After a surprise trip to the playoffs last year, the Edison football team entered this season among the favorites in the National District. The No. 19 Eagles played like it, going undefeated in the district, posting five shutouts and outscoring their opponents, 288-50. Edison, the top seed in Division 5, will host South Lakes in a semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Edison (9-1), which lost 20-14 in overtime at Madison in the 2001 Division 5 semifinals, has allowed more than one touchdown only once this fall, in a 25-21 Week 2 loss at home to West Potomac.
"Our seniors have been a resilient class," said Edison Coach Vaughn Lewis. "They believe in themselves and refuse to lose. They are a very determined bunch."
Edison's seniors lost one game as freshman, and Lewis kept the group of 16 players together the next year, when they went undefeated in junior varsity. They lost two varsity games last season, and all returned for 2002.
Senior running back Mark Beach leads Edison with 1,220 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Both numbers are tops among Northern Region postseason participants.
"Our quickness could give South Lakes some difficulty, but [South Lakes] is a bigger, stronger team that is very athletic and has a good balance on offense of throwing and running," Lewis said.
South Lakes (7-3) is coming off a loss to Langley. The Seahawks will finish with only their second winning season in the past 11.
W.T. Woodson Breaks Through
W.T. Woodson struggled for postseason berths for nearly a generation. For much of the 1980s and part of the '90s, the Cavaliers toiled in the ultra-competitive Northern District. Then realignment placed the Cavaliers in the Concorde District.
With its enrollment declining each year, Woodson proved no match for burgeoning programs such as Centreville and Oakton and a revived Chantilly. At one point in the mid-'90s, Woodson lost 23 games in a row.
After moving to the Liberty District in 1999, the Cavaliers found the playing field a bit more level. Two years ago, Woodson shared the district title, but missed the playoffs by a slim power point margin. Last season it suffered three overtime losses and finished 3-6.
The team broke through this season, posting an 8-2 mark and gaining its first playoff berth since 1981.
Woodson will play host to Madison at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a Division 5 semifinal. The Cavaliers beat the Warhawks, 7-2, in Week 4, on a third-quarter touchdown catch by junior tight end Ryan Hamel. That evened Woodson's mark at 2-2, and the team has not lost since.
Sixth-year Woodson Coach Mark Cox said his players' adjustment to defensive coordinator Paul Labazzetta's team-oriented scheme has been the key to this year's success. Woodson has allowed only one touchdown over its past four games. And first-year quarterback junior Mike Solomon, taking over for Andrew Hartigan (now at Robinson), has provided a leadership spark.
The Cavaliers have scored only one touchdown in each of the past three games, all coming on short runs by powerful sophomore running back Joseph Martin.
A Cross-Country Odyssey
The Jefferson girls' cross-country team limped into Saturday's Virginia AAA meet, but marched to an unprecedented runner-up trophy.
While the boys were favored all season to win the school's first state championship, the girls' trek to second place was as treacherous as the rain-soaked course at Great Meadow in The Plains.
The odyssey began with seniors Sarah Levine and Shauneen Garrahan coming off injuries that had sidelined them for the outdoor track season. Late in September, senior Leah McKay injured her Achilles' tendon, and Levine twisted her knee the day before the prestigious Great American Cross-Country Festival in North Carolina.
"She basically traveled all that way to warm up," Coach Matt Ryan said. "But they dealt with injuries and adversity as well as the guys dealt with expectations."
Just as the injury problems seemed to subside, the sniper attacks halted training and competition for three weeks. But when Jefferson regrouped to win the Concorde District title, Ryan said he was impressed with his team's dedication during the layoff.
"They all ran on their own and stayed in shape. To some extent, they all have to be students of the sport and know what's needed, and you could tell that when they ran well [after the layoff]."
Still, Jefferson's third straight state berth was only ensured when senior Boriana Bakaltchev and sophomore Kathyrn Schleckser -- normally the team's fifth and sixth runners -- filled in for McKay, who sat out the Northern Region meet with a sore hip.
"The girls who ran four and five at regionals had the heat on them," said Ryan, whose team has qualified six out of seven years, second only to Lake Braddock's seven-straight trips. "It's a combination of being motivated by the guys' success and enjoying the obscurity it gives them."
And all the injuries gave Ryan a glimpse of what next season will be like when only junior Jen Dolson returns from the top five.
Garrahan may be missed the most despite running only one season of cross-country. The former tennis and soccer player was Jefferson's highest finisher at 14th. She had run the 1,000- and 1,600-meter events at the indoor state meet before injuring her shin, so Ryan knew of her talent.
"No mystery there, it's just that she had high expectations but no experience," he said.
A Volleyball Barrier Falls
Christi Moot won't be around when next year's state volleyball tournament rolls around. The senior outside hitter, who this season helped Centreville become the first Northern Region team to advance beyond the AAA state quarterfinals, said she hopes to be playing college volleyball by then. But that fact doesn't keep Moot from getting excited about the Wildcats' future.
"Now that we've broken the barrier and gotten to the semifinals, we'll have a lot more confidence," said Moot, who had 41 kills and 71 digs in the Wildcats' two state tournament matches. "We know now that we're capable of doing this. That will definitely show up in our attitude next season."
After a victory over Douglas Freeman in last week's quarterfinal round, No. 6 Centreville (20-4) faced long odds in its Friday semifinal against eventual champion First Colonial. Teams from the Beach District had won four consecutive state titles -- a streak First Colonial extended to five with a win over Forest Park on Saturday. Furthermore, the Patriots boasted seven seniors, to Centreville's two.
But junior setter Stephanie McKee agreed that next year's Centreville team will profit from the experience of having played in this season's final weekend.
"I think maybe we weren't used to that kind of competition," said McKee, who had a career-high 50 assists in the quarterfinal victory. "Now we'll know our way around; we won't be the newcomers."
Special correspondent Dan Steinberg contributed to this report.