2015 High school football preview

2015
High school
football
preview

2015 High school football preview

Published on August 27, 2015

From the District to Anne Arundel County to Fairfax and everywhere in between, variations on offensive and defensive brands of football highlight the diversity of the game. Read about what defines each region.

2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW:

Contents

Preseason Top 20
First-team offense
First-team defense

Hunting for three-peats

Lorenzo Harrison knows that when he and his DeMatha teammates won a second straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title last season — despite graduating 20 starters from the previous year’s championship team — the result took some by surprise.

But as the top-ranked Stags prepare to again defend their crown — with 18 returning starters and plenty of highly touted recruits — the senior running back realizes that this fall may present perhaps their greatest challenge yet: a three-peat.

“We say it a lot — it’s hard to beat the same team twice, so of course it’s hard to win championships in a row,” Harrison said. “We know somebody is going to try to knock us off, so we can’t take anything for granted.”

Northwest is coming off consecutive Maryland 4A titles and has the talent to compete for another one. But the players haven’t been talking about the potential three-peat, Coach Mike Neubeiser said. That’s because most of them haven’t yet won anything.

While quarterback Mark Pierce returns for his senior season, the Jaguars have new starters all over the field. The offense brings back only a few of its main contributors, and the defense will consist almost entirely of new starters.

“The guys that are playing for us are very skilled; they’re just not super experienced, so it’s going to take a little time,” Neubeiser said.

The same can be said for two-time defending Turkey Bowl champ H.D. Woodson. Back is senior WR/DB and Maryland recruit Parnell Motley, but he’ll be helping break in a new quarterback (sophomore Khalil Wright) following the graduation of All-Met Rashad Cooper. But with Greg Fuller back as coach following a two-year suspension, the Warriors are hungry to maintain their grasp on DCIAA supremacy.

— Brandon Parker and Eric Goldwein

DeMatha's Anthony McFarland (5) eyes the end zone while being chased by St. John's Ayron Monroe. (Photo by Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

The Post's preseason top 20

1. DeMatha (2014 record: 9-3; final 2014 ranking: No. 2): The nationally ranked and two-time defending WCAC champion Stags have a bevy of talent at their disposal as they face their toughest schedule ever.

GAMES TO WATCH:

Aug. 28

Briar Woods at Tuscarora, 7:  Life without 2014 All-Met Offensive Player of the Year Noah Reimers begins for the Huskies with a tough test against a Briar Woods team eager to forget its 2014 second-half collapse. Tuscarora ran all over the Falcons in a 41-0 win last fall.

Battlefield at Hylton, 7: Prince William rivals kick off with a game that should serve as a litmus test for both teams’ title hopes. Sophomore running back Ricky Slade powers Hylton’s spread attack, and wide receiver Zac Kerxton brings his versatility to Battlefield’s new no-huddle offense.

Sept. 4

Quince Orchard at Damascus, 6:30: Montgomery County football kicks off with a premier matchup between two state title contenders. The game will feature two of the area’s top running backs in Swarmin’ Hornets senior Jake Funk and Cougars junior Marvin Beander.

Thomas Stone at North Point, 6:30: In this Waldorf rivalry game, the defending SMAC and Maryland 3A South champion Cougars pit their triple option against the Eagles’ spread. Stone held North Point to seven points last year.

Douglass at Wise, 7: Prince George’s 4A contender Wise debuts its new turf field with a highly anticipated Friday night rivalry game against the defending Maryland 2A state champion.

Sept. 11

River Hill at Glenelg, 7: River Hill has extra motivation in a gritty rivalry after the Gladiators beat the Hawks for the first time since 2002 in last year’s Maryland 3A South region championship game.

South County at Westfield, 7: Speed and power collide in this matchup of recent state finalists. The game marks the second leg of a tough season-opening gantlet for South County that pits its up-tempo offense against four consecutive playoff teams. Westfield’s sizable, hard-hitting playmakers like Jack Clancy will try to dictate the pace.

Sept. 18

Dominion at Woodgrove, 7: Back-to-back Dulles District champion Woodgrove hosts Conference 21 rival Dominion in a matchup of two of the biggest and most talented lines in Loudoun. The Wolverines pulled out a 35-28 win last year.

Sept. 25

Ballou at H.D. Woodson, 6: These DCIAA favorites meet in a rematch of last year’s Turkey Bowl, which the Warriors won, 16-12.

Wakefield at Falls Church, 7: The last two Conference 13 champs — and two recent area upstarts — will square off with playoff seeding on the line. Wakefield has the edge in experience but Falls Church is hungry after falling to the Warriors by one point in last year’s matchup.

Oct. 2

Howard at Oakland Mills, 7: The Lions rode a stalwart 4-3 defense to the county title last year. The Scorpions’ no-huddle offense provides an intriguing challenge  in a study of contrasting styles.

Centreville at Lake Braddock, 7: Lake Braddock’s high-powered spread offense, led by quarterback Kyle Edwards, will test itself against Centreville’s vaunted Wing-T attack.

Oct. 9

Arundel at Broadneck, 6:30: These county rivals are both coming off 10-win seasons but have to replenish their stables of offensive weapons. Broadneck’s Emmett Davis, in his first year as a starting quarterback, will face an Arundel defensive backfield that features standout cornerback Andrew Cassard.

Riverdale Baptist at Bullis, 7: These private school upstarts have loaded up on Division I prospects in recent years, and the winner could break through to be considered among the area’s top teams.

2. Good Counsel (10-2; No. 5): Though the Falcons boast All-Met linebacker Keandre Jones, an offense featuring eight returning starters will anchor their push to reclaim the WCAC crown.

3. Douglass (14-0, No. 1): The reigning Maryland 2A state champions won every game by at least three touchdowns in 2014 and bring back plenty of experience from last year’s dominating defense.

4. Northwest (13-1, No. 3): Quarterback Mark Pierce returns for his senior season and will try to lead the inexperienced but talented Jaguars to a third consecutive Maryland 4A championship.

5. Westfield (12-2; No. 8): After falling in four consecutive region finals, the Bulldogs hope to break through this year behind linebacker Jack Clancy and quarterback Tyler Scanlon.

6. Damascus (13-1, No. 7): The Swarmin’ Hornets will look to senior running back Jake Funk to get them over the hump after coming up short against Franklin in last year’s Maryland 3A final.

7. Bullis (9-1, No. 12): The Bulldogs are aiming for a third straight IAC championship behind Maryland quarterback recruit Dwayne Haskins Jr. and a host of other college prospects.

8. St. John’s (6-4; NR): Explosive senior defenders Terrell Hall and Aaron Hansford pace a unit that will be critical in helping the Cadets make a run at a second WCAC final appearance in three years.

9. Hylton (9-2; NR): Following a breakout freshman campaign, running back Ricky Slade is now the centerpiece of a Bulldogs team with state championship aspirations following last year’s first-round exit.

10. Quince Orchard (10-2, No. 17): An experienced defense and talented backfield led by Marvin Beander could put the Cougars in contention for a Maryland 4A championship.

11. Lake Braddock (10-3; No. 15): Senior quarterback Kyle Edwards leads a spread offense filled with weapons and committed to balance as the Bruins look to make a deeper playoff push.

12. Old Mill (11-3, No. 9): After losing in the Maryland 4A championship game last fall, the Patriots return several defensive standouts as they gear up for another run at a state title.

13. Stone Bridge (10-3, NR): Three-year starting quarterback Joe Thompson guides the Bulldogs’ quest for Loudoun County supremacy and their first state title game berth since 2012.

14. South County (10-2; NR): The Stallions will again be powered by their no-huddle, option offense as well as a fleet-footed defense led by linebacker Kevin Allen.

15. Riverdale Baptist (8-2, NR): The Crusaders are as talented as they’ve ever been with seven potential Division I recruits on the roster, including defensive backs Zechariah McPhearson and Sir Patrick Scott.

16. DuVal (10-3, No. 16): The Tigers knocked off Prince George’s County heavyweights Eleanor Roosevelt and Wise en route to last year’s Maryland 4A state semifinals and return All-Met quarterback/defensive back Antoine Brooks.

17. Centreville (12-3; No. 4): After graduating 12 starters from last year’s Virginia 6A state finalist, the Wildcats will lean heavily on running back Kyle Richbourg and defensive lineman Christian Brooks to maintain their pedigree of success.

18. Tuscarora (14-1, No. 6): Senior quarterback Daniel Smith leads a balanced attack looking to return to the Virginia 5A state title game despite the departure of All-Met Player of the Year Noah Reimers.

19. Briar Woods (8-4, NR): Following a disappointing campaign by the program’s high standards, the Falcons have installed a new Oregon-style up-tempo offense.

20. H.D. Woodson (11-3, No. 20): The two-time defending Turkey Bowl champions are the favorites in the DCIAA again with playmakers Parnell Motley and Charles Peeler back to lead the way.

Tuscarora quarterback Daniel Smith vaults over for a 3rd quarter touchdown against Broad Run. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Fairfax, Loudoun powers mix it up

For years, they’ve co-existed like ships passing in the night, two counties making their respective marks in the Virginia football record books yet rarely crossing the 30 miles between them to engage on the gridiron.

MORE GAMES TO WATCH:

Oct. 10

St. Mary’s Ryken at St. John’s, 3: After putting together its first three winning seasons in school history and knocking off several WCAC teams along the way, Ryken football is now a full-fledged member of the conference. How the senior-laden Knights compete against a skilled St. John’s squad could help determine playoff spots.

Oct. 16

Meade at Arundel, 6:30: The Mustangs and Wildcats are well-acquainted, having met five times in the past three seasons. Expect another high-scoring game, and don’t be surprised if these Anne Arundel County teams meet again in the postseason.

Northwest at Quince Orchard 6:30: The Jaguars have played the Cougars six times over the last three seasons and have beat them the last two postseasons en route to consecutive Maryland 4A titles. Bragging rights and home-field advantage could be on the line.

Oct. 23

Broadneck at Old Mill, 6:30: Broadneck beat Old Mill, 25-22, early in the 2014 season, but the Patriots earned redemption with a 26-0 walloping in the playoffs. Both teams return several high-caliber defensive players, and the rivalry’s rekindling could have postseason implications.

Paint Branch at Sherwood, 6:30: The Panthers and Warriors like to air it out, and it’s easy to see why, as both teams are loaded with offensive talent, including Sherwood wide receiver Marcus Simms (West Virginia recruit) and Paint Branch’s JD Guerrero.

Oct. 24

Douglass at Potomac (Md.), 2: The Wolverines gave Douglass its toughest test last season, and this year’s game should again decide the Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A champion.

DuVal at Suitland, 2: The Rams are itching to return to the top of the Prince George’s 4A standings, but they’ll have to get past returning All-Met Antoine Brooks and the Tigers to do it.

Oct. 30

Clarksburg at Northwest, 6:30: The Coyotes want to show they’re contenders, and  they will have an opportunity to do so against the two-time defending Maryland 4A champions. Both teams’ playoff lives could be on the line in this Week 9 matchup.

Nov. 6

Good Counsel at DeMatha, 7: The winners of the last 12 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles will face off in the regular season finale, with a who’s who of Division I recruits featured on both teams. Chances are it won’t be the last time these two see each other — they could meet again in the conference playoffs, just as they have in nine of the last 11 title games.

Stone Bridge at Briar Woods, 7: For the first time, two of the most accomplished teams in Loudoun County will clash on the football field. In addition to Ashburn bragging rights, the Conference 14 title may be on the line in the final regular season game for both teams.

But that all changes this fall.

With the Virginia High School League’s conference realignment from 2013 finally taking full form in football, Fairfax County’s traditional powers — Centreville, Chantilly, Oakton and Westfield of Conference 5 — will take on Loudoun County’s premier teams — Briar Woods, Broad Run, Stone Bridge and Tuscarora of Conference 14 — in many cases, for the first time.

“It’s a good challenge to have those opportunities against teams of that caliber,” Briar Woods Coach Charlie Pierce said.

But while a similar intrigue exists among the Fairfax teams, there’s also a wave of concern as it relates to the VHSL’s playoff power point system.

Schedules are determined by a committee of athletic directors from across the state  who evaluate each coach’s list of teams ranked from most preferred to least preferred.

Now that at least two of their six nonconference games are devoted to a Class 5A Loudoun team, the Fairfax squads of Class 6A stand to gain fewer power points than they would against a foe that also competes in the state’s largest classification. Though slight, the margin could determine the difference in playoff seeding and, in turn, whether a team plays at home or on the road during the latter stages of the tournament.

“If we got away with the difference between a [Class 5A] and a [Class 6A] team, it wouldn’t bother me that much, which is exactly why when I handed in my scheduling sheet to the committee, I put all the 5As as the last schools on the list,” Westfield Coach Kyle Simmons said. “I get why they want us to play the Loudoun schools because the Concorde District is closer to them and maybe a little more competitive, but I think that’s something that should have been thought about more. But it’s a schedule we got, and we’re going to play it and go from there.”

— Brandon Parker

Friday night lights in Prince George’s

After years of playing mostly Saturday afternoon games, Prince George’s County will join the vast majority of the Washington area and hold its first Friday night game this year when Wise hosts defending Maryland 2A state champion Douglass on Sept. 4 on its new turf field in a highly anticipated matchup between Upper Marlboro rivals.

Down the road, Gwynn Park will play several Friday night games for the first time as well after the installation of lights and a turf field during the offseason. Oxon Hill’s school renovations also included a new turf field, which will be used by Potomac (Md.) during the first month of the season while its stadium gets new bleachers installed.

“Most of us have been on turf fields, practiced on turf fields. It’s nothing new to us. We’re just ready to play on it,” Wise cornerback Myles Wolfolk said. “When we first got it, everybody was excited. Everybody came to see it. It was just a beautiful sight.”

Prince George’s coaches hope this is just the beginning after years of dealing with inadequate and poorly maintained fields. It will be interesting to see if the revamped playing surfaces, which will be better suited to the spread offenses that have become more prevalent over the years, alter anyone’s approach going forward in a county known for its heavy hitters and grinding rushing attacks.

— Mark Giannotto

Bullis' quarterback Dwayne Haskins, Jr. (7) takes off to pick up a first half, first down. (Photo by Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

All-Met Watch: First-team offense

QB Dwayne Haskins Jr. | Bullis, 6-3, 200, Sr. Highly touted Maryland recruit threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns last year.

QB Ramar Williams | McNamara, 6-1, 170, Sr. Earned first-team All-Met honors last year after totaling 3,194 yards and 28 touchdowns.

RB Jake Funk | Damascus, 5-11, 205, Sr. Swarmin’ Hornets star rushed for more than 1,600 yards last year and doubles as a dynamic safety. RB Ricky Slade

RB Ricky Slade | Hylton, 5-9, 180, So. Broke out as a freshman with 1,323 rushing yards and 21 total scores.

WR Trevon Diggs | Avalon, 6-0, 183, Sr. Returning All-Met caught 78 passes for 1,008 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2014.

WR Zac Kerxton | Battlefield, 6-0, 180, Sr. Prolific receiver and Villanova recruit had 60 catches for 1,423 yards and 23 scores in 2014.

TE Mark Birmingham | Briar Woods, 6-4, 230, Sr. Duke recruit is a reliable target who can shed tacklers and rack up yards after the catch.

OL Terrance Davis | DeMatha, 6-4, 307, Sr. Imposing blend of size and strength has drawn scholarship offers from Alabama, Georgia and Maryland.

OL Jay Jay McCargo | O’Connell, 6-4, 275, Sr. North Carolina commit has grown in stature and play each year as a main cog in Knights’ offense.

OL Andrew Vastardis | Stone Bridge, 6-4, 310, Sr. Old Dominion recruit is the latest bruising blocker in the Bulldogs’ potent single wing offense.

OL Jauan Williams | Carroll, 6-6, 314, Sr. Florida State, Ohio State and Wisconsin are three of the 40 high-major colleges in pursuit of this tackle.

K Brian Johnson | Gonzaga, 6-1, 160, Sr. After nailing six field goals last year, strong-footed senior has improved accuracy and range.

ON THE BUBBLE

Quarterbacks: Emmett Davis, Broadneck, Sr.; Kyle Edwards, Lake Braddock, Sr.; Ted Hefter, Sidwell Friends, Sr.; Mark Pierce, Northwest, Sr.; Joe Thompson, Stone Bridge, Sr.

Running backs: Malik Anderson, Howard, Sr.; Reggie Floyd, Stonewall Jackson, Sr.; Marquis Hamilton, Ballou, Sr.; Lorenzo Harrison, DeMatha, Sr.; Mohamed Ibrahim, Good Counsel, Jr.; Jonathon Lee, Riverdale Baptist, Sr.; Anthony McFarland, DeMatha, Jr.

Wide Receivers: Tino Ellis, DeMatha, Sr.; Eric Kumah, Forest Park, Sr.; Delontae Moore, Ballou, Sr.; Camari Murray, McNamara, Sr.; Marcus Simms, Sherwood, Sr.; Andrew Trainer, St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes, Sr.; Darryl Turner Jr., DeMatha, Sr.; Devonte Young, North Point, Sr.

Offensive linemen: Adeeb Atariwa, Dominion, Sr.; Jake Bradshaw, Damascus, Sr.; Joe Goff, Episcopal, Sr.; Steve McNair, Howard, Sr.; Deven McNeal, Meade, Sr.; Richard Merritt, Carroll, Sr.; Jesse Meyler, Episcopal, Sr.; Nick Rosen, Marriotts Ridge, Sr.

Kickers/punters Jaxon Clark, West Springfield, Sr.; Brendan Feehan, Battlefield, Sr.; Chris Walker, Old Mill, Sr.

DuVal QB Antoine Brooks jr. (2) leaps for extra yardage during fourth quarter action against Wise. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

All-Met Watch: First-team defense

DL Kyree Campbell | Woodbridge, 6-5, 312, Sr. North Carolina pledge looks to regain form that yielded 121/2 sacks as a sophomore.

DL Terrell Hall | St. John’s, 6-5, 251, Sr. Coveted end and former Ohio State commit is a handful for opponents to stop along the edges.

DL Joshua Paschal | Good Counsel, 6-4, 255, Jr. Prep and college coaches expect this strong pass rusher to have a breakout junior campaign.

DL Shane Simmons | DeMatha, 6-3, 225, Sr. Penn State commit had 14 sacks and eight tackles for loss for two-time defending WCAC champs.

LB Keandre Jones | Good Counsel, 6-3, 210, Sr. Hard-hitting All-Met and Maryland recruit is a strong vocal leader and evolving coverage defender.

LB Ali’i Niumatalolo | Broadneck, 6-2, 227, Sr. Son of Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo led the Bruins in tackles and earned second-team All-Met honors last year.

LB Nathan Proctor | Lackey, 6-3, 215, Jr. Four-star recruit will play all over the defense in the Chargers’ 3-4 scheme.

DB Antoine Brooks | DuVal, 6-1, 215, Sr. Returning All-Met recorded eight interceptions as a safety and racked up more than 2,000 yards of total offense at quarterback.

DB Devin Butler | Douglass, 6-3, 195, Sr. Maryland commit is a hard-hitting safety who excels attacking the line of scrimmage.

DB Zechariah McPhearson | Riverdale Baptist, 6-0, 183, Sr. Penn State recruit is a playmaker on the back end with a long frame and speed to spare.

DB Parnell Motley | H.D. Woodson, 6-1, 170, Sr. This Maryland recruit is a two-way threat who can shut down opposing receivers and stretch the field on offense.

DB Myles Wolfolk | Wise, 6-1, 185, Sr. Virginia Tech cornerback recruit has prototypical size on the outside leading the Pumas’ defense.

ON THE BUBBLE

Defensive linemen: Marcus Bowman, Douglass, Jr.; Christian Brooks, Centreville, Sr.;  Cameron Brown, Bullis, Sr.; Clay Dean, Woodgrove, Sr.; Sean Green, Quince Orchard, Sr.;  Ahmad Harvey, Old Mill, Jr.; Izon Pulley, Good Counsel, Sr.; Jaylen Twyman, H.D. Woodson, Jr.

Linebackers: Kevin Allen, South County, Sr.; Jordan Anthony, Good Counsel, Jr.; Jack Clancy, Westfield, Sr.; Aaron Hansford, St. John’s, Sr.; Jordan Hill, Paint Branch, Sr.; Keith Simms, Landon, Sr.; Kyle Taylor, Gonzaga, Sr.; Landan Word, O’Connell, Sr.

Defensive backs: Derrick Beale, Oakton, Sr.; Martin Foray, Northwest, Sr.; Damon Hayes, Wise, Sr.; Myles Hudzick, O’Connell, Sr.; Patrick Johnson II, Bullis, Sr.; Deon Jones, Carroll, Jr.; Chris Moore, Broad Run, Sr.; Patrice Rene, Episcopal, Sr.; Greg Ross, Potomac (Md.), Sr.; Peyton Scott, Lake Braddock, Sr.; Sir Patrick Scott, Riverdale Baptist, Sr.

Bullis' Williams Craig (77) fires his team up before they go out and defeat Archbishop Spalding. (Photo by Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

A potential shift in the private school landscape

The WCAC has long been the home to the Washington area’s top private school football teams, but the landscape could shift this fall.

Bullis, led by touted Maryland quarterback recruit Dwayne Haskins, linebacker Cameron Brown and defensive back Patrick Johnson II, could have its most talented team ever with Coach Pat Cilento continuing his push to join the area’s elite. The Bulldogs are the favorite to win a third-straight Interstate Athletic Conference title, but Episcopal and its four Division I recruits could stand in the Bulldogs’ way this year. Both Landon and St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes also feature prospects with power five conference scholarship offers, which could make this a banner year for the IAC in terms of cache around the region.

Avalon, which already featured All-Met wide receiver Trevon Diggs, has again added several talented transfers under second-year Coach Tyree Spinner, and his aggressive roster-building continues to rankle some area coaches. Questions still remain about whether former Churchill standout Blake Dove, a fifth-year senior, will be allowed to play in every game this season because he does not meet the MPSSAA’s standards of competition.

In Prince George’s County, Riverdale Baptist has also stockpiled a bevy of college prospects under Coach Caesar Nettles, and he beefed up the schedule this year with games against Bullis and public school powerhouses Douglass and Eleanor Roosevelt. The Crusaders hope a historic season will prove their 19-2 record the past two years was no fluke.

— Mark Giannotto

Chris Samuels, longtime Redskins offensive tackle and Pro Bowler, works with his team and coaches on the first day of practice as he enters his first season as the head football coach at Osbourn High School. (Photo by Pete Marovich For The Washington Post)

New voices in Prince William

Traditional Prince William County rivalries will take on a new twist this fall as a host of schools head into the season under the direction of first-year head coaches.

The largest and most notable newcomer to the sidelines is former Redskins’ all-pro offensive tackle Chris Samuels, who takes over an Osbourn team that has won just nine games combined over the past three seasons. Former Redskins’ linebackers Marcus Washington and Khary Cambell have joined Samuels’ staff at the Manassas school.

Jared Van Acker is now the second head coach in Battlefield history following the resignation of Mark Cox, who guided the Bobcats to an 85-34 record and the 2010 state title during his eleven years at the helm. Coming off consecutive 1-9 season at Freedom-South Riding, Van Acker brings a fast-paced spread offense with him to Haymarket where a young but talented roster awaits.

After successfully transforming Freedom-Woodbridge into a perennial playoff contender, Gary Wortham Sr. filled the head coaching vacancy at Woodbridge in February. The move was a homecoming for Wortham who served as an assistant for the Vikings in 1995 and from 2004-08.

Darryl Overton will look to build upon Wortham Sr.’s past success as he takes his place on the sideline at Freedom-Woodbridge. Last season, the Eagles returned to the playoffs after reaching the postseason for the first time in school history in 2013.

Brian Beaty stepped down after 14 years on Osbourn Park’s sideline following last season, and his replacement Dan Evans Jr. has inherited the challenge of turning around a Yellow Jackets team that went 0-10 in 2014.

— Dillon Mullan

Credits