South County Eyes Return to Playoffs

Coach Pete Bendorf has South County, including left to right, Eric Dorsey, Aaron Andrews and Karlos Morgan, aiming for its first district title.
Coach Pete Bendorf has South County, including left to right, Eric Dorsey, Aaron Andrews and Karlos Morgan, aiming for its first district title. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, October 31, 2008

A small black whistle and a pair of sunglasses were constant practice companions this week for South County Coach Pete Bendorf as he kept a close watch on his players' every move.

"Let's go! Hurry up! '83 Ice' and give me a good get-off!" Bendorf barked as a player barreled through a practice dummy during a situational walk-through.

When he's locked in on football, it's nearly impossible to pull Bendorf out of his near trancelike state. He's been pulled away from the game before, but now he's back where he feels most comfortable -- in the playoff hunt.

In a key Virginia AAA Patriot District matchup tonight at Annandale (6-3, 5-1), Bendorf's Stallions (6-3, 5-1) can clinch a share of their first district title and second straight Division 6 playoff berth -- both unlikely accomplishments for a fourth-year program.

"Obviously, I took a risk, but I have no regrets," said Bendorf, a 15-year Virginia AAA Northern Region coaching veteran who posted a 63-54 record at Oakton and guided the Cougars to a state championship in 2002 before leaving the sideline to become director of student activities at James Madison High School in Vienna.

When South County opened its doors four years ago, the lure of building a program from the ground up -- everything from hiring a staff, to carving out a practice field, designing uniforms and designing new schemes -- was too strong for Bendorf to ignore. He took a substantial pay cut and gave up a hefty retirement sum to become a teacher, coach and an assistant athletic director.

"For me it was an opportunity to put my name on something and to build something from scratch," said Bendorf, 48, who is on the verge of his eighth career playoff appearance. "You truly start from scratch."

South County has posted a 19-21 record and followed its 1-9 first-year finish with six-win seasons ever since.

South County's only losses this fall have been to playoff-bound teams, including 2007 state champion Westfield (7-2), No. 11 Edison (9-0) and West Springfield (6-3).

With a 5-2 junior varsity team and a 7-0 freshman team that has outscored its opponents 268-28, the Stallions' future is just as bright.

"This is what we've dreamed of," senior defensive back Karlos Morgan said as he pointed to the 33 other seniors huddled in the middle of the practice field. "All of our seniors are right there. Since ninth grade, we've always dreamed about being seniors, leading the team and working to get in the playoffs."

"We're ready to take that big step," junior quarterback Aaron Andrews said.

Even with a loss tonight, both Annandale and South County could still be one of the last teams to make the eight-team playoff, depending on the outcomes of other games. South County could clinch anywhere from the fourth seed to the eighth seed.

To get past Annandale, the Stallions will have to contain senior dual-threat quarterback Cason Kynes, the area's sixth-leading passer with 1,686 yards and 15 touchdowns and 705 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

During Annandale's four-game win streak, Kynes has averaged 306.3 yards of total offense and 3.25 touchdowns per game.

South County at Annandale Tonight, 7:30

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