Weekend walk-through: Virginia
Northern Region game to watch: No. 5 Lake Braddock (2-0) at No. 12 Westfield (1-1), Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Though No. 5 Lake Braddock defeated Westfield, 10-9, last season and downed Robinson in the region playoffs en route to a state runner-up finish, the relationship between the Bruins and those two Concorde District powers feels almost like that of a little brother trying to prove he can play with the older boys, too.
In advance of its match-up against the No. 12 Bulldogs on Thursday night, the talk around Lake Braddock this week has been about taking advantage of an opportunity to show it belongs.
"This is one game, early in the year, it's not going to make or break us," said Bruins Coach Jim Poythress, whose team plays in the Patriot District. "... But we want to solidify our place amongst the elite schools. That's what everything has worked for, to try to crack that eggshell and get in with the elite schools of the 'greatest district in the history of mankind,' the Concorde, right?"
Just two weeks into the season, there are few doubts among the rest of the Northern Region that the Bruins are a state title favorite.
Lake Braddock (2-0) outscored its first two opponents, Langley and W.T. Woodson, 101-17. Senior quarterback Michael Nebrich, a Connecticut recruit, has thrown for 569 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions and rushed for 201 yards and four more scores. Wide receiver Matt Zanellato, a Robinson transfer, has hauled in 17 catches for 373 yards and six touchdowns.
Whether they can replicate that production against Westfield (1-1), which has one of the area's top defenses, is the question. In its season-opening loss, the Bulldogs held second-ranked Stone Bridge, an offensive juggernaut, to seven points, its third-lowest point total in 10-plus seasons.
Last season, Nebrich threw five interceptions against Westfield. His ability to avoid those mistakes will be vital to the Bruins' success.
"I've thought about it since seven-on-sevens [when] we played them a couple times and I threw a couple more picks," Nebrich said. "But it's not something that's going to affect my play. Once Thursday night comes, I'm not going to think about it. [I'm] going to come out, do what I've been doing all season long and hopefully those numbers will stay down this time."
Around the Northern Region
Yorktown (2-0) faces its biggest test of the young season against Centreville (2-0). The Patriots' defense scored two touchdowns and gave up 160 yards of offense while cruising past Madison, 42-0, last week. Expect Yorktown's rangy and quick defenders to try to swarm Centreville's offense, which has rushed for nearly 500 yards this season.
Prince William/Stafford game to watch: Potomac (1-2) at North Stafford (2-0), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
At times this season, special teams have been not so special for Potomac. The Panthers (1-2) missed a potentially game-tying field goal near the end of regulation in a three-point loss to No. 17 Battlefield. Last week they fell behind Stafford 10-0 after the Indians returned the opening kick for a score and recovered a fumble off the subsequent kickoff.
But it was special teams that salvaged that 24-23 win over Stafford. The teams each scored touchdowns in overtime, but Potomac junior Shawn Andrews and senior Dionjae Anderson blocked the Indians' extra point to lift their team to its first win of the season and just the program's fourth victory in the last 20 games.
"It's slowly turning," first-year Coach Jerry Roadcap said. "We've outgained everybody we've played so far, it's just getting that attitude or the confidence that it's going to end up working out for them. Sometimes I think they wait for something bad to happen because it's been happening for them as opposed to making something good happen. Getting over that hump has been a little bit difficult."