Lake Braddock WR A.J. Alexander draws attention from defenses, college coaches

September 10, 2013

Lake Braddock junior wideout A.J. Alexander got a visit from U-Va. Coach Mike London on Monday (John McDonnell/The Washington Post).

Three days after one of the biggest wins in Lake Braddock‘s recent football history — a 31-26 upset of perennial state title contender Stone Bridge — the school’s hallways were still buzzing with awe and excitement. As A.J. Alexander strolled to his next class on Monday morning, he caught the eye of Bruins assistant coach Eric Henderson and a middle-aged man whom he thought to be another well-wisher.

But while the stranger did have a special message for the junior wide receiver, it wasn’t exactly the words he expected.

“Hi, I’m Mike London,” said the University of Virginia football coach, extending his hand to one of the Cavaliers’ main targets in the 2015 recruiting class.

“I honestly didn’t recognize him at first because I’d never met him in person,” Alexander recalled in a Monday night phone interview. “He said he came to school to see me, which was a real honor.”

Ever since a breakout sophomore campaign that featured 75 catches for 741 yards and four touchdowns as well as an impressive offseason on the combine circuit, Alexander has turned the heads of college coaches. In June, he received his first offer from U-Va. and he has since drawn strong interest from North Carolina and Penn State. Last Friday, before catching four passes for 46 yards and a touchdown and recording an interception against then No. 3-Stone Bridge, Alexander earned his second offer from Towson.

Much of the intrigue surrounding Alexander stems from his size (6-3, 210 pounds), big hands and athletic ability that has allowed him to line up at wideout, defensive back, linebacker and quarterback during his past two seasons at Lake Braddock. Fresh off his 16th birthday two weeks ago, Alexander is likely to fill out his frame and draw plenty more offers as his play evolves on one of the area’s top teams.

Though Alexander said Monday’s meeting with London was brief, they did talk long enough for the fourth-year Cavaliers coach to laud Alexander’s physical play after watching game film from Friday’s win.

Playing against bigger and aggressive players from Stone Bridge, the Bruins’ fortitude was put to the test, especially after the Bulldogs scored on their first play from scrimmage. Lake Braddock responded with 21 straight points, opening up the field and wearing down Stone Bridge with its hurry-up spread offense that included a diving 30-yard touchdown catch by Alexander in the second quarter.

But Alexander’s greatest impact came on the defensive end in the fourth quarter with Stone Bridge threatening to score inside the 10-yard line with less than six minutes left. On second down, Alexander gambled and blitzed into the backfield to stuff Stone Bridge’s power sweep run attempt.

On the ensuing play, the junior harkened the advice of the Bruins coaches, who told the defensive backs to jump short routes by the Stone Bridge receivers. The result was Alexander’s second career interception and a play that helped seal the win.

“I feel like they were trying to see not only if I was physical enough on defense but if I was getting worn down playing both sides of the ball,” said Alexander, who is in his first year as a two-way starter on varsity. “They ran it to me and that’s when the conditioning we do and my size came into play. To be honest, I believe we out-hit them.”

This week, the No. 7 Bruins have a bye but there’s no time for rest or basking in victory. Next Friday is their home opener against No. 12 Westfield, culminating a tough slate to start the season before the march begins to defend their Patriot District title.

“Going into the season, everyone thought we were going to lose [the Stone Bridge] game and everyone was emphasizing physicality, so we mentally prepared for a war,” Alexander said. “To come out on top is definitely a confidence booster, but we have to remember, that was just the second game of the season. That wasn’t our Super Bowl. We have to stay focused.”

VIDEO OF THE DAY
Check out this week’s installment of the plays of the week.

NUMBER CRUNCH: 0
Games that Marcus Hicks had been the feature running back for Old Mill prior to Friday’s win against Broadneck. The senior defensive back looked right at home, scoring four touchdowns and rushing for 149 yards.

BREAKFAST LINKS
-There’s a new No. 1 team in the area. Click here to see this week’s Top 20 football rankings and here to see the coaches’ poll.

-See which players made the All-Met Watch following the first three weeks of the season.

-An experienced Damascus volleyball team shook off a close first set to sweep Walter Johnson in Monday night action in Montgomery County.

-Both Mount Vernon and Washington-Lee used last-minute heroics to gut out wins last Friday.

-Noah Reimers’ name might not fill the stat sheet like it does if the Tuscarora tailback didn’t have the help of another Noah, Huskies center Noah Klemm.

-The gamebreaking speed of Paint Branch receiver Javonn Curry was on full display in last week’s win against Springbrook.

-Both Suitland and Oxon Hill notched impressive shutout wins in their season openers during last week’s football action.

-In SMAC action, QB Tyler Martin used his legs to lead Hammond last week while defending Maryland 3A state champ River Hill notched its 25th straight win.

-Patuxent rolled in its season opener despite missing two key players with injuries.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY
Volleyball: No. 9 Broad Run at No. 2 Flint Hill, 7:15 p.m.
Two of the area’s top teams square off, with Broad Run looking to extend its strong start while Flint Hill hopes to meet the season’s high expectations with a win at home.

Brandon Parker is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.
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Roman Stubbs · September 9, 2013

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