What do the defenses of the Robert E. Lee, Osbourn Park, Osbourn, Fauquier, Potomac and North Stafford football teams have in common?
For one, they have all failed to stop unbeaten Stonewall Jackson's Andre Southerland.
The 5-foot-11, 179-pound senior running back has run over and around these squads, amassing 1,219 yards in six outings this year.
"I try to get as many yards as I can each time I get the ball," Southerland said. "I like sweeps and cutting back off blocks. I enjoy running up the middle. It's fun to get those tough yards -- just putting your head down and powering in."
Last Friday, Southerland beat North Stafford by gaining 187 yards on 39 punishing carries. Jackson was trailing, 8-7, with 2:39 left before Southerland gained 33 yards on six attempts, including a game-winning three-yard touchdown run with 41 seconds remaining.
"He is a very difficult back to bring down," North Stafford Coach Jimmy Null said. "I thought we had him stopped several times but he's so powerful that he got away. He took a beating during the game but kept coming back all the time. Without a doubt, he is the best back we've played against this year."
Southerland is one of the best all-around backs any Virginia team will face this season. His upper body strength, speed and slashing cuts make him difficult for any defense to contain.
"Andre is a great back. He makes the offense look good," said Jackson Coach Jim Powell, who has guided his Raiders to a 6-0 record. "He is a power runner with good speed. People just bounce off him. In each game we try to control the ball and Andre pretty much controls each game."
Southerland's best effort came two weeks ago against Potomac. He rushed for 253 yards on 32 carries, and scored two touchdowns.
"Southerland has tremendous instincts," said Potomac Coach Bill Brown. "He knows when to go outside or when to cut back against the grain, and he reads his blocks very well. He runs equally hard inside as he finesses outside. It's just real tough to get a hold of him."
In the Raiders' third game of the season, starting quarterback Craig Summers was injured and sidelined for the year. Having to put in a sophomore, Powell had little choice but to let Southerland carry the ball more. Southerland accepted the responsibility in stride, gaining 224 yards on 22 carries in Jackson's next victory, against Fauquier.
"Ever since we lost our first-string quarterback I've been getting more responsibility," Southerland said. "I was kind of scared at first but everybody knew what had to be done."
If Southerland was scared, Fauquier and other teams had reason to be petrified. Southerland has no qualms about running behind an offensive line he gives full credit.
"My line does a real good job of making nice-size holes," Southerland said. I appreciate them and they appreciate me."
"It's great blocking for Andre. You don't have to have a tremendous block. All he needs is a little seam," said offensive guard Jim Shorten. "It takes a lot to knock him off his feet. His running takes a lot of pressure off us."
Teammate Wayne Morrison agrees.
"It's not very hard to block for Andre," said Morrison, a 6-2, 226-pound offensive tackle. "All you have to do is hold your block for a couple of seconds and Andre does the rest. You feel very confident knowing Andre is behind you. If you can spring him on their defensive backs he can usually beat them."
"I try to help the team in any way possible," Southerland said.
Averaging nine yards per carry is a good way to help.