A five-mile radius encompasses Ashburn’s three high schools. Over the previous four seasons those three programs — Stone Bridge, Broad Run and Briar Woods — have claimed four state football championships, transforming the suburban Loudoun County community into a burgeoning football hotbed. This fall, three of the area’s top quarterbacks also happen to reside there, each with title expectations.
Briar Woods sophomore Trace McSorley is back at the helm for a team expected to contend for a second straight Virginia AA Division 4 state championship; Broad Run senior Connor Jessop, coming off an injury-marred junior season, is eager to make up for lost time; and Stone Bridge junior Ryan Burns holds four Division I scholarship offers — including one from Stanford — before he has thrown a varsity pass.
Together, the trio is expected to be the most talented crop of quarterbacks Ashburn has ever seen.
“These are three really, really talented, really capable guys,” said Larry Kennan, who has worked with Burns and McSorley and is a former NFL offensive coordinator. “If you had three guys like them in the same state you’d feel good about it, and here they are in the same town. I’m blown away by it.”
At 6 feet 5 and 220 pounds, Burns looks the part of the prototypical college-ready quarterback. He’s got the arm strength and athletic ability to make all the throws and an offensive system that should allow him to flourish for the No. 2 Bulldogs.
After transferring to Stone Bridge his freshman year, Burns injured his non-throwing shoulder on a running play while serving as the team’s backup last season, missed the rest of the year and was forced to watch from the sideline as the Bulldogs fell to Phoebus in the Virginia AAA Division 5 state final for a second consecutive year. Now he’ll be given the chance to lead Stone Bridge’s vaunted single-wing/spread offense and validate all the attention he’s already received.
“It’s been a huge tradition here,” Burns said of playing quarterback at Stone Bridge. “I’m not trying to do anything special. Not really paying any attention to any pressure, just going along with it and hopefully we’ll do good this year.”
Over the last two years, Kennan has worked closely with Burns to develop the arm mechanics and coverage-reading ability that have made him one of the most highly sought-after recruits in the area. This summer, McSorley joined those lengthy Sunday morning sessions and also worked out with Jessop at Maryland and University of Virginia camps.
One year ago, Jessop would have been the likeliest of the three to have college scouts fawning over him. Fresh off a state championship season in 2009, the confident redhead appeared poised to showcase his mobility, field vision and the arm he grooms as the Spartans’ shortstop every spring in Coach Matt Griffis’s high-octane offense. But a broken collarbone suffered in Week 2 derailed those plans. He missed eight games, and now is hoping to carry the momentum from his final three contests of last season — in which he threw for more than 800 yards and nine touchdowns in the playoffs — into an eye-opening senior campaign, one that coincides with the Spartans’ move up to AAA (the state’s largest enrollment classification). His lone scholarship offer to date is from Richmond.