Every time that Loudoun Valley senior fullback Ben Cross looked across the line at the Handley defense in Friday's 28-20 loss to the visiting Judges, he felt as if he was running into the line of fire.

"Every time I came up to the line and I looked at their defense formation, I thought, 'Running up the middle is not going to be very easy,' " Cross said. "They had five guys stacked on our center. I wish I could get outside more."

Despite all the defensive attention, Cross rushed for 167 yards on 30 carries and scored two touchdowns (of 15 and 54 yards). He is still battling a sore left ankle that he injured in the Jefferson County game two weeks ago.

"We've got to be a little more wide open," Loudoun Valley Coach Mike Barton said. "Everybody knows that they've got to stop Ben Cross. We've got to get more people involved in the offense. One guy can't do it all. Their defense didn't even look at anybody else, yet Ben still had a big game."

Loudoun Valley (3-1, 0-1) lost its first game of the year, ending a six-game winning streak that dated back to last season. But Barton was pleased with the Vikings' effort against a team that is considered to be one of the best in the Northwestern District.

Handley (4-0, 1-0) advanced to the Group AA Division 3 semifinals last season. The Judges handed Loudoun Valley its worst loss of the 1998 season, 34-0, in Winchester. Cross, who was playing in his second game after missing the season's first two games with a sprained left ankle, was held to just 18 yards on nine carries--the lowest output of his career. He did not play in the second half of that game.

"Our kids laid it on the line," Barton said, referring to Friday's loss. "I'm proud of our kids. That was one heck of a high school game. Somebody had to lose, and unfortunately it was us."

Cross had rushed for 582 yards and eight touchdowns on 68 carries in the first three games of the season. His first carry on Friday--the Vikings' first offensive play--resulted in a 13-yard gain to the left side. Cross did most of his running up the middle--both of his touchdowns were on plays that he broke through the middle.

"I'm learning that it's hard to get outside from the fullback position," said Cross, who has switched to fullback this season. "It's better going right up the middle. The plays are not designed to go outside."

Loudoun Valley senior quarterback Anthony Long, on the other hand, was able to run outside. With 6 minutes 53 seconds left in the third quarter, he rolled right and then broke down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown, outrunning the Handley secondary.

"I saw that 80-yard touchdown run by Anthony and figured that if they stack the middle to stop me, I don't mind if someone else takes it 80 yards down the sideline to score," Cross said. "If they're willing to give up an 80-yard touchdown run, I say we take that all day, even if it means I get two yards on 19 carries."

"Ben Cross is a great running back," said Handley senior Adam Woods, who rushed for 143 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. "They have other good players, but we keyed on stopping Cross. He's just an outstanding athlete."

Handley (4-0, 1-0) 0 7 7 14--28

Loudoun Valley (3-1, 0-1) 7 0 7 6--20

LV--Cross 15 run (Draisey kick)

H--Woods 6 run (Reynolds kick)

LV--Long 80 run (Draisey kick)

H--Woods 47 run (Reynolds kick)

LV--Cross 54 run (kick failed)

H--Simmons 54 pass from Campbell (Reynolds kick)

H--Woods 42 run (Reynolds kick)

RUSHING--Handley: Woods 15-143; Loudoun Valley: Cross 30-167, Long 12-96.

PASSING--Handley: Campbell 11-24-1 196; Loudoun Valley: Long 2-8-0 18.

RECEIVING--Handley: Simmons 4-90, Dutton 4-72; Loudoun Valley: Carlson 1-9, Barton 1-9.