Stone Bridge 28,
Loudoun Valley 14 The call from Stone Bridge Coach Mickey Thompson is a simple "Let's go empty."
With that, the Bulldogs transition from their trademark single-wing formation into a spread offense that strings five wide receivers out and leaves senior quarterback Sean Ryan alone in the backfield to operate from the shotgun. Offensive coordinator Matt Griffis gives the five wide receivers their routes, and the rest is left in Ryan's hands.
"When we make that call, Sean is left to survey the field and find whatever throw he likes," Thompson said. "The plays aren't designed to go to any one player. I never know where the ball is going."
More times than not, it's squarely into the hands of one of Stone Bridge's many targets.
For the second consecutive week and the third time this season, Ryan passed for more than 200 yards Friday, leading the Bulldogs to a 28-14 victory at Loudoun Valley.
The win all but assures the Bulldogs of their second straight AA Dulles District championship and a berth in the Region II Division 4 playoffs.
Thirteenth-ranked Stone Bridge (8-0 overall, 5-0 district) has games remaining against Dominion and Broad Run.
"You can tell by how hyped everyone is what a big win this was for us," Ryan said. "I give their team a lot of credit. They were all over the place on defense. We knew it was going to be a tough game, and it was. But to walk out of here with the 'W' is all we came for."
Ryan finished the game 16 of 23 passing for 250 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also led the Bulldogs with 82 yards rushing and two more scores on 12 carries.
"To stand on the sideline and watch Sean is amazing," said Stone Bridge junior linebacker Deandre Burnette. "He gets the defense pumped up and ready to come out there and do our job."
And for the record, Ryan can contribute defensively when needed, too.
With his team leading by 14 with 1 minute 32 seconds to play, Ryan was inserted as an extra defensive back -- where he started last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury -- and promptly picked off a pass that sealed the win.
"It's something special in high school if you can be 'the guy,' and Sean is for our team," Thompson said. "He's the one everyone looks to to make a big play. I hope he's enjoying it, because these are the kinds of memories that can last a lifetime."
Stone Bridge and Loudoun Valley traded scores on their opening possessions, and the Bulldogs added a one-yard touchdown run by Ryan to go into halftime with a 14-6 lead.
The Vikings (5-3, 3-2) sputtered to a start in the third quarter, and after they were forced to quickly punt, Ryan & Company made them pay. On the Bulldogs' second play from scrimmage in the second half, Ryan connected with a wide-open Shamar Knight-Justice on a 44-yard scoring toss over the middle for a 21-6 lead.
Loudoun Valley answered on its ensuing possession, benefiting from a poor kickoff and two 15-yard personal foul penalties against the Bulldogs that moved the ball to the Stone Bridge 20-yard line. Three plays later, the Vikings scored on a three-yard touchdown run by Tommy Schonder to pull within 21-14 with 8:07 left in the third quarter, but it wasn't enough.
Ryan found tight end Brian Calloway on a jump pass on the Bulldogs' opening possession of the fourth quarter -- a 30-yard touchdown toss and the last score of the night. The Vikings advanced to the Stone Bridge 1-yard line with less than five minutes to play but were stopped short on fourth and goal from the 2 on a bobbled snap and subsequent busted play.
"We knew we weren't going to be able to stop them offensively, but we had to slow them, and our offense had to keep up," Loudoun Valley Coach Bruce Sheppard said. "I thought we did that most of the game.
"Our guys never quit. But they have a host of athletes who made big plays when they needed them, and a quarterback that put the ball in places most high school quarterbacks can't."