AA REGION II DIVISION 4
A reenergized Broad Run routs Sherando, heads back to states
Late in the first half of Friday's AA Region II Division 4 final against Sherando, Broad Run quarterback Connor Jessop threw a tight spiral to Adrian Flemming in the back of the end zone to increase the Spartans' lead to 14-0.
The scene on the sideline was familiar -- a cluster of coaches sporting maroon polo shirts despite the frigid Ashburn air and a quarterback trotting to the sideline for high-fives.
Throughout an emphatic 36-13 rout of the Warriors that secured a second consecutive region title and sends the Spartans to the state playoffs again, defending state champion Broad Run closely resembled the team that brought home the program's first state title a year ago. The swarming defense was overwhelming in support of an offense led by a power running game and a quarterback who has become more of a playmaker down the stretch. Even the coaches standing on the sideline with goose bumps covering their arms fit the mold of last year's staff.
"It seemed to work last year, so I don't get away from it," Broad Run Coach Michael Burnett said. "I kind of stick to the same script most of the time."
The Spartans (12-0) were a far cry from their usual dominant selves in last week's 34-27 semifinal win over Liberty. For the first time in recent memory, Broad Run was missing the spark that had fueled its run of 26 consecutive victories.
"That's kind of our trademark -- that we're going to play with enthusiasm and passion," Burnett said. "We just didn't feel like we had it last week, and we told the kids, 'Whatever happens, let's not let that happen again.' "
Broad Run went back to work Friday, riding senior tailback T.J. Peeler in the early going and then opening things up with Jessop, a sophomore who has taken the mantle from older brother Chris, who led the Spartans to the state title as a senior last year.
Following a first-quarter touchdown plunge by Peeler, it was Jessop who helped build a 21-0 halftime lead with the 9-yard strike to Flemming and a 1-yard dive for a touchdown four plays later following the first of two recovered onside kicks.
"They're the same person," Peeler said of Connor and Chris Jessop. "They play just alike. They never panic, and they just come ready to play. He reminds me exactly of his brother."
The hard-hitting defense that provided the team's backbone during last season's run was at it again against Sherando, holding the Warriors (9-3) to 11 yards and a single first down in the first half. The Spartans forced three turnovers on the night and outgained their opponents, 231-11, in a dominant first-half display.
Peeler led the way with 159 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries, and Jessop completed 7 of 13 passes for 120 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Senior defensive lineman Frank Foreman had two sacks for the Spartans, who now must leave the friendly confines of Spartan Stadium to face the winner of the Region I final between Powhatan (11-0) and Chancellor (9-2), which was to take place Saturday.
"It's a new experience," Burnett said. "We know whoever we play is pretty good. At this point we just tell our kids, 'Let's just give us the opportunity to play one more week.' "