The Patriots boast size and experience as they set out to make last year's showing -- Park View (5-5, 4-3) suffered its first Dulles District losses since 1995 -- seem like an aberration for a program that won consecutive district titles from 1998 to 2002.
"We've got 21 seniors on this team, and I think that's the most I've had since I've been at this school," Coach Charlie Pierce said. "Their experience, their knowledge of our system, is huge."
It will all start up front for this team. The five projected starters on the offensive line weigh 280, 340, 220, 240 and 245 pounds. Senior guard Donny Smith (6-2, 280) and senior tackles Eric Stanley (6-5, 340) and Mac Oul (5-11, 240) will lead the way.
Senior quarterback Steve Blankenship (5-10, 165) also returns for the Patriots, having completed 45 of 91 attempts last season for 746 yards with seven touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Sean Daza (5-9, 170) caught a team-high 17 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown.
And running backs Deric Dudinski (5-7, 160) and Reggie James (5-10, 195) are back. Dudinski improved as the season wore on a year ago, finishing with 560 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
The Patriots' defense revolves around the play of senior linebacker Travis Huff (6-1, 240), one of the hardest hitters in the district. Huff notched 77 tackles a year ago, including nine for a loss and six sacks. He also caused and recovered a fumble and blocked one kick.
Huff will get significant help up front from a defensive line that rivals its offensive line in size. Smith will play both ways. He'll be joined by senior defensive end Patrick Nolen (6-5, 250) and senior nose guard Andrew Kinas (5-10, 195).
Dudinski and senior Eric Pankau (5-7, 155) saw significant time in the secondary and will be counted on again this season as starters.
Park View, a traditional powerhouse in the Dulles District, expects to be back among the league leaders after what proved to be a rebuilding year in 2003. The Patriots, who won 25 consecutive games against Loudoun County opponents from 1995 to 2002, have the size, strength and experience to make a run at the district title.
"We've got so many guys who really dedicated themselves to off-season work," Pierce said. "I know the guys I can count on, and that's a great feeling."
-- ANGELA WATTS