Strasburg (3-1, 0-0)
at Manassas Park (3-1, 0-0)
Manassas Park is better than it has been in several seasons. Strasburg, a Virginia A Division 1 state semifinalist last season, might not be quite as good as some of its recent teams.
But has the gulf between the Bull Run District programs narrowed to the point where the Cougars can snap a series losing streak at least nine games long? In those nine losses, the Rams have outscored Manassas Park, 365-108, including 87-0 the past two seasons.
So history is not on the Cougars' side, and neither is the medical report. Senior running back James Fitchett is out for the season with a cracked shinbone, and sophomore running back/rover Jonathan Abrams has a separated shoulder, the severity of which has not been determined. Both players suffered their injuries two weeks ago. The Cougars were idle last week.
Manassas Park can make the offensive adjustments by giving junior wide receiver Walter Newman more carries out of the backfield and giving sophomore Ramon Trevino a greater role. But Abrams is almost irreplaceable on defense, and the Cougars will miss him in such a pivotal game.
"This could go a long way toward us accomplishing our goals," Coach Jeff Lloyd said. "It's not a game we can afford to lose."
Strasburg has beaten two West Virginia schools and Page County and lost to Stonewall-Mount Jackson.
Manassas Park's lone loss was by a touchdown to unbeaten Virginia AA team King George.
Potomac (2-2, 1-0)
at Osbourn (1-3, 0-1)
With Potomac's tendency to keep games close and with senior Rico Lloyd's game-breaking ability, the Panthers would have to be considered a dark horse for the Cardinal District title behind more obvious picks Hylton and Gar-Field.
Potomac is still a work-in-progress, however.
"Every play we're one block away from scoring on a big run . . . one penalty away from having a big gain," said Lloyd, who scored both touchdowns last week in a 13-7 road win over Woodbridge. "It's all the little things that when we get that together we're going to be a good team."
Potomac has beaten Osbourn the past two seasons, including 42-22 last year to cap a six-game winning streak. Lloyd had 136 offensive yards on just six touches.
Osbourn is coming off a 26-7 loss to Gar-Field in which the Eagles gave up more than 300 rushing yards.
Osbourn Park (1-3, 0-1)
at Woodbridge (1-4, 0-1)
Woodbridge has won at least the past eight games in this series, including a 20-0 victory last season that gave the Vikings their lone Cardinal District win.
Knocking off the Yellow Jackets would be the first step toward the Vikings salvaging what has been a difficult season, this before they have caught a glimpse of Hylton or Gar-Field. Woodbridge has lost to unbeaten teams Culpeper, Robinson and Eleanor Roosevelt and dropped a 13-7 game to Potomac last week.
The Vikings had a chance to win that game, and in large part they have senior linebacker Darryl Wilson to thank for it. Wilson in the fourth quarter sprinted down the sideline to tackle a receiver after a 67-yard pass play, saving a touchdown. Four plays later, with Potomac facing first and goal at the 1, Wilson recovered a fumble.
Osbourn Park, running out of a time-consuming I-formation, is coming off a pleasing performance in a 21-7 loss to No. 2 Hylton.
"We played to our strength, and they played to their strength, and their strength was a little bit better," Osbourn Park Coach Mike Feldman said. "I think [the Yellow Jackets] realized they played very well, so they did take a lot of good out of it."
No. 2 Hylton (4-0, 1-0)
at Stonewall Jackson (1-3, 0-0) Hylton shoots for its 21st consecutive win in what could be an overwhelming Cardinal District opener for the Raiders, still smarting from a 42-0 loss to Chantilly.
Hylton scored on offense, defense and special teams last season in a 45-0 win over the Raiders. Special teams will be a focal point this week. Against Osbourn Park, Coach Bill Brown was unhappy with the Bulldogs' special teams units because they were not always ready.
Hylton accomplished at least one thing last week by getting sophomore Ahmad Brooks more involved in the offense. Brooks caught three passes, one for a touchdown.
"In the early part of the season, we haven't been able to do as much as we'd like because he plays so hard at middle linebacker," Brown said of Brooks, the team's leading tackler.
Brooke Point (2-2, 0-1)
at Fauquier (2-2, 0-0) The Brooke Point defense is one of the more underrated units in the area this season, having shut out the North Stafford offense last week in a 7-0 loss (the score came on a punt return).
The Black-Hawks' defense has not allowed an offensive touchdown in eight quarters and has given up just 23 points all season.
Fauquier is coming off a bye week. The Falcons have not played since their 22-15 loss to Stonewall. They also have lost to Gar-Field. Senior fullback Eric Bailey has rushed 69 times for 373 yards and averages 14 tackles from his linebacker spot.
Now both in the Commonwealth District, Brooke Point and Fauquier did not meet last season.
Stafford (2-2, 1-0)
at Sherando (0-5, 0-1) There might not be a team around whose schedule has been as difficult as Sherando's. The Warriors, outscored 193-69, have lost to No. 9 Park View (4-0), Handley (4-0), Culpeper (5-0) and West Virginia schools Musselman (4-1) and Keyser (5-0). That's a collective record of 22-1.
If Stafford can follow up last week's 42-15 win over James Wood with another victory, that could help the Indians brace for their games the next two weeks against Culpeper and Brooke Point. Potomac and North Stafford loom on the schedule as well.
Now both in the Commonwealth District, Stafford and Sherando did not meet last season.
at Chantilly (2-2) Gar-Field did not scrimp on its nondistrict schedule, which has included a win at George Washington-Danville, a home loss to No. 19 Annandale and this game at Chantilly, whose only losses have been to ranked teams. The Chargers thumped Stonewall, 42-0, last week.
Gar-Field and Chantilly did not meet last season.
Chantilly, led by running back Marcello Squirewell (562 yards), is one of the Indians' three 1999 opponents to win a Division 6 state title in recent years. Annandale won in 1993 and 1994, Chantilly in 1996 and Hylton last season. Gar-Field won the state title in 1990.
James Monroe (2-2)
at Brentsville (4-0) Though this is not a district game, Brentsville this week finds itself in a similar position to Manassas Park in that the Tigers have an opportunity to settle a few scores from previous seasons.
James Monroe has beaten Brentsville each of the past three years by a combined 83-19. Last year's 21-6 loss was noteworthy for the fact that it marked the first varsity start for Tigers quarterback Chris Jenkins.
Brentsville is a Virginia A school and James Monroe is AA, but according to Virginia High School League figures, Brentsville has about 50 more students than James Monroe.
The Yellow Jackets have beaten Stafford and Courtland and have lost to Orange County and Charlottesville. Senior Ralph Brown rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-14 win over Courtland last week.
George Mason (2-2)
at Quantico (2-3) George Mason is coming off a bye week, and Quantico is coming off consecutive weeks it would like to forget--a 37-0 loss to Virginia Beach Catholic and a 48-14 loss to Randolph-Macon.
Bull Run District team George Mason has beaten Colonial Beach and Fairfield (Pa.) and lost to Stonewall-Mount Jackson and Wilson Memorial.
Mustangs senior tailback Ben Love has rushed 62 times for 505 yards.
George Mason beat Quantico, 42-20, last season.
George Mason at Quantico, 4
Hylton at Stonewall Jackson, 7:30
Potomac at Osbourn, 7:30
Osbourn Park at Woodbridge, 7:30
Gar-Field at Chantilly, 7:30
Brooke Point at Fauquier, 7:30
North Stafford at Culpeper, 7:30
Stafford at Sherando, 7:30
Strasburg at Manassas Park, 7:30
James Monroe at Brentsville, 7:30
Game of the Week
No. 13 North Stafford (4-0, 1-0)
at Culpeper (5-0, 1-0)
This is a Commonwealth District championship masquerading as a midseason game. The teams shared the district title last year, though Culpeper beat the Wolverines head to head.
North Stafford Coach Chris Beatty suggests packing a lunch for this game Friday night, and packing pajamas might not be a bad idea either. The teams have combined to throw 221 times this season, to 19 different receivers, and despite North Stafford senior quarterback Chris Ashinhurst completing 60 percent of his passes and Culpeper senior quarterback Mike Jenkins completing 52 percent, the scattered incompletions could cause the game to move at a glacial pace.
The Wolverines' lone touchdown last week in a 7-0 win over Brooke Point came on a punt return by senior Paris Edwards.
Last year, in a 17-10 loss to Culpeper, North Stafford also was held out of the end zone except for a punt return. The Blue Devils squelched the Wolverines' intermediate passing game.
But Culpeper Coach Lou Sorrentino, whose team has owned at least a share of the Commonwealth title all three of its years in AAA, considers corralling this North Stafford offense a much greater challenge.
"Last year they weren't as difficult to defend, now there's a whole different tempo," he said in reference to the Wolverines' no-huddle attack.
"They're even more wide open than they were last year."
While the North Stafford offense sputtered last week trying to adjust to Brooke Point defensive wrinkles, the Blue Devils' unit was truly clicking for the first time this season in a 74-20 dismantling of Sherando.
Culpeper is the epitome of balance, with Jenkins having thrown for 831 yards and the team having rushed for more than 1,000 yards, led by sophomore Jermaine Cropp and senior Brandon Jones, each with about 400 yards apiece.
Jenkins's primary receiver is senior Terence Dinkins, who has 22 catches for 377 yards and four touchdowns.
That blowout of Sherando is not indicative of the Blue Devils' season. Two wins, including one over Woodbridge, have been decided by one point and another by three points.
North Stafford expects the return this week of receiver Josh Baldwin, who missed the past two games with a knee sprain. He had eight catches his first two outings.
Ryan S. Smith