Patriots Get Special Talk On Skins' Turf
Junior cornerback Tim Murphy was resting comfortably in his seat on one of two yellow buses Tuesday afternoon as they waited to transport the No. 4 Park View High School football team back to the Sterling school.
The Patriots had just finished a special practice on the artificial turf field at Redskin Park in Ashburn in preparation for Saturday's Virginia AA Division 4 championship game at James Madison University's Bridgeforth Stadium, which also has an artificial surface.
But there was nothing artificial about what happened next.
Murphy looked out the window and saw his father, Jim, and Park View Coach Mickey Thompson moving toward the buses with Washington Redskins Coach Norv Turner, and "It was like, 'Wow, he's actually going to come and talk to us,' " Murphy said.
The Patriots all filed off the buses and crowded around Turner, who--after playfully pointing out senior linebacker Larry Eppard's Redskins' practice pants--gave the team a one-minute pep talk.
"He said that we're doing a pretty good job, and keep it up, and we're doing something unique," Murphy said.
And so completed what Thompson hopes was both an extraordinary and productive day. The team practiced for two hours at Redskin Park, running through the usual drills and overall routine. Thompson's goal was to have the team think that the only thing different was the surface beneath its feet.
"Just get used to the speed of the surface," Thompson said. "They're not going to let us warm up on the field Saturday, so I didn't want the first time they ever got on AstroTurf to be right before the game."
The occasion also gave the Patriots a chance to practice without spikes--they'll have to wear turf shoes or regular tennis shoes Saturday. Senior tight end/defensive tackle Joe Larson has borrowed turf shoes from a friend in college, but he said about half the team was going with just tennis shoes.
"I don't think it's going to make much of a difference, but you never know," Larson said. "It could play a key role, or it might not. We'll just have to wait and see."
Thompson said those were the only adjustments the team was making in preparation for the game. He also said practicing at Redskin Park probably prevented it from being just "a typical Tuesday practice." His players agreed.
"At first, I was thinking, 'Oh, great, another practice,' " Murphy said. "But then when I got on the field, it felt special, getting out on a pro field and practicing on a pro turf."
It might have been even more special for Larson, who unlike Murphy is a Redskins fan. (Murphy's loyalties lie with the San Francisco 49ers.)
"It was just really cool," Larson said. "You're out there on the field, and you keep thinking about it: All the Redskins and all the pros have practiced on this field. It's a really special feeling."
The players have Thompson to thank. On Monday, he called Dan Riley, the Redskins strength and conditioning coach who has also helped Park View and other teams on an informal basis over the years. Riley checked with Turner to see whether it would be all right, and the coach said no problem.
Thompson was hoping to get one more day of practice this week at the complex, but the Redskins' only off day was Tuesday.
The Road to Harrisonburg
* Park View will have a send-off for the football team tomorrow at 2:45 p.m. in the main gym. Parents and community members are welcome to attend.
* To get to the game, take Interstate 81 to Exit 245. Turn right at the end of the exit onto Port Republic Road. At stoplight, turn right onto the James Madison University campus (Bluestone Drive). Travel approximately one-quarter mile (past Newman Lake and several high-rise red brick structures). Bridgeforth Stadium will be on the left.
* An alternative: The Patriots Club has chartered a 47-passenger coach bus for people interested in going to Saturday's game. Cost is $15 per seat and includes round-trip transportation, movie and lunch. Bus will depart from Park View High School at 10:30 a.m. and return about 7 p.m. For reservations, call Debbie Polen at 703-444-1692.
Virginia AA Division 4 Final
Park View vs. Salem
at James Madison University, 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 4 Park View Patriots
Coach: Mickey Thompson, 10th year.
Record: 13-0 overall, Virginia AA Division 4 Region 2 champions.
Last week: Defeated host Lafayette, 48-19, in Virginia AA Division 4 semifinals.
Notes: The Patriots, after three years as a AAA school, are trying to win the state championship in their first year back at AA. Park View was AA in 1988, when it won its last state title. . . . The Patriots had 504 yards of offense in their win last week, well over their season average of 428.
Aug. 27: Sherando, W, 48-0
Sept. 10: at Courtland, W, 56-6
Sept. 18: at Osbourn, W, 25-3
Sept. 24: Liberty, W, 41-0
Oct. 2: at Handley, W, 42-17
Oct. 8: Warren County, W, 42-6
Oct. 15: at Potomac Falls, W, 41-0
Oct. 22: Loudoun Valley, W, 35-0
Oct. 29: at Loudoun County, W, 35-7
Nov. 5: Broad Run, W, 49-7
Nov. 13: Loudoun County, W, 37-21
Nov. 20: Charlottesville, W, 56-22
Nov. 27: at Lafayette, W, 48-19
When Park View Has the Ball
The Patriots will have to emerge as the superior athletes. Salem Coach Willis White, who runs a defense with only three starters heavier than 200 pounds, has assigned his players individual Park View players to follow and has told them not to look into the Patriots' backfield, lest they be distracted by the single wing's distinct snap patterns. "I don't think the single wing is a factor," White said. "I think Park View's athletes are the factor. They've got some great athletes." Patriots junior quarterback Nick Smith will lead the attack, as he has all season.
Coach: Willis White, 17th year.
Record: 13-0 overall, Virginia AA Division 4 Region 3 champions.
Last week: Defeated visiting Martinsville, 31-0, in Virginia AA Division 4 semifinals.
Notes: Salem has won the AA Division 4 final two out of the past three seasons, including last year's against Lafayette--which lost to Park View on Saturday. White has led his program to the state final five times. . . . The Spartans have won their last two playoff games by a combined 89-0.
Aug. 27: at Brookville, W, 40-14
Sept. 10: at Pulaski County, W, 41-21
Sept. 17: Cave Spring, W, 27-14
Sept. 24: at Rockbridge County, W, 52-7
Oct. 1: at Blacksburg, W, 40-0
Oct. 8: Lord Botetourt, W, 63-0
Oct. 15: William Byrd, W, 31-0
Oct. 22: Northside, W, 23-6
Oct. 29: at Alleghany County, W, 56-0
Nov. 5: Christiansburg, W, 30-0
Nov. 13: Jefferson Forest, W, 41-16
Nov. 20: Amherst County, W, 58-0
Nov. 27: Martinsville, W, 31-0
When Salem Has the Ball
The Spartans aren't flashy, but they are successful, having averaged 41 points a game this season. The team employs a pro set offense and throws 10 to 20 times a game, according to White. The Spartans usually will use at least four and sometimes as many as six running backs in one game, led by Dennis Haley--who has signed to play linebacker at the University of Virginia--and E.J. Thomas. Quarterback Andy Mullins has connected with tight end Ryan Millard, the team's leading receiver, on 13 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns.
Offensive Players to Watch
Park View FB Nelson Stickley--The 5-11, 196-pound senior has 1,272 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns this season. He may be able to run over Salem's small defense.
Salem QB Andy Mullins--The 5-11 senior has thrown for 1,088 yards and 13 touchdowns this season and has completed 64 of 112 pass attempts with just two interceptions.
Park View RB Dustin Dudinski--The senior is sure to be a factor. In '99, he has 547 yards and 10 touchdowns receiving and 532 yards and eight touchdowns rushing.
Defensive Players to Watch
Park View LB Joey Weisen--The junior is his team's leading tackler with 97 first hits and 66 assists and should be a key player as the Patriots try to keep Haley and Thomas from dictating the line of scrimmage.
Salem LB Chris Gumaer--The 6-0, 191-pound middle linebacker is integral in helping the defense compensate for its lack of size with quickness; he has 134 solo tackles and 51 assists this season.
Salem CB/PK Nic Schmidt--The 6-2 sophomore is 54 for 54 on extra point attempts and 9 for 11 on field goals, with a long of 48. He had a 51-yard attempt hit the crossbar and bounce off earlier this season.