The Wolverines and Huskies are forever linked, but Tuscarora’s rapid ascent to the postseason last year left Woodgrove playing catch-up.
Friday night in Leesburg the Wolverines will look close the gap and prove to themselves that they can win a big game against a fellow playoff team.
“For a new program, we’ve viewed every game as a big game,” first-year Woodgrove Coach Mike Skinner said. “We’re still kind of getting to that point where we can play in these types of games, but we’ve got to turn the tables. At some point we’re going to have to step up to play with these guys. This game is going to be a good gauge for us.”
The Wolverines stormed out of the gate this season with five straight wins by an average margin of 46 points. Junior running back Josh Sweet gashed defenses and Woodgrove’s big, physical fronts dominated the line of scrimmage. But against perennial playoff contender Loudoun County and two-time defending state champion Briar Woods, the young Wolverines wilted.
Tuscarora, which advanced to the Region II Division 3 semifinals last season and already owns a win at Loudoun County (7-1) this season, will provide another stiff test.
Like Woodgrove, the Huskies lean heavily on a workhorse running back — sophomore Noah Reimers — but they also possess a speedy, change-of-pace back in senior Adrien Stinger. Over the last two weeks the Huskies have given junior transfer quarterback Nick Azzarita more chances in the passing game as they try to establish better offensive balance before the postseason.
“When we started the year, I felt like we were very good offensively, but we were one dimensional,” Tuscarora Coach Mike Burnett said. “We’ve gotten Adrien involved much more on the perimeter attack, and Nick has really settled in as our quarterback. As you get into big games, you have to have that balance, and you have to be able to make big plays.”
Both teams thrive when they can ride their running backs on lengthy, clock-eating drives, but Burnett said one big play on defense or special teams could decide Friday’s contest.
The Huskies swept the Wolverines in their first and last games of 2010 and won last year’s installment 43-28. But this is a much deeper, more experienced Woodgrove team that is eager to prove itself on a bigger stage.
“We’re the measuring stick against each other,” Burnett said. “We started our programs at the exact same time with the exact same resources. We feel we’re ahead of the game if we can beat them, and they want to to prove that they’re right there with us.”
Game to watch: Potomac (5-3) at No. 10 Hylton (7-1), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
For a team that hasn’t gotten to play a home game this season because of field renovations, Potomac (Va.) certainly finds itself in an agreeable spot Friday night despite having to climb onto another bus.