Woodgrove’s Josh Sweet carries the load at running back; Westfield improves to 4-0

September 24, 2012

For the second time in three weeks, Woodgrove handed the ball to junior running back Josh Sweet 32 times on Friday night; and for the second time in three weeks, Sweet rewarded his coaches with a monster game.

The 5-11, 214-pound, first-year starter rushed for 253 yards and all three of his team’s first-half touchdowns in a 40-0 blowout at Dominion. The 40-point output was Woodgrove’s lowest of the season, as the Wolverines have outscored their five opponents 258-28.

Sweet has been the catalyst, particularly in the first half where he has scored 12 of his area-best 15 rushing touchdowns. Through five games, he is second in the area with 912 rushing yards, 13 behind Robinson junior Joe Wilson.

“He’s just one of those guys. He’s a really powerful runner, he’s got really good vision — but he does it all,” first-year Woodgrove Coach Mike Skinner said. “I’ve been around some pretty good backs, and he’s as good if not better than all of them. He’s pretty special.”

While Sweet is earning weekly accolades, his success begins up front with an tight-knit offensive line featuring Timothy Siler at left tackle, Dan Charmo at left guard, Chase Smith at center, Dylan O’Connor at right guard and Stephen Root at right tackle. Thanks to its deepest roster to date, Skinner has the luxury of only playing them one way, which enables them to stay fresh while opposing defenses wear down.

As for Sweet, who is on pace for 218 carries this season and is just two behind Wilson (111) for the most in the area, Skinner would prefer an average workload of 20-22 carries — even if that means limiting his touches in big regular season contests. The Wolverines face their toughest tests of the season to date over the next two weeks when they host perennial playoff contender Loudoun County (3-1) and visit two-time defending state champion Briar Woods (5-0).

“The goal for us is to make sure he’s there for us at the end of the season,” said Skinner, who led Centreville to a state championship in 2000. “It’s something that I monitor, and at Centreville, I did limit their carries.

“It’s not worth ruining the whole season for two games.” . . .

Heritage shook off consecutive deflating overtime defeats with a resounding 29-0 victory against winless Park View. Two weeks ago, the Pride led Dominion 28-14 in the fourth quarter but lost 34-28 in overtime. Last week, they led in regulation before falling at Potomac Falls in triple-overtime, 23-20.

This time, the Pride’s prevented any late drama while the offense awoke after a scoreless first half to give Heritage its second win of the season and first in the Dulles District. Sophomore quarterback Michael Galvan hooked up with Justin Bethea for a 77-yard touchdown pass and Nick Wright’s interception return for a touchdown put the game out of reach. . . .

Briar Woods won its area-best 19th straight game on Friday with a 49-3 victory against Potomac Falls, but while the Falcons’ balanced offense keeps chugging along, the defense continues to be the team’s foundation for success.

Boosted by the return of senior linebacker and South Carolina recruit Matt Rolin (sprained ankle), the Falcons held the Panthers to 44 yards on the ground and 68 yards of total offense. Briar Woods is allowing only 52.6 rushing yards per game and 2.0 yards per carry on the season. That unit will be tested Friday when the Falcons visit Tuscarora (4-0), which is averaging 229 rushing yards per game.

Westfield remains undefeated

Graduating more than 40 seniors already had No. 8 Westfield learning on the fly this season, but a number of injuries against Robinson this Friday forced the Bulldogs to learn even more about their young roster.

Given an opportunity, those players stepped up with big plays in the fourth quarter against the Rams (1-3), and Westfield (4-0) remained undefeated with a 24-21 win.

The first big play came on a drive midway through the fourth quarter with Westfield trailing by four. Quarterback Chris Mullins scrambled to buy time and found sophomore fullback Evan Gray between two defenders to convert a third and 15.

Later in the drive, third-string running back Brian Garland busted through with a 19-yard touchdown run, the game-winning score with 6:16 remaining in the game.

The defense came up with a big stop after Garland’s score, halting Robinson’s 11-play drive on the Westfield 40-yard line with less than two minutes to play.

Westfield Coach Kyle Simmons said he hoped his team had learned a lesson from the game — one that might have been even better served with a loss.

“With a young group, I’m fearful of what they’re reading in the paper and reading online and hearing about themselves,” Simmons said. “Sometimes in the middle of the year when you have a team with potential it’s good to get knocked down a couple pegs and have that experience.”

The Bulldogs were able to pull out the win, though, and Simmons acknowledged there are certainly strong lessons that come with pulling out a victory against a tough district opponent.

“We had a couple additional injuries during the game that caused people to have to step up and they made plays and faced adversity,” Simmons said. “It was good to do that and gain experience.”

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