Briar Woods’ defense stands up late as Falcons edge North Stafford to reach Virginia 5A final


Briar Woods Coach Charlie Pierce, seen last month, played eight players in the box to stop North Stafford’s running game Saturday. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
December 7, 2013

Briar Woods stressed the importance of closing gaps all week entering Saturday’s rematch with North Stafford. It was imperative after Wolverines running back Von Purvis shredded the Falcons’ usually stout defense for 250 yards in a September defeat — the first for Briar Woods since September 2011.

“Mad scientist” Coach Charlie Pierce, as Falcons players like to refer to him, put eight men in the box, and the Falcons turned their talk into action in the Virginia 5A North region final in Aldie. Briar Woods limited North Stafford’s most effective offensive weapon — and stuffed him on a game-saving two-point conversion attempt — to preserve a wild 27-25 win and earn the team’s fourth region title in as many seasons.

The third-ranked Falcons will vie for a fourth consecutive state championship when they face L.C. Bird (14-0), a 7-3 winner over Salem (Virginia Beach), in next Saturday’s 5A title game at the University of Virginia’s Scott Stadium.

“That’s just a testament to our defense,” senior quarterback Trace McSorley said. “Coach Pierce does a great job of scouting everyone every week. That all goes to him.”

Purvis, who finished with 73 yards on 25 carries, appeared to be dealing with a right hamstring injury for much of the second half but did not miss an offensive down.

The Falcons survived a late-game thriller to claim the Virginia 5A region title and a chance to compete for a fourth straight state championship with a 27-25 win over the Wolverines.

On a day that saw the Falcons commit six turnovers, the defense routinely bailed them out.

A first-quarter Briar Woods fumble at the North Stafford 9-yard line was returned 92 yards by the Wolverines’ Tyler Bailey for a score. The Falcons’ ensuing possession ended in an interception. But the defense forced the Wolverines (13-3) to turn the ball over on downs, and the offense started to click.

McSorley (19 for 30, 290 yards, three touchdowns) found Mark Birmingham and Brandon Polk for 56- and 55-yard touchdown receptions, respectively, on back-to-back three-play drives in the second quarter to give the Falcons a 14-6 lead.

Polk watched the first matchup from the sideline as he recovered from a broken foot and was determined to make his mark on this one. He caught three passes for 73 yards and one touchdown and carried the ball twice for 15 yards.

“They beat us on our home field after we won 32 games in a row,” Polk said. “We knew we had to come out here and return the favor.”

The Falcons led 27-13 after Jordan Hinson’s one-yard touchdown run with 4 minutes 32 seconds left, but the Wolverines stormed back.

Jordan Slye scored a one-yard touchdown run with 1:42 to go, but Briar Woods senior Melvin Holland Jr. blocked the critical extra point try. After a Briar Woods turnover on downs, a Hail Mary pass into the end zone was tipped into the arms of North Stafford’s Guy Kieth, pulling the Wolverines within two.

Purvis got the call on the conversion attempt, but the Falcons’ defense stopped him short of the goal line to survive.

“We know how to shut the run down. That’s not our weakness anymore,” junior Dominic Moore said. “We got ran all over in Week 4. We definitely wanted to stop [Purvis], and we did.”

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