8 victory in five overtimes.
"As wild a football game as I've ever been a part of," Newsome said of a contest that lasted three hours and ended with Hampton 2 yards shy of the end zone.
The winningest coach in Virginia history, Smith later settled on Marques Hagans as Curry's replacement, and the Crabbers did not lose again, capturing their fourth consecutive state title. Hampton's next defeat was to Culpeper in a '99 state semifinal, meaning that Newsome prevented the Crabbers from forging a 67-game streak — from 1994 until the '99 semis.
Instead, the streak was 40, thanks to a rival Smith adopted, inviting him to postseason practices and strategy sessions, a rival who in turn duplicated what he learned.
"It was working for him, so I was going to give it a shot," Newsome said. "We were very similar."
Given Hampton's heritage before and during Smith's tenure, the Crabbers' dynasty, while unprecedented, was not shocking.
Phoebus' is more improbable, a credit to coaches Dee and Sexton, and players such as Tajh Boyd, Dominik Davenport and Shawne Alston, Tyree Lee, Caleb Taylor and Daquan Romero.
The Phantoms' first varsity season was 1976, the year after Smith's first state title at Hampton. They finished 2-6-1, losing to the Crabbers by a beyond-respectable 6-0.
Could Newsome, then a two-way lineman, have envisioned Phoebus as a state power challenging Hampton's records?
"We had our struggles," he said with a laugh, "just opening the building."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP.