In the past couple of weeks, however, the matchup has taken on a sense of desperation for Woodbridge and a sense of history for Stonewall.
Woodbridge, which has beaten Stonewall in the past five meetings dating back to 2005, needs to upset the Raiders to reach the Virginia AAA Northwest Region Division 6 playoffs. The Vikings gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown two weeks ago in the final minute of a 20-15 loss to Hylton and last week lost to Forest Park, 21-19, for the first time in the last 10 meetings.
Stonewall, enjoying its first winning season since 2004, can become the first unbeaten and untied team in the school’s 40-year history.
“Our kids know what’s at stake,” Stonewall Coach Mike Dougherty said. “Each week we find a different thing to motivate us, and now we have that.”
Even though Stonewall has not produced a winning season since 2004, the unbeaten record through nine games is not a shock inside the program. The seniors went unbeaten three years ago on the freshman team but did not get to stay together on the junior varsity because they were needed on the varsity.
“There’s just a calm about them,” Dougherty said. “Any time they start to see me panic they say ‘Coach, we’ve got this.’ We’ve been in spots where we easily could have panicked.”
The Raiders have scored at least 28 points in each game, but the defense has been overlooked. Senior linebacker Brett Thompson leads the team in tackles and might be the most unsung player on the roster.
“He’s one of those kids that once they all graduate it will be how in the world are we going to replace Brett?” Dougherty said. “Every time we’re watching film in slow motion to see who got the tackle, ‘50’ is pulling himself off the pile in some way. He’s in on everything.”
Six-foot-4, 285-pound sophomore Tim Settle has 20 tackles for loss, four batted passes and four sacks and is gaining college interest. Senior defensive back Dezmon Hopkins and versatile senior linebacker Markell Bates are other defensive playmakers. Freshman free safety Reggie Floyd has been another standout.
His sister, Nicole, recently committed to Wake Forest for basketball.
Stonewall and Woodbridge are not the only teams eagerly awaiting an outcome Friday night. If Stonewall wins, Osbourn (5-5) would qualify for the playoffs. The Eagles have beaten Hylton and Potomac this season.
“It will be the first time in Osbourn history that they’ll be Stonewall fans on Friday,” Dougherty joked about the two Manassas rivals.
Woodbridge reached the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons before not qualifying last season with a 6-4 record. The Vikings have one win this season over a team with a winning record. That was Osbourn Park (5-4).
Briar Woods travels to Leesburg on Friday night with an identical scenario to the one it faced in its regular season finale last fall.
If the Falcons beat Loudoun County as they did a year ago, they clinch their third straight AA Dulles District title outright and secure the No. 1 seed in the Region II Division 4 playoffs.
But this is not the same Raiders team that Briar Woods thumped 35-7 on senior night last November, and Loudoun County is also looking to bolster its playoff seeding.
After suffering their lone loss against Tuscarora on Sept. 21, the Raiders ditched their run-dominant offense for the pass-happy spread. They are 5-0 since while averaging more than 44 points per game, largely thanks to the play of senior quarterback Jake Lokey.
The third-year starter did not throw for more than 162 yards in any of the team’s first four games. Over the last five weeks, he is averaging nearly 310 yards through the air and has thrown 19 touchdown passes.
“He’s athletic, and that concerns me,” Briar Woods Coach Charlie Pierce said. “We have to understand our pressures and lanes. He’s very good at getting out in space, and the receivers are very good at reacting when he’s out of the pocket. When he improvises, he can hurt you.”
Lokey and wide receiver Brad Szoka present challenging matchups, but the Briar Woods defense remains one of the area’s best. The Falcons have held opponents to 41 percent passing while allowing five passing touchdowns — three of them coming in the fourth quarter of blowouts with many of their starters already off the field.
On the other side of the ball, Loudoun County will have its hands full trying to slow down a balanced offense led by junior quarterback Trace McSorley (1,671 yards, 22 touchdowns, one interception) and senior running back Cory Colder (753 yards, 12 touchdowns). But the Falcons know to expect plenty of pressure from an active Loudoun County defensive front.
“They’re a pressure defense. They’re going to bring a lot of guys in the box,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to be able to keep the ball and sustain long drives.”
Hylton needed a last-minute kickoff return for a touchdown to beat Woodbridge two weeks ago and then fell to Potomac in overtime last week. The Bulldogs have beaten Osbourn Park in 10 of 11 meetings since 2001. The Yellow Jackets are vying for their second winning season in seven years.
First-year varsity program Patriot has wins this season over Brooke Point, Freedom-South Riding and Freedom-Woodbridge and gets its first official crack at rival Battlefield, which has lost three regular season games (to Hylton, Stonewall and North Stafford) for the first time since 2006. Patriot led unbeaten Stonewall in the fourth quarter two weeks ago. Battlefield senior Nick Newman has caught at least one pass in 16 consecutive games. All but one of those have been multi-catch outings.
Gar-Field has given up only a touchdown in each of its last four wins over Freedom-Woodbridge.
Through nine games, each of Brentsville’s opponents has a winning record. Those teams are 71-19 counting the 7-2 record twice for Kettle Run, the Tigers’ season-opening and season-closing opponent. Brentsville has lost 28 consecutive games.
Potomac Falls heads into Friday’s rivalry game with Dominion with an outside shot at reaching the postseason for the first time since it advanced to the region final in 2008. The Panthers (3-6) need a win coupled with a Powhatan loss and several other results to fall their way to claim the eighth and final spot in the Division 4 field, but they can only control their own result.
Facing a must-win scenario last week against Park View, senior quarterback Michael Fischetti threw touchdown passes in all three overtimes to lead the Panthers to a thrilling 28-27 win. Fischetti completed 30 of 53 pass attempts for a career-high 312 yards and four touchdowns — three to senior Kareen Watson — in the game. He will be tasked with keeping Potomac Falls’s season alive again on Friday in Sterling.
Loudoun Valley has secured a Division 3 berth regardless of its result on Friday, but the Vikings (4-5) can move up to the seventh spot with a win against Purcellville rival Woodgrove and a Charlottesville loss.