Manassas Park (5-0) will tackle its stiffest Bull Run District test tomorrow night -- playing at Strasburg (4-1). About a half-dozen Cougar starters will be seeing their first significant action in one of Northern Virginia's most challenging environments for a visiting team.
"One, you drive in and across the street is a huge graveyard," Manassas Park Coach Jeff Lloyd said. "Two, the stadium sits down below the mountain. It's a beautiful setting, but everything's purple [the team color]. The town rolls its sidewalks up Friday night whether you have a kid there or not. It's not okay if they lose, for the community. It's a very intense place, very loud, very vocal. . . . It's almost like they play at a different speed and different level at home, maybe.
"I don't think you can overstate it enough how difficult of an environment it is to play in. . . . For the kids who are starting for the first time this year, you hope they respond quickly and don't get overwhelmed quickly."
The Cougars blew out Strasburg, 48-0, last season, which marked Manassas Park's second win over the Rams since the late 1980s. Strasburg's win in 2002 is the Cougars' only regular season loss since the 2001 season, when they fell to the Rams in both the regular season and Virginia A Region B Division 1 playoffs.
Last year's win was the first time Manassas Park had scored more than seven points against Strasburg since a 1999 win.
Williams Is Back
Stonewall Jackson strengthened its team by welcoming back senior Martae Williams, who was not on the squad for the first three weeks of the season. He was the team's second-leading rusher last season, with 275 yards.
Williams said after the 22-14 win over Osbourn Park last week that he had wavered between playing football and pursuing his interest in performing rap music. Coach Loren Johnson is using him in the secondary, in the backfield, at receiver and on special teams.
"He broke a team rule, that's why he was suspended," Johnson said. "He had to figure out what was the priority for him. Once he did that, he came back and did the necessary things to get back on the team. If your priority is to be in another place, maybe [football's] not the best thing for you. And with it not being the best thing for you, you make different decisions. He made a decision and had to suffer the consequences for that decision. I felt I could help him more with him being on the team than I could with him not being on the team."
"Coach let me know that if I wanted to be part of this team, I had to commit to it and come to practice on time," said Williams, who downed a punt on the 1-yard line last week, which helped lead to a safety. "I decided I wanted to be a part of this team. I can always pursue being a rap artist after I graduate. I wanted to be a part of this team because I love these guys, I get energy from them."
Last week at halftime of its 38-14 win over Forest Park, Woodbridge retired the numbers of former program greats Tony Lilly (18), Shawn Scales (9) and Matt Lehr (79).
Lilly played for the Denver Broncos and is now a Potomac assistant. Scales played at Virginia Tech and is an Osbourn Park assistant. Lehr is a starting offensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys. Besides acknowledging the program's history, Woodbridge Coach Keith King also thought it boosted his current players.
"I think those guys look at it and say, 'It'd be nice to have my jersey retired one day,' " King said.
Looking for Help
Dennis Hall, commissioner of the Northern Virginia Football Officials Association, said his organization's membership is "right now hurting badly."
There are about 170 officials in the association; Hall would like to have at least 30 more trained members. Because some officials will be out of town for the upcoming holiday weekend, Hall is having to borrow sanctioned officials from other organizations to round out crews for games in his jurisdiction.
"We're trying to continue our recruiting process even during the year because we have five schools coming in next year that we almost have to take because they're coming into districts we do," Hall said.
A brochure about how to become an official is available at www.nvfoa.com.
Potomac senior Eric Dominguez is likely to miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery Monday, Panthers Coach Ben Stutler said. Dominguez started on the offensive line and at linebacker, and also was the team's long-snapper. He was a first-team all-Cedar Run District guard last season. . . .
The Hylton-Woodbridge game features the rarity of two running backs coming off 250-yard games. Woodbridge senior Andre Bratton gained 258 in a win over Forest Park; Hylton junior Courtney Anderson picked up 252 against Gar-Field.
Special correspondent Will Toussaint contributed to this report.