Football coaches in the Virginia AAA Concorde District often say every game is a “rivalry game,” at least in terms of intensity. But the games between Centreville and Westfield are a little bit different.
When the Wildcats and Bulldogs take the field, as they did in last year’s Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 6 final, a player can line up against a friend from Little League, a buddy from church or a former youth football teammate. A standing-room-only crowd of nearly 10,000 can fill the stands, with one student section clad in white and the other in black.
“It’s almost like stories from the Civil War, where you had brother fighting brother and father fighting son,” Centreville Coach Chris Haddock said. “You have those unique stories.”
Games against Chantilly also carry significance for the Wildcats and Bulldogs. But what makes the Centreville-Westfield rivalry special is how it began. Westfield opened in 2000, the same year that Centreville won its lone Virginia AAA Division 6 title. The new school, which is less than seven miles away, drew a large chunk of the Centreville population and quickly developed a football powerhouse of its own.
As Westfield grew, winning Division 6 championships with perfect seasons in 2003 and 2007, Centreville could not keep pace. After defeating Westfield in its inaugural season, Centreville lost its next 10 games to the Bulldogs.
“I didn’t even really consider it a rivalry for so long because they beat us every single year, besides the one year they opened, which doesn’t count,” said Ken Ekanem, a two-time All-Met from Centreville who plays at Virginia Tech. “But my main goal coming in [as a freshman] was to beat Westfield one time before I leave. I just wanted to do it.”
Last season showcased the true potential of a rivalry that had long been circled in each team’s respective locker rooms. When Westfield and Centreville met in the regular season, both were undefeated and ranked No. 4 and No. 2, respectively, in The Washington Post Top 20. In front of a sold-out crowd in rainy, cold weather, Westfield downed Centreville, 13-10, in overtime.
The teams upped that atmosphere one month later in the region final when they met at Westfield in front of a standing-room-only crowd estimated at 10,000. Centreville won, 27-24, when senior Connor Coward blocked a potential game-tying field goal.
“A referee said to me, ‘I had the opportunity to do both your regular season and playoff games, I’ve been doing this for 41 years, and those two games rank in my top 10,’” Westfield Coach Kyle Simmons said.
It was the perfect stage for a rivalry that had been starved of a marquee matchup for years, and one that provided a hint at what might lie ahead.
“It’s a game that I think, hopefully for years to come, is a game with pretty heavy implications on the line,” Haddock said. “When that happens, the rivalry is sweeter, it’s more intense. . . . I think with Centreville’s reemergence onto the scene a little bit, I think it maybe added a bit of fuel to those rivalries.”
Westfield hosts Centreville at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26.