Before the season, Courtland Coach Ken Brown knew his team had the ingredients for a state championship. After all, the Cougars returned 26 seniors from a team that lost to Salem in the Northwestern Region finals last year.
But after concluding a 1-1 Group AAA Division 5 state championship season that made the school the first to win both AA and AAA state titles, what Brown remembers most about this year's squad ws its response to adversity.
"We had to adjust the lineup and make some changes after losing four starters to injuries," Brown said. "Some players had to go both ways and some players had to play positions they were unaccustomed to playing . . . but it made us a strong team. We knew we had two or three of the best players in the state going into the season, but this team had to overcome all sorts of adversity to accomplish what it did."
Courtland got off to a 4-0 start, but lost preseason all-America choice Tim Canada (6-foot-1, 222 pounds), a defensive end and a part-time running back for the season to an ankle injury. Injuries to all-State offensive lineman Todd Cook (6-0, 245), defensive back Dewey Jackson (5-10, 180) and running back Brian Culley (6-0, 170) followed in the next two weeks, leaving a once-deep Cougars' squad scrambling to learn new positions.
The Cougars nearly escaped the regular season unbeaten for the second straight year, but Fauquier, which eventually reached the AAA Division 6 state semifinals, knocked off Courtland in the ninth week, 16-14. Despite missing the four key players, Courtland had chances to defeat Fauquier, but an interception late in the game stopped a long drive.
After the Fauquier loss, the Cougars rebounded with almost 400 yards rushing in a 38-15 win over James Wood in the regular season finale.
Cook, Jackson and Culley rejoined the team for the playoffs, allowing several players, including all-State defensive back Stephan Banks (6-2, 200) to return to specialty status on offense instead of playing full time on both offense and defense.
Courtland posted 21-0 and 14-0 wins over Salem and E.C. Glass to capture the Northwestern Regional crown. Thanks to a blocked extra point in overtime, Courtland edged Phoebus, 22-21, to reach its destination, the state championship game.
Last Saturday, Courtland dominated play on the lines in defeating George Marshall of Falls Church, 21-7, for the schools' fourth state championship in its eight year history. In a battle of two Wing-T offenses, Courtland rolled up 250 yards rushing while holding Marshall to under 100.
Offensively, quarterback J.C. Hall ran for a pair of one-yard scores and running back Brian Culley, who rushed for almost 1,000 yards on the season, opened the scoring with a one-yard plunge.
Courtland, Park View Gymnastics Favorites beam, is joined by sophomore Jill Chapman in the all-around positions.
The pair will push each other, as they are strong competitors for individual honors. Chapman, who finished fourth in the regional vault event last year, has already come out ahead of her teammate in the season's first meet against Woodbridge and Gar-Field. Chapman was first and Peck second in the all-around, as Courtland won the meet.
Courtland, the AAA team champion two seasons ago, will be a strong competitor but lacks depth as Coach Jayne Hodges will have just six girls competing. Fauquier
The Falcons don't expect to finish in the top of the district but hope to improve on last year's performance. With juniors Kellie Snyder and Roberta Norskog, Coach John Kassell hopes to finish in the middle of the district and have a few regional qualifiers.
Snyder was injured last year but will be consistent in all-around competition, especially on the floor.
Tanya Horn, a transfer from Florida, will help on the floor and bars. J.J. Janoskia, a junior, is a good prospect on the beam and vaam and vault. Stacy Edmondson, the Falcons' top gymnast last year, decided to run indoor track this season. Gar-Field
Individual performance is the Indians' strongest asset. As they did not place in the district last year and are back with a young, inexperienced squad, Coach Mickey Sullivan is not expecting high team scores but hopes to have some of her gymnasts qualify for the regional and state tournaments.
Tracey Chopin, a junior, has made it to the state meet two years running. As a freshman she won the regional vaulting title.
Freshmen Kela Gibson, Suzanne Duckworth and Lisa Barnhill may add some depth after they've gained varsity meet experience in their respective events. James Wood
The Colonels expect to be improved this year with six returners carrying the load. Junior FeFe Williams is the strongest all-around prospect. Senior co-captains Lori Tatman and Ann Tubbs both add the parallel bars to compete in the all-around category for the first time.
Tatman will contribute in vaulting and the floor exercise. Tubbs talent on the balance beam promises to improve the Colonels chances this year. North Stafford
Newcomers Tanya Deane and Terri Fleming, two of seven freshman, will lead the Wolverines this season. The young team won the season-opener against Potomac with the help of sophomore Mindy Berg, the third-place balance beam finisher in the Region B meet.
Senior Stephanie Hornung returns to contribute as North Stafford attempts to challenge Courtland and Stafford. Osbourn Park
With the return of Missy Sokol after a two-year hiatus and Christy Mehlhorn, the Yellow Jackets are expected to be in winning form, despite a low finish in the district last year. Osbourn Parkas already won its first two meets of a season, defeating Stafford, James Wood, Gar-Field and Potomac.
Sokol, a senior, win the Virgina AAA state all-around title as a freshman when Osbourn Park won the team title after concentrating exclusively on club competition, Sokol is back on a high school team with a much smoother floor exercise and stronger tumbling ability.
Mehlhorn, the Yellow Jackets' or regional qualifier last year leads her team with all-around strength, especially the floor and bar routines. The senior who was also on the state championship team as a freshman, went to the state tournament last year after winning the Region II ????ing title, and finishing fifth on floor and in the all around categories. Mehlhorn's floor exercise led her to a sixth-place finish in that event at the state meet.
The rest of the team is young, with four sophomores and three freshman. But ??? enth-year coach Jo S????ter is expecting ??? team to be strong and to qualify a few ???? for the state tournament. Potomac
The Panthers return just one gymn sophomore Susan Riordan, but hope to improve on last season's fourth-place finish.
Juniors Jennifer Hughey and Ma?? Igle will add depth in their first season the squad. Christina St????, a freshman, is strong all-around competitor. Coach L. Eaton emphasized the talent of her ??? member squad and hopes skill will overcome the team's relative inexperience. Stafford
The Indians hope to improve on the third-place finish in the Region B meet. Senior Angie Sullivan, who finished four overall in that meet, will be an asset in achieving that goal. Kelly Harris also contributes four years of varsity experience.
Tiffany Lord, a sophomore, will specialize in the balance beam, vault and floor events, while Jennifer Cooper and Yvonne Gotico bring club experience to the team. Stonewall Jackson
This will be a learning season for the Raiders, who finished fifth in the district last season. With the return of three gymnasts, Coach Karen Luttan hopes her young team can be competitive.
Gerir Taylor, a junior, is the top all around competitor. Taylor as a regional and state qualifier on the uneven bar, Kristen Kales, also a junior, is a strong beam competitor for the ??????. Sophomore Julie Larson is a well balanced all around gymnast who will help boost Stonewall's record.
The other three team member are new to the squad but helped the Raiders score high against Courtland, but they lost 105-90. Woodbridge
Sophomore Mar4ci Anzalmo leads the Vikings, who finished fifth in the district. After two tough season-opening losses to Courtland and North Stafford, the strongest teams in the district, Coach ??? Bonaquiste is still optimistic.
Senior Cindy Short and junior Laura ??? Polo are also strong in all-around competition. The six other gymnasts add depth and can compete all-around whenever needed.
Three freshman, Cathy Weappa, Amy Short and Suzanne Griffiin, are an asset to team scoring with their strengths in the individual apparatus.