Stone Bridge senior Darryl McDowell was hoping to face Park View this weekend in the Virginia AA Division 4 Region II final. The Patriots were responsible for one of the Bulldogs' two losses this season, and the two schools have a growing football rivalry that would have intensified with a playoff meeting.
But even before McDowell and his teammates took the field Saturday against Charlottesville, they knew the reward for winning would not be a showdown with Park View. Instead, after their thrilling 45-35 victory, the Bulldogs had to turn their attention to Fauquier.
"They defeated Park View, who defeated us, so it's going to be a good game, a real good game," McDowell said.
Stone Bridge Coach Mickey Thompson said that, in the game he saw between Fauquier and Park View, Fauquier "was one of the best football teams I've seen. I don't know if they are like that every night, but that night, they were something special."
The Falcons (8-3) will host the Bulldogs (9-2) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the championship game. The winner qualifies for a state semifinal match against the Region I champion and will host that game.
Fauquier last won a region title in 1989, and Stone Bridge will be in its second playoff game in school history.
"Our coaches went down and saw them play, and they said they had some big boys and some good backs," Fauquier senior Josh Campbell said. "So it should be a good game, and it should be close. I think we compare real well."
The game may come down to a battle between the offensive lines. Stone Bridge's front five -- seniors Tommy Cole, Chris Mogin and Matt Mirch and juniors Kyle Sprouse and Eddie Scofield -- paved the way for the Bulldogs to gain 327 yards against Charlottesville, including 271 on the ground.
The line dominated a defense full of Division I recruits, including 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive tackle Chris Johnson, who has committed to the University of Virginia. On one play in the first half, Cole flattened Johnson on a trap play as junior running back Landon Gouveia scampered for 12 yards.
Gouveia finished with 158 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns. Junior quarterback Michael O'Brien had 73 yards rushing and three scores.
"We've got two great backs and a big offensive line that can open some holes for them," Cole said. "The defensive line wasn't the problem. It was the linebackers. Once we started getting to them, we started getting some big runs."
Fauquier's offensive line -- senior guard David Chapman, junior center Joel Enterline, sophomore guard Nick Hagy, senior tackles Drew Price and Paul Reese and senior guard Doron White -- had a similarly stellar day against Park View.
They launched junior running back Dwayne Foddrell for a season-high 190 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. Fauquier rushed for 349 yards.
The offensive line "went through some trouble early in the season to get their timing with the backs," senior fullback Charles Jenkins said, "but since the third game of the season, they've been clicking more."
Both defenses have the unenviable job of slowing high-powered rushing attacks.
Despite yielding 35 points and 346 yards to Charlottesville, Stone Bridge's defense played well last Saturday. The Bulldogs made a goal-line stand to end the first half and forced a safety in the third quarter. But the defense was best in the fourth quarter, holding Charlottesville scoreless and without a first down.
"We need to go in there and play the football we know how to play," said junior linebacker Alex Runski, who had one sack and one interception against Charlottesville. "We need to not try anything special."
Fauquier's defense has been strong late in the season, giving up an average of 9.25 points in the past four games, all victories. The Falcons have allowed one touchdown or less in seven games this season.
"We've been playing real well lately because we're running the same things week in and week out, so the kids are getting used to their responsibilities," Campbell said. "Your defense has to play well to win the game."