Manassas Park 18, Brentsville 3

Ask Bucky Griffith what the secret to success is for Manassas Park's defense, and the Cougars' defensive captain will respond with one word: team.

Manassas Park's defensive rallying cry was teamwork against Brentsville on Friday night, and the Cougars came through with their fourth stout effort in as many games this season. Manassas Park contained the Tigers' rushing attack in an 18-3 nondistrict victory in front of about 1,700 spectators in Nokesville.

"We just came out tough," Griffith said. "We knew we came out flat last week against Page [County]. We knew if we came out flat this week, it would have been totally different."

Manassas Park (4-0) held rival Brentsville to 93 yards rushing and 140 yards of total offense, as the Virginia A Cougars won their third game this season against a AA team.

"When we step on the field, we expect to win," Manassas Park Coach Jeff Lloyd said. "We play very hard, and we're a pretty good football team. Good football teams find a way to win."

Brentsville (0-3) kicked a 30-yard field goal on its first possession, but the Cougars clamped down after that, never again allowing the Tigers to cross into the red zone.

The Tigers ran more than five plays on just two of their eight possessions in the game. Like his players, Lloyd attributed his defense's prowess to teamwork.

"They're responsible to one another," he said. "They don't want to let each other down. I think that's what's special. You know, it's a team in every sense of the word."

The defensive teamwork was evident on the Cougars' stat sheet, which showed the tackles and forced turnovers spread evenly. Linebacker Ellery Moore tied for the team lead with five tackles despite an injury in the first quarter. Defensive lineman Toney White also had five tackles, and outside linebacker Will Cruz recorded four. Manassas Park forced three turnovers -- Delorean Lankford and Raphael Rigaud had interceptions, and Cruz recovered a fumble that halted a Brentsville drive in Manassas Park territory.

Lloyd was quick to give credit afterward to defensive coordinator Joe McElfish. The two devote a great deal of time to scouting opponents' plays and running them in practice.

"We work on being physical," Lloyd said. "We do a lot to show our kids during the week what plays will look like at half-speed instead of so much smash-mouth during the week. I really think it helps us because our kids see it."

Manassas Park quarterback Jay Terrell, who played at Brentsville last season, supplied the offense with touchdown runs of five, one and two yards. He ran for 66 yards on 23 carries and was nine of 12 passing for 118 yards.

"It's my biggest game [of the season], but for the team it's just another game because they're nondistrict," Terrell said. "But it's always good to come out with a win."

For now, the Cougars seem to have found a winning formula: the one-two punch of Terrell and running back Todd Smoot (19 carries, 117 yards) on offense and a defense full of contributors. It is too early to predict whether the Cougars will repeat as Division 2 state champions, but they think they know the key to defending their crown.

"As long as we stick together as a team on defense and offense," Griffith said, "I think we can get there."