Whether it be a showdown of neighbors or a battle of former classmates, rivalry-week is a time when schools rally around their teams and fend off a common enemy. And while the days leading up to these games don't quite threaten "Dallas Week" in terms of intensity, by Friday it's difficult to find many good feelings between the schools involved.

Langley vs. McLean, Madison vs. Oakton, Annandale vs. Woodson, Park View vs. Broad Run and James Wood vs. Handley are just a few of the Northern Virginia rivalries that year after year entertain area football fans with exciting high school football. Regardless of the teams' relative position in the standings, the rivalry seems to guarantee a good football game.

Langley entered its final game last season at 7-2 and looked to their neighbors in McLean (2-7 at game time) to provide them with an easy schedule closer. Wrong.

McLean upset the Saxons, 23-7, helping to erase the bad memories that had accumulated in itsprevious nine games. "It was pretty exciting for us," said Highlanders' head coach Bill Hildbold, an assistant last year. "They were having a good year and we were not so it looked like it was going to be an easy win for them. But it's like any other rivalry, you have to throw the records out." The two teams will meet again November 6.

"You can really feel that everybody is ready," said Madison standout receiver Joey Jauch of the week leading up to the game with rival Oakton. "Everybody's talking and there's a lot more going on than if we were playing someone else."

"Over the years it's been our biggest game," agrees Madison coach Ned Garber. "The schools are less than a mile apart and the kids all know each other. It's for the bragging rights of Vienna."

David MacDonald's touchdown run in the final two minutes carried Madison to a 24-18 victory over its nemesis this year and, in addition to making a local hero of MacDonald, it quieted a domestic dispute.

MacDonald's three brothers played for Oakton before a boundary change forced David to attend Madison. "They used to tease me a lot but now they don't give me any garbage -- not since we beat them."

But, McLean and Vienna are not the only places where neighbors tussle. The formation of a new school in Loudoun County in 1976 and the redistricting that accompanied it created a scene reminiscent of the civil war battles that took place on the Loudoun battlefields. When Broad Run squared off against Park View, families as well as schools were divided.

"We play it {the rivalry} down a little bit now but it was pretty nasty back then." said Park View athletic director Dan Baker. "That first year we actually had brothers playing against each other."

And when members of the Broad Run faithful trotted a turkey out on the field in front of the Park View crowd, "the point was well taken," said Baker.

The annual winner of the Broad Run-Park View game takes home the Lower Loudoun Little League Football Trophy, a symbol of gridiron superiority to display prominently in the winner's school for a year. And as if the rivalry needs any more fuel, the Baker family gets to flaunt the hardware each year regardless of the outcome -- Dan's wife Karen is the athletic director at Broad Run. And though some interesting dinner discussions might be expected, the Bakers have kept things in perspective. "Initially it was a problem," said Dan. "But now we leave that {the rivalry} at school."

This season the two Northwestern District teams close out the year November 6 at Park View. On the same night Loudoun Valley hosts Loudoun County in the battle of Leesburg.

Football fans in Annandale have watchedone of the biggest rivalries every year since 1964. And when neighbors, Annandale and W.T. Woodson, also happen to be two of the perennial football powers in the Northern Region, the rivalry has extra importance.

Though the series between the two Fairfax schools suffered when Annandale left the Northern District seven years ago, it is still the game of the year for both schools.

The students at Woodson and Annandale live near each other and often play together on summer league teams. And when they meet in the fall, "you can throw the records out the window," said Woodson's athletic director Phil Turner. "It's always a good game." The schools have played each year since 1964 and though Annandale holds a 16-9 lead in the series, the average margin of victory has been only three points.

Annandale coach and athletic director, Bob Hardage, can recite key plays from every game in the series, emphasizing the importance of the contest. In 1981, Woodson finished the regular season undefeated, including a 10-0 win over Annandale. However, the Atoms got revenge in the regional finals that year with a 7-6 win.

A touchdown on the last play of the game and a two-point conversion after time had expired gave Annandale a 15-14 win in the 1982 classic. In 1984, Andy Heck, who now plays for Notre Dame, scored for Woodson with about a minute to play to give the Cavs a 14-6 lead. Annandale came back to score as the clock ran down, but Woodson's defense held on the conversion attempt to preserve the 14-13 victory.

This year there were more dramatics as the Cavaliers scored on a William Weaver 51-yard run for a 14-13 victory, the sixth straight win for Woodson in the rivalry.

"I've only been at Woodson for four years," said Woodson head coach Ken Poates after the game. "But I've been in Fairfax County about 19 years and I know how big it is to win this game."

The Handley-James Wood game for the championship of Winchester, has been the subject of autumnal arguments for a quarter of a century. Handley broke a nine-year losing streak to cross-town rival James Wood with a 14-7 victory in the season opener this year. The 25-year old rivalry has become a community event in which the citizens of Winchester are often as intense as the players.

"You don't have to say much to the kids, it's just a good, heated rivalry. But it's real intense between the adults," said Handley coach Ron Lindon. "For the older people in the community, it's important."

Because many of the rival schools are no longer in the same district, the importance is somewhat diminished and the games have to be played early in the season to avoid district scheduling conflicts. However, in many cases the rival game is reserved for the last week of play. For some it's a way to top off the season and for some a chance to salvage it.

This season's final few weeks will see some of the area rivals square off again. The three Arlington schools (Wakefield, Yorktown and Washington-Lee) continue their round-robin test of county supremacy. Wakefield played the others early in the year, and on November 6th Yorktown will host Washington-Lee. In the Commonwealth District November 6th marks the night Woodbridge plays at Gar-Field (a game that attracted over 15,000 spectators in 1974) and North Stafford at Stafford .

Though the level of intensity changes from school to school, the week leading up to the game is standard. Cheerleaders organize pep rallies and other spirit-raising events. Each day of the week leading up to Friday night has a particular theme relating to the game. At Handley, the students create a spirit chain, each link costing a small amount of money which goes to help a local charity. It's a way to ease the tension, create some school spirit and make the game fun. But does it work?

"It's a big game. I guess you could call it fun," said Handley's Lindon. "It's fun when you win but it's not particularly fun when you lose. That's for sure."