1 Robinson Coach Mark Bendorf must hope that the more things change, the more things stay the same for his Rams. This season, Robinson's move to the Concorde District heads a list of changes in district alignment and division classification that give the Virginia AAA Northern Region a new look.
Last year, as a member of the Patriot District, the Rams were the class of the area, going undefeated until losing the District 6 state final, 47-20, to Landstown of Virginia Beach. Twelve starters from last year's squad are gone, including All-Met DL Brent Jones, but two of its top offensive threats are back: senior QB Matt Goff, a second-team All-Met as a kicker, and second-team All-Met RB Lucas Caparelli, who notched 1,857 yards on the ground and 27 touchdowns.
The Rams have won 32 consecutive regular season games, but continuing that streak will not be easy in the Concorde District, members of which have played in the last five Division 6 state finals; Westfield (2003), Robinson (2001) and Centreville (2000) won the championship. Three district teams start the year ranked in The Post's Top 20: No. 4 Robinson, No. 10 Centreville and No. 16 Oakton.
Centreville and Oakton, along with Westfield, have the offensive firepower to match the Rams. Centreville's tandem of QB Drew Dudzik and WR Cam Dohse connected 52 times for 1,105 yards and 16 touchdowns last year, and Oakton returns its top two rushers in Keith Payne and Taylor Naleppa, who combined for more than 1,300 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground. Westfield All-Met senior running back Evan Royster (2,165 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns) is the leading returning rusher in Northern Virginia and one of the most sought- after recruits in the Washington area.
"It's going to be a real grind going through that thing," Bendorf said of joining the Concorde District. "There won't be any off weeks, that's for sure. There's a certain amount of familiarity because we've been playing those teams. There's just a little more riding on it."
2 Joining Robinson in the Concorde District will be Fairfax, which ended last season on a four-game winning streak to tie Lee for third place in the Liberty District. Lee also calls a new district home this season, moving to the Patriot. Jefferson, following its best season in school history and a second-place finish in the National District, moves to the Liberty. The Colonials, behind do-it-all quarterback Matt Wong (2,245 yards passing yards, 21 passing touchdowns; 1,017 rushing yards, 19 rushing touchdowns), should be an immediate contender. Wong, a senior, statistically is the top returning passer in the Washington area.
3 The opening of a new school and increases in enrollment have resulted in schools moving from the Division 5 classification to Division 6, and vice-versa.
Two of the schools affected by classification change are W.T. Woodson and Hayfield. The Cavaliers, last year's Northern Region Division 5 champions, move up to Division 6 but without graduated 2,000-yard back Matt Nickerson. Taking his place will be senior FB Matt Robinson, who missed last season with a broken collarbone.
Hayfield drops from Division 6 to Division 5 after losing a number of students to new South County High School. Still, the Hawks' nondistrict schedule is the most difficult in the region, with the team taking on Westfield, Centreville and Robinson in its first three games.
Change at the Top
4 Only four Northern Region teams have new coaches, a sharp contrast from last season when 10 teams brought in new hires. South County, in its inaugural season, has the most experienced of the foursome in Pete Bendorf, who coached 11 years at Oakton and spent the past two season's as Madison's athletic director. Chantilly will have its third coach in as many seasons with last year's defensive coordinator, Mike Lalli, replacing Marty Riddle. In the National District, Tom Glynn takes over at Mount Vernon after running Hayfield's offense the past five seasons, and Baha Ahmed, a former junior varsity and running backs coach at Stuart, assumes the head job at the school.
5 Aside from new school South County, two teams from Loudoun County are joining the Northern Region. Loudoun Valley, the AA Dulles District runner-up last season, makes the jump to the National District. And Stone Bridge, which went undefeated the past two regular seasons to win Dulles District titles, joins the Liberty District. The Bulldogs should contend for the district title behind LB Andrew Holoman, who has verbally committed to Duke.
6 Aside from Stone Bridge's Holoman, two other Northern Region players already have given verbal commitments to ACC schools. West Springfield K/P Josh Czajkowski chose North Carolina State after a season in which he hit 29 of 30 extra points and went 5 for 6 on field goal attempts. Centreville OL Beau Warren (6-4, 260), the son of former Redskins TE Don Warren, committed to Virginia Tech.
7 In the Patriot District, the team to watch is T.C. Williams. Under third-year coach Greg Sullivan, the Titans have improved their win total each of the past two seasons and have a chance at both a district championship and their first winning record since 1990. A pair of speedy seniors, LB Dominique Roulack, the league's only returning all-district player, and QB DaJuan Stafford, will lead the way.
8 Edison's Eagles remain the class of the National District after beating out Jefferson last season for the school's fourth district title in five seasons. Returning standout Devan Clark and promising Paul VI transfer Keone Kyle will handle Edison's ground game. Yorktown, which interrupted Edison's streak by winning the district title in 2003, and Mount Vernon should also contend.
9 On Sept. 9, Stuart, a school with almost 1,500 students, will host Falls Church City school George Mason, a Virginia A Bull Run District school with fewer than 700 students. It will be the first meeting between George Mason and a AAA school in more than 20 years. Mustangs Coach Tom Horn scheduled the game to give George Mason, whose district opponents are far-flung, another local contest and to prepare the team for its docket of challenging competitors -- including district foe Manassas Park, the Division 2 state champion last season. The Mustangs (5-5 in 2004) will rely on all-Region B RB Travis Greene.
Game of the Year?
10 Also on Sept. 9 is perhaps the most important nondistrict game in the Washington area this year, with No. 4 Robinson traveling to No. 1 Good Counsel for the first-ever meeting between the two schools. Like Robinson, Washington Catholic Athletic Conference school Good Counsel had its undefeated season spoiled in a championship game last year, losing to DeMatha in the WCAC final. All-Met LB Akeem Hebron, who has verbally committed to Georgia, is one of several standouts for the Falcons.
11 Half of the Northern Region teams do not begin their seasons until next week, but this week features a few matchups of note: Tonight, Hayfield will travel to Westfield for a 7:30 p.m. game. Tomorrow, W.T. Woodson will go on the road to play No. 10 Centreville at 7:30 p.m.
-- Compiled by Liam Dillon
Special correspondent Rich Campbell contributed to this report.