An unnatural rivalry in Ashburn

August 29, 2012

The football teams from Broad Run and Stone Bridge are ideally suited for a bitter backyard rivalry. The schools are less than three miles apart in Ashburn, and the teams have similar offensive philosophies and on-field successes.

But the rivalry between the Spartans and the Bulldogs might be one of the most unnatural in the state. When the teams faced off last September in front of nearly 7,000 fans at Stone Bridge, it marked the first meeting between the neighbors since 2004. That kind of hiatus would be enough to kill most rivalries — but not this one.

“You see those Stone Bridge guys every day,” Broad Run senior lineman Connor Keating said. “And to go seven years without playing them, that’s a lot time for things to build up. And then when you finally do take the field, it’s about more than bragging rights — pride is on the line.”

During the seven-year gap, Stone Bridge won the 2007 Virginia AAA Division 5 championship and played in three other state finals. Broad Run, meanwhile, won back-to-back AA Division 4 crowns with undefeated records in 2008 and 2009.

“I think Broad Run had always felt like, ‘Hey, we can compete with these guys,’ but they never got the chance,” said Matt Griffis, who is in his third year as the Spartans’ coach after a long run as a Stone Bridge assistant. “Between 2007 and 2009, either team could say they were better, but no one had the opportunity to prove it.”

On Sept. 23, 2011, students lined up outside the gate at Stone Bridge’s stadium hours before kickoff for the “Battle of the ’Burn.” By the time the game began, the stands were overflowing and spectators were lined up three-deep on the track. Alumni from both schools and a handful of Washington Redskins players joined the masses. The crowd certainly got its money’s worth.

Stone Bridge erased a 24-0 halftime deficit to force overtime, and after Broad Run missed the extra point on its initial score, the Bulldogs found the end zone, and Ben Lambourne’s extra point sealed a thrilling 31-30 victory.

“The atmosphere was electric, and it was really something to see the whole Ashburn community come together like that,” said former Broad Run quarterback Connor Jessop, who has watched the game at least 10 times to see how it might have ended differently for the Spartans. “And the crowd during overtime . . . it was one of the craziest games I’ve ever been a part of.”

Broad Run — which is 0-5 all-time against Stone Bridge — will host the rematch Sept. 21. Both teams lost a number of key seniors, but although the Spartans graduated a pair of All-Mets in Jessop and lineman Jackson Matteo, Stone Bridge returns two of the nation’s top senior recruits in defensive end Jonathan Allen (Alabama) and quarterback Ryan Burns (Stanford).

After the dramatic win last season, Drew Dettra and several of his Stone Bridge teammates settled into their seats at the Ashburn IHOP for their traditional postgame meal. Jessop and several Broad Run starters joined them at the table, only hours after suffering a devastating defeat.

“You hate each other when you’re playing football, but there’s a lot of respect there,” said Dettra, now a senior. “I’m glad we won and proved that we’re the kings of Ashburn, but at the end of the day, we’re all still friends.”

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