Rock music blared from foot-high boombox speakers just outside Park View High School's weight room Monday afternoon toward the more than 70 football players who were performing drills at a frantic pace in three gyms.
When the music stopped -- and the players had finished screaming in approval of their spirited workout -- Andy Hill, the rookie football coach at the Sterling school, directed the group outside for the day's final practice. The players grabbed their helmets and cleats and scurried toward the field, where they huddled for one more quick hit of motivation to carry them through the end of the grueling practice.
More than a half-dozen times, seniors inside the huddle yelled: "Whose time is it?"
The answer: "Our time!"
Stone Bridge and Loudoun Valley, the two most successful high school teams in the AA Dulles District, have been reassigned to Class AAA this year because of their increased enrollments. That guarantees there will be a new district football champion from among the six schools remaining in AA.
"In one sense, it doesn't matter who is on your schedule," said Casey Childs, coach at Potomac Falls High School. "You approach every season with the same goal and the same philosophy. Every team wants to win the district title and get to the playoffs. It doesn't matter who is in your league, you still have to win it. It's just the case, this year, that without Stone Bridge and Loudoun Valley, the league seems a little more wide open."
Stone Bridge is the two-time defending Dulles District champion. The Bulldogs dominated the district in that span, going undefeated and outscoring their district opponents by a combined 510-122. This season, Stone Bridge will play in the AAA Liberty District with seven teams from Fairfax County. Loudoun Valley, the Dulles District runner-up the past two years, moves into the AAA National District with seven teams from Fairfax and Arlington counties.
That leaves Park View (5-2 in the AA Dulles District in 2004), Broad Run (4-3), Potomac Falls (3-4), Heritage (2-5), Loudoun County (2-5) and Dominion (0-7). And though the Titans have yet to win a league game in the three years since the school opened, even they see this season as an opportunity for a conference crown.
"Every time you start a new season you get to be optimistic again," Dominion Coach Mike Dougherty said. "You always have high hopes. This year, I think they're legitimate now. And the kids know it. Last year, with Stone Bridge, our kids played one of their best games, and their team played about average, and they still beat us 25-0. Right now, though, you look around the league, and no team jumps out like that. But the league is still very strong. It's going to be highly competitive every game."
That's precisely what has every team believing it's their time to shine.
"I hear from everybody that they're going to win it this year," said Broad Run senior Thayer Nelson, who rushed for 1,246 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, averaging 8.3 yards per carry. "But that just makes it more fun because nobody has any idea who's really going to do it.
"Well, I have a pretty good idea that at the end, it's going be Broad Run up front."