Game of the Week
Manassas Park (7-2, 3-1) at Brentsville (6-3, 2-2)
Each team finds itself in an enviable, yet bittersweet, position.
Brentsville has sewn up a Region B Division 2 playoff berth. But the Tigers are expected to play this week--and maybe the rest of the season--without junior quarterback Chris Jenkins, who suffered a head injury in the 34-18 loss at Madison County last week. Senior Justin Waddle will take over for Jenkins.
At least two other Brentsville regulars--running back/defensive back Justin Thomas (ribs) and lineman Jackie Sisouphonh (knee)--also are questionable. The Tigers need to win to avoid entering the postseason on a three-game losing streak.
"We have some injuries, but win, lose or draw, there can't be any excuses," Brentsville Coach Mike Madison said. "This is part of the game; it's just that it's an aspect we haven't had to face much this year. Other teams have injuries and play. We just have to play through the injuries."
Jenkins and Thomas were crucial in the 21-14 win over Manassas Park that snapped the Tigers' seven-game losing streak last season. Jenkins's interception in the end zone with less than a minute to play sealed a game Brentsville had led 21-0 thanks in part to two Thomas touchdown runs.
Fate, not injuries, is the problem for Manassas Park. The Cougars would be 8-2 with a win yet conceivably could be squeezed out of the Region B Division 1 playoffs.
Four teams will qualify. Central earns one of the spots as the James River District champion. Either Luray or Riverheads, which play each other this week, will qualify as the Shenandoah District champion. That leaves two wild-card spots.
If Luray knocks off unbeaten Riverheads, Luray would qualify as a district champion and Riverheads would earn a wild card spot by virtue of its superior Virginia High School League power rating. That would leave just one playoff spot for Stonewall Jackson-Mount Jackson and Manassas Park to tussle over.
In short, Manassas Park needs to beat Brentsville and pull for Riverheads (9-0) to beat Luray (6-3). The Cougars also would qualify if they win, Luray wins and Stonewall (7-2) loses to Buffalo Gap (5-4). Losses by Luray, Manassas Park and Stonewall would drag Strasburg (6-3) into the playoff picture.
"All we can do is win and hope everything takes care of itself," said Manassas Park Coach Jeff Lloyd, whose team does not get VHSL points for its win over Quantico. Had that victory been against a public school, with a 5-5 record like Quantico's, Manassas Park would have gained the necessary VHSL points to have already clinched a playoff berth.
In last year's game against Brentsville, fumbles set up both Manassas Park scores, and yet another fumble gave the Cougars the ball back with about three minutes left. A 40-yard completion on fourth-and-14 sustained a drive that ended with Jenkins's pickoff.
Brentsville has won seven of the past eight games in the series. Other than a 22-21 loss in 1995, the Tigers have outscored Manassas Park 255-55 during that span.
No. 2 Hylton (9-0, 5-0) at Potomac (5-4, 3-2)
Hylton fine-tuned some basics, such as line technique and handling blocks properly in the defensive backfield, last week in a 34-7 win over Osbourn, the Bulldogs' 25th consecutive victory.
"Things like that really make a huge difference," Hylton Coach Bill Brown said. "A whole lot of little things become really big things if you don't correct it."
Senior Quintin Beltran became the second Hylton running back to top 100 yards in a game this season by carrying eight times for 126 yards against Osbourn. A touchdown run of about 40 yards was called back because of a clip.
"Quintin got a little frustrated the week before against Gar-Field," Brown said of Beltran's seven rushes for minus-seven yards. "The way things unfolded that night, there wasn't a lot there for him. He was a little discouraged with what went on, and he really wanted to come out and have a good game."
The Hylton football program this week received a banner from Fox for being ranked in the inaugural Fox Fab 50 national high school rankings. Brown said the banner likely will find a home in the school's weight room. The Bulldogs began the season ranked 46th; they now are No. 36. (Hampton is No. 6, and Seneca Valley is No. 21).
Potomac, which went 5-0 in its road games, is looking for its first home victory of the season and its third consecutive win overall. Seven of the Panthers' nine games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Potomac beat Stafford last week, 20-13, despite committing six turnovers.
Hylton beat Potomac three times last year--twice during the regular season and again in the Northwestern Region Division 6 semifinals. The teams entered the regular season finale with unbeaten district records.
Hylton leads the series 10-1 and has outscored Potomac 336-109 in those 10 victories. In the three games last year, the scoring difference was even more pronounced: 120-27.
Woodbridge (4-5, 3-2) at No. 19 Gar-Field (7-2, 4-1)
Gar-Field fans cannot complain about not getting their money's worth this season. The Indians have gone to overtime in three of their past four games--wins against Potomac and Osbourn Park and a loss to Hylton.
If recent history is an accurate indicator, the tight scores could continue this week and into the postseason.
Gar-Field has won the past four games in the Woodbridge series by a total of 26 points. In the past eight meetings, the largest margin of victory for either team has been two touchdowns. Five times during that span, it was a touchdown or less.
And in the Northwestern Region Division 6 playoffs, Gar-Field will face either Hylton, a team the Indians lost to, 17-16, or George Washington-Danville, a team the Indians beat, 9-7, in the season opener.
What do the Indians get out of playing so many close games?
"Tired," Coach Tony Labozzetta said. "But as long as we win, it doesn't matter how long it takes."
With the postseason berth locked up, Labozzetta thinks his team might play more relaxed against Woodbridge.
"This is the first week it hasn't been a pressure game for us," he said. "We'll play to win, obviously, but at least it's not a type of situation where if you don't win, you never play again."
The Indians will be without junior fullback Greg Johnson the rest of the season. Johnson broke his wrist last week in the 24-17 triple-overtime win over Osbourn Park.
In Gar-Field's 20-13 win over Woodbridge in the season finale last year, the Vikings scored on an apparent one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Abey Malave-Lopez with 16 seconds left. But that score was negated by a holding penalty. On the next play, Joe Blount made an interception, his second of the game, to clinch the win for the Indians. Woodbridge had led 13-0 in the second quarter.
North Stafford (8-1, 4-1) at Stafford (3-6, 2-3)
North Stafford has clinched a Northwestern Region Division 6 playoff spot and, with a win over Stafford, would travel in the first round to play George Washington-Danville, the champion of the four-team Western District.
If the Wolverines were to lose to Stafford, and Gar-Field beat Woodbridge, then North Stafford would finish as the region's fourth seed and play its region semifinal at Hylton. Gar-Field would travel to Danville.
North Stafford posted its lone shutout last season against Stafford in a 28-0 win.
Stafford has dropped four consecutive games, including 20-13 to Potomac last week on two long touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Stonewall (2-7, 1-4) at Osbourn Park (3-6, 2-3)
Osbourn Park pulled out a 24-21 win over Stonewall last year to snap a 22-game losing streak overall and an 11-game series losing streak. Both sour stretches were lengthened because of four games the Yellow Jackets had to forfeit in 1997.
Osbourn Park Coach Mike Feldman thought winning that 1998 season finale served as a springboard for this fall. The team won with ball control--no passes attempted--and by taking advantage of turnovers and shortening the game, much the style the Yellow Jackets have tried to play this season. Also, defensive back Devin McElfish picked off three passes.
"[Winning the Stonewall game] kind of set the tone for this year," Feldman said. "I think it was critical because we were able to win, and in a certain way."
Stonewall, with the bulk of its roster returning, is looking to set a similar tone for next season.
"They remind me a lot of us last year," Feldman said.
Besides the three wins this season, Osbourn Park's most since 1993, the Yellow Jackets lost to Stafford by one point and to Gar-Field last week in triple overtime. A fourth win this week would equal the number of victories the program totaled the past five seasons combined.
Stonewall senior John Puvogel, who caught 12 passes against Osbourn Park in last year's season finale, rushed for 109 yards and caught six passes last week in a 27-7 loss to Woodbridge.
"He does everything those folks ask him to do," Feldman said. "He's probably taping ankles, too."
This is the first season since 1993 that Stonewall and Osbourn Park have met just one time. Also, Osbourn Park could notch wins over Stonewall and Osbourn in the same season for the first time since Osbourn joined the Cardinal District in 1996.
Osbourn (1-8) at Brooke Point (6-3)
Osbourn surprised Hylton last week by lining up in the single wing offense, the antiquated attack that No. 6 Park View has successfully dusted off in recent years. Osbourn had gotten a taste of the single wing by playing Park View this season.
"We thought we should just try it because our scout team ran it so well," Eagles Coach Randy Bove said.
Osbourn had reason to try something new. The Eagles figured they were outmanned lining up in their wing-T against No. 2 Hylton, and the dress rehearsal against the defending state champions could help the coaches decide whether to install the offense next season. The change also might have refreshed a team that had scored just 60 points in eight games.
Against Hylton, Osbourn used two offensive units, which alternated throughout the game.
"The kids had fun with it," Bove said. "We're going to think about it in the offseason and see what we have coming back."
This week's game will be an interesting one for Bove--not just to see how the single wing fares against Brooke Point, which has allowed an area-low 66 points, but also because the coach played at Stafford for current Brooke Point Coach Tom Berry.
Berry recalls that defensive back Bove, despite his 165-pound frame, volunteered to play center when that position unexpectedly came open at the start of the 1986 season, Bove's senior year.
"Randy was probably an overachiever," Berry said. "He was willing to do anything to help the team."
Brooke Point has beaten Osbourn each of the past three seasons, including 20-10 last year in Week 4, the final high school meeting between Black-Hawks running back Daniel Davis and Osbourn linebacker Elmer Holmes.
In the second half, Davis scored all three Black-Hawks touchdowns after carrying nine times for no yards in the first two quarters. Osbourn led 10-0 in the third period.
Unlike most contracts, which are two-year pacts, the Osbourn-Brooke Point deal was just for this season. Brooke Point will have one fewer date available for nondistrict games next year because of new school Colonial Forge joining the Commonwealth District. Colonial Forge played a predominately junior varsity schedule this season.
Stonewall Jackson at Osbourn Park, 7:30
Osbourn at Brooke Point, 7:30
Hylton at Potomac, 7:30
Woodbridge at Gar-Field, 7:30
North Stafford at Stafford, 7:30
Manassas Park at Brentsville, 7:30