For the second consecutive season, No. 6 Liberty and No. 9 Stone Bridge reign supreme. The Eagles and Bulldogs have wrapped up the AA Northwestern and AA Dulles District championships, respectively, for the second straight year and thus are guaranteed a berth in the Region II Division 4 playoffs that begin next week.
With the postseason assured, the teams turn their attention toward another benchmark: consecutive undefeated regular seasons. Liberty can accomplish that with a victory over Fauquier for the second time this season; Stone Bridge can go 10-0 by beating Broad Run."Being undefeated in the regular season is a huge accomplishment, and I don't want to minimize that," Thompson said. "And doing it two years in a row would be special. But we don't really talk about that. We talk about championships. Records mean nothing; it's the championships that mean something."
After both teams were perfect last regular season, Stone Bridge beat Liberty, 28-19, in the region championship game. The Bulldogs lost in the state semifinals to eventual-champion Powhatan.
As a result, each team is eyeing a chance at redemption -- and at its first Virginia AA Division 4 title in school history.
"In some ways, I think last year's success has really helped this team because the kids and the community both came into the year with some pretty high expectations," Thompson said. "And sometimes that kind of belief can carry you until you get better, and I think that's what happened with us. We had so many new faces when the season started and really had to develop our chemistry. And, really, I think that's still in the making. We're a lot closer now than we were, but I think it can still get better.
"This is where we really have to start finding our own way."
The comparisons between this year and last are perhaps a bit more similar when it comes to Liberty.
The Eagles had back seven players each on offense and defense.
Stone Bridge had back two starters on offense and three on defense.
"I knew I'd be asked to make comparisons to last year's team, and I did that a little early on, but I don't want to do that anymore," Liberty Coach Tom Buzzo said. "This is a much different team, period. But my expectations are not any different. I had high expectations last year, and I have high expectations this year, and, hopefully, I'll have the same ones next year, too. We want to be the program. We want to become the team to beat. And yes, that means having success on the state level.
"But I'd be lying if I told you it didn't mean something that we've won 20 straight regular season games now, too. That's why our focus right now is only on Fauquier and on Friday night. Am I excited about the playoffs? Sure. But Fauquier comes first."