“I definitely see some similarities,” Stallions senior linebacker Oren Burks said. “We kind of got on a roll at the end of the season and hope to make the same run as last year and finish a little bit stronger.”
[Complete playoff brackets can be found here.]
South County last season reeled off 11 consecutive wins after an 0-3 start to reach the state championship. When the current team sat at 1-5 and was hobbled by injuries, a similar run seemed a long way off.
All those losses, however, were to teams that qualified for the playoffs, and the Stallions (5-5) rallied to win their last four games. Just like last year, they enter the postseason playing at a level higher than their seed (fourth last year, sixth this year).
South County beat Madison, 31-0, in the first round last year. The question for the current Stallions is how a largely new group will handle the playoff atmosphere and inherent expectations that come as a defending state finalist.
“We’ve been talking to [the newer players], but it’s really something you have to learn from personal experience,” said Burks, a Vanderbilt recruit and the Patriot District defensive player of the year. “You can only say so much. We don’t have as much experience as last year, but we’re starting to see everything jell together, and we’re really excited about that.”
The Stallions essentially have been in the playoffs for the past month, because a sixth loss likely could have knocked them out of a postseason berth. The team’s most impressive win was a 48-14 victory over West Springfield (6-4) on Oct. 19. That’s the only team with a winning record that the Stallions have beaten.
South County has scored 47 points or more in each of its wins, with junior quarterback David Symmes, a finalist for district offensive player of the year, accumulating almost 2,000 offensive yards. Senior Warner Hunter and junior Levaughn Davis have combined for more than 1,500 rushing yards and senior Aaron Jackson has caught eight of Symmes’s 13 touchdown passes.
Burks, playing more inside linebacker this season, has led a defense that has given up 46 points the past four games, when the schedule softened and some key players returned from injury. The Stallions are following his lead.
“I found out when I make plays,” Burks said, “everyone else wants to make plays as well.”
Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 6 quarterfinal: West Potomac at Centreville, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Like most coaches, West Potomac’s Jeremiah Davis believes that the playoffs mark the start of the second season. But instead of just relaying those words to his players as the sixth-seeded Wolverines (6-4) prepare for their Virginia AAA Division 6 first-round matchup at third-seeded Centreville (7-3) on Friday, Davis had his team absorb this message in a more literal sense.
“We cleaned out the locker room and made it look like it did in the preseason when the lockers were empty and the nameplates were just being put on,” Davis said. “I told them that we could be going home now, but we’re starting a new season and we’ve got to start it right.”