OFFENSE

The Vikings return six starters on offense but must replace QB Stephen Sheehan, who in his only season as the team's starter earned honorable-mention All-Met and All-Extra honors after totaling 1,567 yards of total offense and 18 touchdowns.

"Do they have another Sheehan over there?" Loudoun County Coach Pat McManus asked, smiling, this preseason.

It wasn't such an odd question. Stephen had taken over for his older brother, John, who was also an All-Extra performer. And yes, junior Ryan Sheehan, their younger brother, is in the mix for the quarterback job. The likely starter at the position is senior Sam Clay.

"Sam has been a backup his whole high school career, but he's worked hard," Coach Bruce Sheppard said. "And he understands the position better than anyone else there. He's the most well-rounded kid we have right now."

If Clay does start at quarterback, that will open the door for his two backups, Sheehan (5 feet 11, 170 pounds) and junior Clyde Kessler (5-9, 155), to join senior WR Kody Farr (5-11, 170) on the outside. Clay also will get help in the backfield from the likes of senior RBs Tommy Schonder (5-10, 160) and Brock Bell (5-4, 155), both returners from a year ago.

"I feel like this year we have an opportunity to be the most balanced yet offensively in terms of run distribution and pass distribution," Sheppard said. "But as always we're going to be trying to attack every area of the field. And while we haven't always been the biggest team, we're as good in that department as we've ever been."

Leading the charge up front for the Vikings will be junior linemen Patrick Conroy (6-3, 233) and Josh Spring (6-0, 245) and senior linemen Kevin Hayba (6-1, 205), Sean Milam (5-11, 230) and Matt Raines (6-4, 245).

DEFENSE

All of the Vikings' starting offensive linemen will play on the defensive front as well, but they will work in rotation.

The linebackers should prove most explosive for Loudoun Valley's defense, led by senior standouts Steven Harvey (5-11, 190) and Nathan Rathjen (5-10, 174) and junior Trevor Ikwild (5-10, 176).

"Our linebacker corps will be the heart and soul of our team on that side of the ball," Sheppard said. "We have guys who can fly around the football. Hopefully we'll be as aggressive as we've been in the past."

Farr, Schonder and senior J.D. Harkey (5-10, 160) return at cornerback, with Sheehan, sophomore Brian Oden (6-1, 185) and senior Mike Solberg (6-0, 205) splitting the free safety and strong safety duties.

OUTLOOK

Edison (9-3 overall, 7-0 league) captured the AAA National District title a year ago, but there is no reason to think Loudoun Valley doesn't have the talent and the discipline to compete in its inaugural season in the district.

"There are too many question marks about our competition for me to really know what's going to happen," Sheppard said. "But I expect for us to get better every week and play every team hard. If we can do that, and not beat ourselves with turnovers and penalties, then I'll like our chances."