Brentsville running back Justin Thomas (6) was misidentified in a photo caption on the front page of yesterday's Extra. (Published 11/07/99)

Brentsville senior Justin Thomas perused the area newspapers this week and did what he thought was some reading between the lines. There was talk of Manassas Park possibly finishing with a better record than Brentsville, but unlike the Tigers, not qualifying for the playoffs. Thomas took that to mean that maybe there was a perception that his school was squeaking into the postseason.

Thomas and company proved last night in a resounding 26-6 win over Bull Run District rival Manassas Park they do indeed belong in the Virginia A Region B playoffs. To boot, the win last night probably will result in Brentsville (7-3, 3-2) hosting a region semifinal next week.

"We just wanted to prove to them that we were going to playoffs for a reason--we're a good football team," said Thomas, who scored his team's first three touchdowns and also intercepted two passes, another standout performance for a player who two years ago needed to be persuaded to stick with the sport.

The loss most likely will end up being a sad ending to one of the more marked area turnarounds this season. Manassas Park (7-3, 3-2) had won just seven games total the past three seasons and had won just 17 games in eight years.

Brentsville, in winning for the eighth time in the last nine games against its archrival, played without starting quarterback Chris Jenkins, who suffered a head injury last week in the loss to district champion Madison County. In stepped senior backup Justin Waddle, who had attempted just one pass all season.

It did not take Waddle long to double that total. On the Tigers' second play of the game, he lofted a ball down the right sideline that Thomas snared for a 53-yard pickup to set up the first of two Thomas touchdown runs.

Waddle threw an equally clutch ball late in the third quarter on a fourth and six from the 11-yard line. Thomas hauled in the play-action pass running toward the right corner of the end zone. Waddle then ran for the two-point conversion, diving and stretching over the left pylon to give the Tigers a 20-6 lead.

That touchdown capped an 8 minute 44 second drive to start the second half, and that was exactly what Manassas Park wanted to avoid.

"We had said in the locker room that that was going to be the most important series in the game," Cougars Coach Jeff Lloyd said. "They just physically whipped us, and I just didn't think that was possible."

Brentsville's ball control--287 rushing yards, 19 first downs--kept junior Nick Bertrand, the area's leading rusher going into the game, from making much of an impact. Bertrand did reel off a 68-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but that was one of just nine carries. His other eight resulted in 15 yards. Manassas Park took just 12 snaps in the second half.

"We felt like that's what we had to do to be successful," Brentsville Coach Mike Madison said of his team's ball control mastery.

As for Waddle, he completed two passes in five attempts and threw one interception. He also capably guided the team in Jenkins's absence, and he was even the first Brentsville player through the handshake line. Waddle's relief stint might be short, however. There is a strong chance Jenkins could return to the lineup for the playoffs, assuming he gets a favorable medical report next week.

"Justin was a leader, and he kept his cool," Madison said. "He did all the things we asked him to do. . . . This was his night."

Waddle "prepared really hard for this week," Thomas said. "The backs take pride in helping him out. After the first snap, it was just like practice again."

Manassas Park (7-3)

Brentsville (7-3)

B--Thomas 6 run (kick failed)

B--Thomas 2 run (pass failed)

MP--Bertrand 68 run (kick failed)

B--Thomas 11 pass from Waddle (Waddle run)

B--Croushorn 14 run (kick failed)

RUSHING--Manassas Park: Treuting 5-4, Bertrand 9-83, Abrams 3-4, Newman 1-0; Brentsville: Thomas 21-111, Faith 11-46, Croushorn 21-129, Waddle 3-2.

PASSING--Manassas Park: Treuting 7-17-3, 59 yards; Bertrand 0-1-0; Brentsville: Waddle 2-5-1, 64 yards.

RECEIVING--Manassas Park: Thorton 4-41, Jenkins 1-11, Bertrand 2-7; Brentsville: Thomas 2-64.