When asked whether he could name the teams Loudoun Valley would be facing this season now that the Vikings have moved out of the AA Dulles District and into the AAA National, senior linebacker Steven Harvey was stumped.
"I haven't paid attention to that too much," he said after a long pause. "I know it's supposed to be a good district we're going to, but coming from the Dulles I don't think it will be too much of a change for us. So I'll just wait for Coach [Bruce Sheppard] to tell us who it is and what we need to know before we play them."
After another long moment passed, he smiled.
"Wait, I do know Mount Vernon is in the National," he said. "Right?"
That's one down, six more to learn. Loudoun Valley will face Edison, Falls Church, Mount Vernon, Stuart, Washington-Lee, Wakefield and Yorktown in district play. The change has left Sheppard and the rest of his coaching staff scrambling to learn as much as they can about their new opponents.
"I don't know anything about anybody at this point, and I hate that," Sheppard said. "We have our work cut out for us in terms of preparation. I think the biggest difference is that once you study a coach and compete against them for a couple of seasons you have confidence in anticipating what he may do next."
For better or worse, the entire Loudoun Valley contingent should have plenty of added bus time to familiarize themselves with their new adversaries.
In just four road district games, the Vikings will rack up 350 round-trip miles from Purcellville to the Arlington- and Falls Church-based schools.
"There will be no short trips, that's for sure," said Sheppard, who grew accustomed to long excursions as the head coach at James Wood before coming to Loudoun Valley. "But we're excited about going AAA. What we hope right now is we might be able to get a bus with a TV screen or something, because depending on traffic, we could be in for some long nights.
"But I've had to travel a lot further in my career, so that doesn't bother me in the least. We'll make it work."
Harvey admits it will be odd to have to travel so far to play but said he imagines the bus rides will remain surprisingly quiet. He said many of the players likely will sleep for part of the trip.
"I'd say more than anything most of us will have our iPods out and be listening to music," Harvey said. "On the way to games we're always quiet on the bus, trying to relax and get focused. But, you know, it's pretty much the same on the way home. Even after wins, we're still pretty quiet. I think at that point, happy or not, we're too exhausted to be loud."
Loudoun Valley at Stone Bridge
Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m.
Loudoun Valley will successively face three familiar opponents in Loudoun County, Park View and Stone Bridge before embarking on its new district schedule. The Vikings have not beaten the Bulldogs the past four years, but they have played the two-time defending AA Dulles District champions (who have similarly departed for the AAA Liberty District) as tough as anyone.
This Season's Schedule
DateOpponentTimeSept. 9Loudoun County7:30Sept. 16Park View7:30Sept. 23at Stone Bridge7:30Sept. 30Mount Vernon7:30Oct. 7at Yorktown7:30Oct. 15Washington-Lee*7:30Oct. 22at Falls Church1Oct. 28Edison7:30Nov. 4at Stuart7:30Nov. 10at Wakefield7:30
Last Year's Results
DateOpponentResultSept. 3James WoodW, 53-7Sept. 10Warren CountyW, 13-6Sept. 25at HandleyL, 24-17Oct. 1at Potomac FallsW, 13-7Oct. 8Broad RunL, 28-27Oct. 15at HeritageW, 36-13Oct. 23DominionW, 43-6Oct. 29Stone BridgeL, 28-14Nov. 5at Park ViewW, 28-17Nov. 15at Loudoun CountyW, 21-7