Westfield came across a talented sophomore quarterback at West Potomac twice last season. After narrowly escaping the second game with an eight-point win in the Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 6 semifinals, the Bulldogs’ coaches joked about trying to get the Wolverines off of their upcoming schedules. The quarterback was going to be very dangerous for the next couple years, they said.
The Bulldogs will field a defense that starts three sophomores and is still rotating new faces in and out, but Coach Kyle Simmons believes his team has an idea of how to win its matchup with the Bruins.
“I think defensively, what helps the most is we’re seeing a lot more of these offenses, spending more time defending it and the defense’s beginning to catch up a bit,” Simmons said. “The thing that makes this type of offense most difficult to defend is when a quarterback is a [former Lake Braddock All-Met Player of the Year Michael] Nebrich-like kid. They have the potential to throw the ball but also pull it and make moves. Caleb is fast, but he doesn’t have the wiggle that Nebrich had.”
The focus, then, for Westfield’s defense will be on stopping the passing game and taking away the Bruins’ most dangerous weapon – a top-rated pro-style quarterback.
A major key for the Bulldogs also will be their play on offense. There, Simmons said, Westfield must limit its turnovers and win the field position battle, making life easier for the inexperienced defense.
“The offense tries to have long drives,” senior lineman Ned Johnson said. “Big plays are not bad, but the offensive line definitely takes pride in four yards up middle and grinding out the clock.”
The offense will rely on a pair of running backs, Dalaun Richardson and Tyler Thrasher-Walker, who have each rushed for more than 160 yards. Quarterback Chris Mullins has also been impressive in the early going, and receiver Devon Burns provides a big-play threat.
And while many were counting a revamped Westfield out while favoring the Bruins and Henderson, the Bulldogs players and coaches say there has been little said about extra motivation.
“We don’t feel like we have to prove anything to anybody,” Johnson said. “If we do what we know we can do, by the end they’ll know we still can get the job done.”
The defending Northern Region Division 6 champion certainly was showing the battle wounds from that season-opening win, however. Two starters have been lost for the season: Junior running back Christian Martey, whom Wildcats Coach Chris Haddock called a major college prospect, was lost with a torn ACL, and top lineman Antonio Choi is out for the year after sustaining a major concussion.
Eight other players missed last week’s game and will be held out again on Friday against Mount Vernon (1-1), but Haddock hopes the reps his players receive in the coming days lead to some growth for a very inexperienced roster.
“Nobody is crying for us and we still had opportunities to get it done and we didn’t,” Haddock said. “I think we’re steadily improving. . . . We’re holding it all together with spit and glue and hopefully the next couple weeks we get them coached up and repped up.” . . .
The Lee-West Springfield game pits two of the top rushers in the Northern Region — Lee junior Michael Jolly and West Springfield senior Jonathan Dunn, who has a scholarship offer from Wake Forest. Both teams are 2-0 headed into this Patriot District opener. And the schools, 4.4 miles apart, have alternated winning this game the past four seasons, with Lee coming out on top 30-9 last year. Jolly scored twice that game. . . .
Hard to believe that Falls Church (0-2) and Marshall (0-2), schools four miles apart, went from 2004 until 2011 without playing each other. It seems like it would have been a welcome marriage for both: From 2005 to 2010, Falls Church had one winning season and Marshall two. Falls Church won all four games in the series between 2001 and 2004 but lost 34-0 last year. . . .
Herndon-Yorktown is a potentially chest-puffing game for the National District, even though Herndon (0-2), out of the touted Concorde District, won only three games combined in 2010 and 2011. The National teams like one of their own beating a Concorde opponent as Yorktown (2-0) did 41-7 last year over Herndon. In that game, junior M.J. Stewart rushed for 185 yards and four touchdowns on 13 carries. . . .
Madison (1-1) plays at Hayfield (2-0) on Friday in a game that had one of the most exciting finishes in the Northern Region last season. Jaden Thomas, now a senior, kicked a 26-yard field goal in the final seconds for a 29-27 win after the Warhawks had gone ahead with about two minutes left. Madison blocked the initial game-winning field goal attempt, but just before the snap, the Warhawks had called timeout, so Thomas got another shot. “I’m sure it was interesting to watch,” Hayfield Coach Roy Hill said. Hayfield this week should have junior lineman George Asante back from injury, which will bolster a defense led by senior Nathan Trebach, who in two games has 18 solo tackles and 20 assists. Hayfield hosts Yorktown next week in what some consider a quasi-National District championship. . . .
Annandale (0-2) hosts Stuart (1-1) in its home opener. If not for a 31-28 win last season over Stuart on a last-second field goal, the Atoms would have been 0-10. Annandale’s next three opponents — Oakton, West Potomac, West Springfield — are all 2-0. . . .
Robinson has won at least the past seven games against T.C. Williams (1-1) and needs to make it eight in a row Friday to avoid a rare if not unprecedented 0-3 start. Similarly, Edison has won 10 of the past 11 against Washington-Lee and needs another victory in the series to avoid starting 0-3. South County will fall to that record if it doesn’t beat West Potomac. The Stallions reached the Division 5 final last year after an 0-3 start. Versatile West Potomac senior Demornay Pierson-El scored on two touchdown catches against South County last year. This season, he has four rushing touchdowns in two games. . . .
Langley has leaned heavily on its run game to open the season 2-0, relying especially on tailback Philip Mun. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior led the team in rushing last year with 1,086 yards and nine touchdowns, and this season has touched the ball on 63 percent of the Saxons’ snaps. Through two games Mun has already carried the ball 64 times for 316 yards and four touchdowns.
“We’re in a one-back offense and he’s been a three-year starter, he’s been [1,000]-yards plus each year and hopefully this year he’ll be on track for much more than that,” Saxons Coach John Howerton said. “He’s strong, he fits our offense well with what we’re trying to do.” . . .
Jefferson (1-1), which nearly beat Langley last week, has also relied on a run-heavy offense. Senior running back Patrick O’Connor has rushed for 209 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries, while Nathan Kim has added 198 yards and a score on eight carries. The Colonials now face an 0-2 Wakefield team that has given up 132 points in its first two games.
Stonewall Jackson, idle last week, could get off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2007 with a home victory over Manassas (but non-district) rival Osbourn Park. This is the first of five straight home games for the Raiders. Without a winning season since 2004, when running backs Chris Garrett (Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL) and Ryan Williams (Arizona Cardinals) combined for more than 2,000 yards, Stonewall is in no position to overlook any opponent.
Let’s do it anyway.
The Raiders could be poised for a run during the homestand: Osbourn Park lost top player Damian Nicholson in the preseason (and lost to Stonewall last year). Brentsville has dropped 22 straight and has been outscored 827-129 during that time. No. 13 Battlefield is no doubt difficult; Stonewall has not beaten the Bobcats since 2006. Freedom-South Riding went 1-9 last year and lost 34-3 to Stonewall. And Patriot, which replaced No. 2 Hylton on the Raiders’ schedule, is a first-year varsity program. So it’s not a stretch to envision Stonewall at 6-1. Or better. Or worse. . . .
Hylton defensive lineman Reggie Miles, a Navy recruit, returns to Osbourn, where he played last season. The teams’ 2011 meeting was under bizarre circumstances. Hylton was supposed to play Gar-Field in the Northwest Region Division 6 semifinals. But the Indians had to forfeit after they discovered that an ineligible player had competed in a few games. So Osbourn, with several football players having already reported to basketball after a playoff lost to Gar-Field, got back into the postseason almost a week later and lost 54-26 at Hylton. . . .
Would have been nice to book a Janis Joplin impersonator to sing the anthem and “Me and Bobby McGee” at the Freedom-Woodbridge vs. Freedom-South Riding game. Imagine the rousing cheer from both the home and visitors bleachers for the “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose” line. Freedom-Woodbridge has lost 31 of its last 32 games. Freedom-South Riding has lost 10 of its last 12.