Matchup between Stone Bridge, Lake Braddock still carries excitement


Lake Braddock defensive back A.J. Alexander, left, runs downfield after intercepting the ball in the fourth quarter of the Bruins’ win over Stone Bridge last season. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
September 4

For the second consecutive year, Virginia powers Stone Bridge and Lake Braddock face off in Week 2. Though the teams aren’t ranked as highly as last year — with Stone Bridge unranked and Lake Braddock No. 15 in the Post Top 20 — the buzz surrounding both programs remains the same.

After being upset by the then-No. 11 Bruins in a 31-26 thriller at home last year, Stone Bridge opens a new season on the road in Burke with hopes of returning the favor. Lake Braddock lost just one game after that matchup in 2013, while Stone Bridge tied the school record for most losses (three) in a season after being ranked third heading into the game with the Bruins.

Once again, Lake Braddock (1-0) enters the matchup with a win after pouncing on West Potomac, 30-6, last week. Bruins quarterback Kyle Edwards and Dejoun Lee combined to run for 256 yards.

The defensive line they face this week features the talented duo of North Carolina commit Aaron Crawford and Tony Gallegos at defensive tackle. Both are quick with their hands and shed blocks well. The Bulldogs look to have an advantage up front with 6-foot-4, 305-pound junior Andrew Vastardis, 6-foot-2, 285-pound Jimmy Prohaska and Crawford and Gallegos.

“I feel like our defensive line will be able to handle their offensive line pretty well,” Crawford said. “The running back is fast when he gets into open space. We just can’t let him get there.”

The Bruins scored 31 points on a young Stone Bridge defense a year ago, but the Bulldogs are more experienced with eight returning starters. The secondary faces a daunting task on the outside in All-Met wide receiver A.J. Alexander who holds offers from Miami, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

“Execution is going to be a key for us,” Alexander said. “They’re a good team known for having big kids up front, and an offense that confuses a lot of people. We’ve been watching film all week, we have to make sure young kids and older kids have confidence in their abilities and we should be fine.”

Stone Bridge wheeled out a new spread offense in its scrimmages, but the team hasn’t done away with the single wing that has been a staple for Coach Mickey Thompson’s program. The Bulldogs are likely to use both sets to keep Lake Braddock off balance.

“The feeling is different this year on offense,” Stone Bridge linebacker-tight end Tanner Karafa, a Boston College commit, said. “Everything feels more confident this year in my opinion.”

Woodgrove seeks a first

Since Woodgrove and Tuscarora opened four years ago with just 12 miles of Virginia State Route 7 between them the two schools have developed a strong rivalry . The first three meetings were double-digit wins for Tuscarora, but the past two seasons have been decided by a touchdown or less. When the two schools meet Friday at Woodgrove in Purcellville, it could be the grittiest matchup yet.

Both squads are experienced up front and love to run the ball. Tuscarora standout tailback Noah Reimers ran for 191 yards in the Huskies’ 21-14 home win over Woodgrove last season.

Reimers is off to another strong start in 2014. He ran for 116 and three touchdowns in the home opener against Kettle Run. Senior dual threat-quarterback Daniel Smith finished with 140 yards and two touchdowns on just two carries in the 40-7 win.

A Wolverines defense that dominated in a 62-0 win over Freedom-South Riding is tasked with stopping the Huskies’ attack.

“We all just have to stay together; if they make a run on us we can’t freak out,” Woodgrove defensive lineman Matthew Whalen said. “Reimers is a great athlete, he plays both ways and is a challenge to stop. We’ll see what happens.”

With a run-heavy offense last season, the Wolverines (1-0) received an offensive explosion from first-year senior starter Billy Sheehan. Sheehan completed 14 of 20 passes for 247 yards and five touchdowns. Dylan Mellor (four touchdown catches) was his prime target and will be on Reimers’s radar from his safety position.

“They get downhill really quick and they have some big linemen,” Reimers said. “If we just try to power them, it won’t work. We have to play finesse on defense and attack them from outside. With their size, you can’t overpower them. We’re going to be playing fast and forcing things outside.”

Woodgrove had its best season a year ago by going 9-4 and making the third round of the postseason, but a win over their biggest rival would mean the program is taking another step in the right direction.

“A win on Friday would just mean that we’re still improving,” Whalen said. “We improved from our first year and from there to beat a team like Tuscarora, it would prove that we’re not the old Woodgrove anymore.”

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