Osbourn Park has won nine consecutive games, beaten Woodbridge and Gar-Field for the first time since the late 1980s and is making the first region football championship appearance in the 27-year history of the school.
Despite those accomplishments, the Yellow Jackets have been unable to escape their 49-0 loss to Hylton in Week 2. Are the teams really seven touchdowns apart?
"There was a [legitimate] 49-point differential that night," Osbourn Park Coach Brian Beaty said. "They were the defending region champions, and they played like it, and we were coming off a 4-6 season, and we played like it. Period. We weren't ready to play them that early."
"In the back of our minds it looked like some of us were scared," Osbourn Park senior lineman Clark Lanzendorf said. "I think we just had the whole mental aspect wrong. Now that we've got a little momentum, and Woodbridge beat Hylton, that gives us an extra push.
"It still kind of hurts us. We've had a great season, except that one day is a dark spot in our season."
Hylton senior Jeff Overton scored on 37- and 34-yard touchdown runs in the first quarter and later added a 10-yarder to key the Bulldogs' 302-85 rushing edge. Junior James Parker added a 70-yard punt return for a score in the second period and a 25-yard interception return for the final touchdown.
Four-time defending region champion Hylton limited senior running back Roland Hilliard to a 63 yards -- his season low, not counting the quagmire game at Gar-Field -- on 17 carries, and the Yellow Jackets put the ball in the air a season-high 24 times.
"We're a much better team" now, Hilliard said. "We're a lot faster, we're a lot smarter. Everybody's trusting each other a lot more. We're just a much different team. Hopefully, the scoreboard shows it."
Cooper Questionable Hylton junior linebacker Endor Cooper broke the ring finger on his right hand in the 14-0 region semifinal win over Gar-Field and might not play against Osbourn Park.
"The defense won't drop off at all," said Cooper, a first-team all-Cardinal District pick who has seen several capable backups help the Bulldogs notch seven shutouts this season. "I'll be the best cheerleader on the sideline."
A Link in Hornfeck
Chuck Hornfeck, Osbourn Park's head coach from 1981 to '94, retired from teaching in 2001 but for the past two years has coached the Yellow Jackets' offensive line. He is the link to the team's other playoff years, region semifinal appearances in 1985, '87 and '88.
The players "will ask me about those teams and say, 'Gee, Coach, I was born that year,' or, 'I was one one year old when you guys did that,' " Hornfeck, 62, said with a laugh. "For me, it seems fairly recent, but to them it's ancient history."
Hornfeck, in fact, partly attributes Osbourn Park's struggles in the 1990s to the opening of Hylton in 1991.
"We used to draw from Dale City, and it was a good section we drew from," he said. "And when Hylton opened we seemed to decline in talent."