Woodbridge has been the county's most confounding team this young millennium. Consider:

The Vikings started the 2001 season, the first under Coach Keith King, with two wins in their first three games, then dropped their last seven, with four single-digit losses and another by 11 points.

In 2002, they were decent enough to beat Hylton in Week 9, but finished 5-5.

Then last season, they again started 2-1, with an upset of eventual Division 6 Northwestern Region finalist Osbourn Park (the week after a loss to Osbourn). But six losses in the last seven games dispatched Woodbridge to a 3-7 record.

"It's frustrating," King said Saturday night after a 31-14 win at Osbourn Park -- which followed a Monday loss to Osbourn. "In the past, I think we always used to say, 'We're there, we're maybe a few players short of being a really good team.' I don't think we're short players this year. I think we have enough talent on both sides of the ball that we should be winning."

Senior running backs Andre Bratton and Derrick Holt have combined for 112 carries, 851 yards and seven touchdowns through three games, operating behind a young but effective line -- sophomores Justin Hairston and J.P. Kerr and juniors Jonathan Tazewell, Allen Young, Jeff Charter and John Maksanty.

Holt played at Woodbridge two years ago, transferred to Gar-Field in 2003 and is now back with the Vikings.

"Me and him had plans before [I] left to do something big our junior year," Holt said, nodding toward Bratton. "And it didn't work out that way. I love that I'm back."

"It's fun, having a fullback that blocks real well and . . . splits carries," Bratton said. "I never worry about him complaining if I get the ball more than he does. . . . Somewhere it's going to open up for both of us."

Is this the season for a team that has gone 20-40 the past six years? The opponent tomorrow is Forest Park, in the first Cardinal District game. The Vikings are 2-4 against the fourth-year varsity program; all four of the Bruins' Cardinal wins have come against Woodbridge.

Simmons Gets Carried Away

Hylton senior quarterback Tristen Simmons, who threw for almost 2,000 yards last season, is running the ball a bit more this fall. He has carried 13 times for 73 yards and three touchdowns; last season in 13 games he had 31 carries for 23 yards and one score.

Simmons ran for an 18-yard touchdown against Osbourn Park and a 10-yard score against Osbourn.

"I try to be selective on that," said Hylton Coach Lou Sorrentino, who has shied away from running any option plays to avoid giving defenders free hits on Simmons. "He could be a good runner. Last year we kind of protected him quite a bit until we got to the playoffs. . . . He'd be one of those guys I'd advise to get out of bounds or get down some. That'd be okay by me. The less shots he takes the better."

That's one new aspect to the Bulldogs' offense. Another is the emergence of junior receiver Marshall Dill, a Forest Park transfer who leads the team with 13 catches for 273 yards. He has scored three touchdowns.

"He's picked up what we're trying to do pretty well and pretty fast," Sorrentino said.

Six of Simmons's 23 completions have gone for touchdowns.

Crawford to Play

Gar-Field senior defensive lineman Kevin Crawford served a one-game suspension last week but is eligible for the game tomorrow against Hylton, a team the Indians have lost to 13 straight times.

Crawford was ejected for fighting in the Week 2 game against Potomac, an infraction that carries a two-game suspension, according to Virginia High School League rules. But Gar-Field appealed to the Northern Virginia Football Officials Association, claiming that the game film proved that Crawford had not thrown a punch.

"They reviewed the play and determined it was not a fighting issue, so it was reduced to a one-game suspension," Gar-Field Activities Director Rudy Zimmermann said.

Catching On

Manassas Park continued to throw in senior A.C. Fitchett's direction in the 19-18 home win over Brentsville last week, even though Fitchett dropped some balls and stopped early on other passes that might have resulted in completions. He ended up with three catches for 109 yards, including a key one-handed grab.

"He's just that type an athlete," Cougars Coach Jeff Lloyd said. "It's frustrating, truthfully, because he'll make you shake your head and then he'll just do something that you say, 'God, why can't this kid do this all the time?' "

"That boy, he's got all the talent in the world," senior quarterback Zach Terrell said. "It's just that sometimes he goes out there . . . he tries hard and it just doesn't fall in his hands."

This is at least the second Brentsville senior class to graduate without having notched a win over Manassas Park.

And it was two straight losses for Tigers junior running back Jay Terrell to his cousin's team.

"I told him no matter who won the game -- if we won by 100 or they won by 100 -- we're always going to be family and don't forget that," Zach Terrell said. "He's still number one to me."

The Cougars trailed Brentsville, 18-6, at the half after outscoring their first three opponents, 77-0, in the first half.

Brentsville goes from playing the unbeaten Cougars to a home game tomorrow against No. 10 Liberty in the Northwestern District opener.

The Eagles are 3-0, including a 29-0 victory over Culpeper last week.

Extra Points

Potomac senior Eric Dominguez, an offensive lineman, linebacker and long snapper, suffered a knee injury Saturday -- in a walk-through minutes before the Panthers were to board the bus bound for Forest Park. While his teammates went to the game, Dominguez went to the hospital. He underwent an MRI exam on Tuesday and should know results today. "He was standing still and went down," Potomac Coach Ben Stutler said. "It was the most bizarre thing I've ever seen in my life." . . .

Perhaps for the first time in school history, Hylton trailed in two games in the same week. Last Monday, the Bulldogs fell behind Osbourn Park, 21-10, before pulling out a 38-21 win. Osbourn led the Bulldogs, 10-7, on Saturday, an eventual 28-10 win for Hylton. "It's a long game," Sorrentino said. "Hopefully, that's a sign of mental toughness and resiliency. A team that battles in there and doesn't start pointing fingers. We're pretty veteran on offense, so [we're] not panicking" when trailing. . . .

Stonewall Jackson is not fielding a freshman team this season. There are 19 ninth-graders in the football program; many of the younger players are now at new Haymarket school Battlefield. "We decided it wouldn't be fair for 19 kids to be running up and down the field," said Raiders Coach Loren Johnson, who put the freshmen on the junior varsity. "We feel it will benefit them more in the long run playing at a higher level. They're expected to play a little bit harder and a little bit faster." . . .

Have gauze, will travel: Freedom athletic trainer Carey Fike is with her third county school in three years after stints at Hylton (2002) and Osbourn Park (2003).

Andre Bratton (No. 7) is part of a one-two punch for Woodbridge. Bratton and Derrick Holt have combined for 851 yards on 112 carries."He's got all the talent in the world," Manassas Park quarterback Zach Terrell said of A.C. Fitchett, who had three catches against Brentsville.