There were indications this might be Osbourn's year. There were apparent playmakers on the roster, with some size up front, to perhaps make the single-wing offense hum. The Cedar Run District was supposed to be down. Six of the Eagles' previous seven district losses entering this season were by a total of 38 points. The 4-6 record of last fall was the program's best in six years.
The first play of this season went for a 74-yard touchdown. Week 2 featured a 28-7 win over Woodbridge, one of the Eagles' sturdiest victories in years. A respectable loss to Hylton was followed by an overtime win at Potomac. Was this indeed the year?
The answer, reiterated in the past five weeks, has been no, not yet, including in a 20-6 loss at Stonewall Jackson on Friday night, the team's fifth straight setback. The Eagles picked up 17 first downs, but as has been the case so often in recent seasons, their possessions stalled out and resulted in field goals by senior Jay Graham, or turning over the ball on downs.
Osbourn Park had its resurgence, going 19-5 in 2002 and 2003. Stonewall (7-2) is enjoying its finest season since the mid-1990s and has clinched a playoff spot. Meanwhile, Osbourn keeps searching -- now 17-62 as a Virginia AAA program -- and has gone 70 games without consecutive victories.
Even so, the Eagles have been close, with overtime losses to Stonewall and Osbourn Park and a two-point setback to Forest Park, a trying trifecta in Weeks 5-7.
"This is the toughest thing ever," senior running back Brett Jewell (93 yards) said after the team's postgame pep talk from Coach Steve Schultze. "You come up short every game. It takes years out of your life. You come into every game and play your hardest and you don't win. It kills you. I can't stand losing. I've never had a winning season. I just wanted one. We started out 2-2 and just fell apart."
The game Friday, which featured no turnovers for either team but several penalties for each, started promisingly enough, with the Eagles chewing 8 minutes 13 seconds off the clock with a 76-yard drive that petered out at the 4-yard line. Jewell carried for all four first downs on the possession, including one on a 48-yard rumble.
The second time the Eagles had the ball, they worked their way into a first down at the Stonewall 12 but had to settle for a 30-yard Graham field goal. Stonewall penetrated the Osbourn 30-yard line minutes later and perhaps received a favor when, on third and six from the 23, the Eagles declined a holding penalty to make it fourth and six, instead of taking the third and long. Raiders junior quarterback Ricky Milbourne hit diving freshman Ryan Williams for a short completion that sustained the drive, and three plays later, Milbourne surged in from one yard out to give his team the lead.
An Osbourn return man ran reversed field and lost yardage on the ensuing kickoff, pinning the Eagles at their own 4. A botched exchange led to a loose ball in the end zone that Stonewall junior Scott Beitzell pounced on for an easy touchdown.
Osbourn junior Brandon Hogan (147 offensive yards) set the Eagles up nicely with a 42-yard kickoff return to midfield, and the Eagles soon found themselves with first and goal from the 6. Again, they had to settle for a Graham field goal, this time a 31-yarder.
Stonewall senior running back Chris Garrett (151 yards) streaked for a 92-yard score with a little more than four minutes remaining in the third quarter for a 20-6 lead, a sizable cushion against such a ball-control style of offense. In the fourth quarter, a seven-minute Osbourn drive, which included first and goal from the 8, fizzled at the 4. The Eagles had first and goal from the seven on their final possession, which resulted in no points.
Despite 17 first downs and 253 offensive yards, the Eagles were held to 14 points or fewer for the seventh time this season.
"We're a better team than 2-7 right now, but that's the bottom line, we're 2-7," Schultze said. "We felt like this was going to be a year that we were going to be in contention and it just didn't happen. The kids' effort has been there, the coaching staff's effort has been there, we've just had some tough breaks go against us and it's through execution and mental mistakes.
"I'm proud of our kids and proud of our program. We've come a long way, but we're still not across that fence that we need to be at. So the goals are still high, it's just not there yet, and that's what's frustrating."