When Dave Huckestein took over the Stonewall Jackson boys basketball program last year, he believed the job description called for an attribute unnecessary at many schools--the ability to brainwash.
From what Huckestein heard, the Raiders did not believe they could compete with the programs on the eastern end of Prince William County. Stonewall had gone 2-31 against Gar-Field, Hylton, Potomac and Woodbridge the previous four seasons, continuing a long string of losses to those schools.
"It's my belief that they had somehow embedded on their brains that the western end can't compete with the eastern end," said Huckestein, whose team finished 8-4 in the Cardinal District and notched wins over Gar-Field, Hylton and Potomac. "It's just something you have to keep pushing: We can win. I said my goal was to win the state championship. If you want to win the region, district and state you have to beat the teams on the other end of county. I said we were going to beat those teams."
Early on, Huckestein was no prophet. His team lost nine of its first 11 games, but soon pulled off a one-point upset of Potomac and won 10 of its final 12 games to conclude the season 12-11.
"Once you won a game, it started a domino effect," Huckestein said. "Once they believed they could do it, that's all it took. The big thing is believing. Having everyone believe they can win. The community, the staff, the kids. You just have to get into their heads that they're going to win.
"We didn't do any symbolic stuff like stomp on a Woodbridge uniform or burn a Potomac uniform because I didn't want them to ever perceive that those teams or those kids are so much better. I didn't want them to think that these teams are way up here and we're way down here."
Stonewall's ascent has inspired boys basketball players at other Manassas schools.
"I thought they were like us, an all right team," Osbourn senior guard Jon Latimer said. "But they proved themselves."