Broad Run, Briar Woods gear up for football season
As high school football teams sweat their way through two-a-day practices the next two weeks, I'll be making my way around Loudoun County for my own two-a-days.
First up: Broad Run and Briar Woods.
BROAD RUN (2009: 14-0, 6-0)
How do you replace the head coach of a program that has won back-to-back state championships and has not lost a game since 2007?
For first-year Broad Run Coach Matt Griffis, the recipe includes some things old and others new.
The transition from Mike Burnett (now the head coach at Tuscarora) to Griffis (formerly the offensive coordinator at Stone Bridge) has been eased by a holdover from Burnett's staff: Jason Dawson, who was promoted to defensive coordinator. His familiar face and emotional leadership have helped maintain the momentum of Broad Run's 28-game winning streak into training camp while Griffis focuses on the new challenges of the head coaching position and implementing a new offense and defense.
"The biggest thing for me was seeing how this new coaching staff would mesh together," Griffis said on Tuesday. "We're working well together, and the kids are adjusting well to a new practice routine. Today was the first practice we did not have to restart. It took us seven practices, but we're very detail oriented in what we do. If one guy screws up, we start all over."
Griffis also has stressed moving forward while respecting the past. He's not trying to change everything off the field, because the Spartans have their traditions and routines. But the new looks on the field are designed to highlight the talent this year's team possesses with an offense that Griffis has run to perfection up the road at Stone Bridge.
"The expectations are already here with back-to-back state championships," Griffis said. "I want these guys to understand accountability."
Much of the responsibility in the new single wing will fall on junior quarterback Connor Jessop, who matured quickly last year as the new trigger man on a team loaded with returning starters from the 2008 Virginia AA Division 4 state champion team. But instead of throwing the ball to receiver Adrian Flemming (now at Syracuse) or simply handing it to tailback T.J. Peeler (Pittsburgh), he's being molded into a running back himself while continuing to improve his passing skills. The biggest change may come in the huddle, however, where Griffis is hoping his quarterback will embrace the role of the team leader.
"Last year, when I came up, there were already leaders established on the team," Jessop said. "It's a lot different this year. I'm not always a vocal leader, but if that's what it's going to take for us to win, that's what I'm going to do. If we lose, I don't want it to be because 'he didn't work hard enough or do his best.'"
A bevy of new running backs will look for running lanes behind the big boys up front, who lack some of the size and experience of Broad Run's bruising lines from the past two seasons, but are digesting the new game plan well. Seniors Ryan Garrity, Tyler Lafollette, and Hunter Kleffman lead a group that also includes junior Jackson Matteo and Phillip James.
Defensively, the Spartans will switch from a 4-4 to a 3-5 to compensate for a lack of size and depth up front with more speed and blitzing capabilities in the linebacking corps. Derril Thomas - who is expected to step up in a running back role - is the only returning contributor from a secondary that gave up an average of 11 points per game in 2009. He's just one of a number of juniors vying for spots at the skill positions.