Such is the case for Battlefield (8-3) with its string of three consecutive Virginia AAA Northwest Region Division 6 titles.
But consider the opponent. Hylton (8-2) has beaten Battlefield in each of the past three regular seasons, including handing the Bobcats their first shutout loss in 73 games Aug. 31, but lost to Battlefield in the 2010 and 2011 playoffs and hosts that same opponent at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the region semifinals.
Just as a Battlefield senior such as four-year starting lineman Brandon Dukeman would like to graduate knowing nothing but region titles and state playoff appearances, the Bulldog seniors who have started for three years, linebacker Jack Francis and offensive lineman Chasz Wright, do not want to go down as the team that went 28-2 during the regular season but was unable to beat the Bobcats when it counted.
“This will be the third year we’ve lost, if we lose, and none of us wants to go out that way,” said Francis, the team’s second-leading tackler. “We’re hungry to change people’s expectations. People know. We hear things from people, telling us, ‘Make sure you guys don’t choke.’ Some of it’s fun and some of it’s kind of serious.
“I guess you could say payback isn’t served until we’ve won the game that matters. I think what’s different this year is that more of us understand the magnitude of this game.”
That has been evident in preparations this week. Hylton had a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Battlefield beat Woodbridge, 17-0, to advance.
“The energy on the field has been a lot different,” Francis said. “The tempo, just the speed of the practice. Even pre-practice and warmups and stuff you can see a difference in the energy of the team.”
Northwest Region Division 5 semifinal: Mountain View at Potomac, 7:30
Potomac (Va.), unable to play at home this season because of field renovations, earned the right to host a Virginia AAA Northwest Region Division 5 playoff game. So the Panthers will play that “home” game at Freedom-Woodbridge, site of the Potomac homecoming game this season, considering how the Panthers had no home of their own this fall.
Freedom is 2.8 miles from Potomac. The Panthers (7-3) will face Stafford County school Mountain View (7-4), the first time the teams have met.
“We had a good turnout [for homecoming], and hopefully we’ll have the same thing [Friday],” said Potomac Coach Jerry Roadcap, whose team has won five straight and is making its first playoff appearance since the 2007 state runner-up finish to Stone Bridge. “It’s as close as you can get to us.”
The Panthers will be presented with the Cardinal District championship trophy for going unbeaten in the district at an after-school pep rally Friday.
The players did not get to savor their 27-21 overtime win at Hylton with classmates because there was no school the first two days of the week following the Oct. 26 game because of the hurricane.
“We thought it would be nice for [the players] to [receive the trophy] in front of the students they didn’t get to play in front of this year,” Roadcap said. “They realize and we’ve talked about how they’ve earned this but that the focus now is on what they have to do [Friday] night.”
Northwest Region Division 6 semifinal: Colonial Forge vs. Stonewall Jackson, 7:30
Stonewall Jackson was in an interesting position at the end of the regular season. The Raiders were coming off a 17-7
loss at Woodbridge that cost them the first 10-0 season in school history. And they had the following week off for earning a first-round bye in the Virginia AAA Northwest Region Division 6 playoffs.
Opportunity for a perfect regular season squandered vs. preparations for first playoff game since 2004. The latter won out.
“A day or two and [the loss] was gone,” Stonewall Coach Mike Dougherty said. “We watched the film and we were all just kind of shaking our head at some of the things we did out on the field that night. That wasn’t us.”
The Raiders hope to find themselves in a region semifinal at home Friday night against Colonial Forge. The extra week gave injured starting offensive linemen Kenny Lopez and Diandre Stubbs time to heal up from injuries.
That should result in even better blocking for junior quarterback Greg Stroman, the Cedar Run District offensive player of the year. Stubbs also plays defense, so his return boosts that unit, too.
Colonial Forge is coached by Bill Brown, who won two state titles at Hylton. Open since 1999, Forge is looking for its first region title. The Eagles have reached the championship three times.