Judging by passing yards, junior quarterback Nick Smith is the leader of the Park View High School football team. Judging by rushing yards, it's senior fullback Nelson Stickley. But though senior offensive lineman Andy Skinner may not have the gaudy statistics of his teammates, he does have their respect.
In fact, that may be an understatement.
"Kids look up to him," Patriot junior linebacker Joey Weisen said. "He knows a lot about football. It's the same with Coach [Mickey] Thompson. Everyone looks up to them. It doesn't matter what they say."
On the field, Thompson said, Skinner is more than just a dependable tackle who has been playing the position for the past three years. He's the player who usually blocks for teammates, such as Smith and Stickley, who have gotten most of the credit for the team's 11-0 record and 41 points-per-game average.
Off the field, Skinner is the player who keeps the team in control, Thompson said. Skinner knows when to tell a joke and when to get everyone serious.
"Before games, he's the one going around working everyone up," said senior defensive back Mike McDermott. "If you're just sitting there, kind of out of it, he'll come up to you and make sure you're ready. He doesn't do it in a loud way, just his way."
"This is his team, really," Thompson said. "He's the one that's got it going."
Skinner smiles sheepishly when he hears this and immediately deflects praise. He credits fellow seniors such as McDermott and linebacker Joe Larson, who he says provide just as much leadership. And, he adds, because the Patriots have so many seniors, the team doesn't need much leading.
"I just kind of talk to everybody; I don't exclude anybody; I get everybody involved," Skinner said.
Leadership is in Skinner's blood: His father, Mike, is the head coach at Centreville. When Andy was a Park View freshman, his father--then an assistant at the Clifton school--asked him if he'd like to play for the Wildcats. But Andy wanted to stay in Sterling, where he saw the potential for a great program.
"I thought Park View would be better as a football program," Skinner said, "and now my dad agrees with that, too."
Skinner has been successful off the field as well. He's a member of the National Honor Society, and last year he was treasurer of the Latin Club.
He started playing football in the third grade, just after his father completed a two-year stint as the head coach at Marshall High in Falls Church. He fit in as an offensive lineman right away and played center up until his freshman year at Park View.
When he arrived as a freshman, he was scared of his new coach, whom "it takes a while to get to know," Skinner said. He was moved to guard and gradually grew comfortable with Thompson.
He switched before his sophomore year to tackle, where he has played ever since. The position is especially important at Park View, because the Patriots' single-wing offense requires a right tackle who can pull with good skill.
"He wasn't blessed with unbelievable size or speed," Thompson said of Skinner, who stands 5 feet 11 inches and weighs 231 pounds. "He's just a hard-nosed kid."
Thompson praises Skinner's hard work in the weight room, saying the coaches have always been able to count on his presence there during the offseason.
Said McDermott: "If you weren't doing the lifting and doing the conditioning, he'd go talk to you to get you there. He got most of us down there, which is probably the reason for most of our success this year."