Patriots standout junior running back Deric Dudinski vs. Spartans standout senior running back Thayer Nelson.
Dudinski (1,627 yards, 17 TDs in 2004) and Nelson (1,246 yards, 12 TDs) were the AA Dulles District's two leading rushers a year ago. But it hasn't been an easy start to the 2005 season for either player. Nelson has picked up substantial yards -- he has totaled a district-best 433 yards rushing and three touchdowns in four games -- but would clearly trade those numbers for a victory. Dudinski, working behind an inexperienced offensive line, has struggled to accumulate 153 yards and one touchdown.
Both teams have faced difficult non-district schedules this season, and though this game won't count in the district standings, the playing field should be level.
"We've been having trouble getting our ground game going against the bigger teams we've faced," Park View Coach Andy Hill said. "Even if our guys make the right block, when we're half the size of the people we're blocking, we lose that battle. So it'll be nice to play a school we can compete with size-wise and see if we can't get things going. I think the running game will be key for both teams."
Despite their rocky starts, Broad Run and Park View continue to harbor serious hopes of winning the AA Dulles District -- which begins playing its conference schedule next week -- and earning the league's automatic berth into the postseason. Such an accomplishment would go a long way in easing the pain of recent defeats. The Spartans have been outscored 136-60 this season against four opponents whose combined record is 15-2. The Patriots have lost by a combined score of 122-47 against three opponents whose combined record is 9-1.
"We've been playing schools with enrollments that are like three times ours, and we don't want to use that as an excuse, but the fact is we have learned a lot from each game," Hill said. "And I think, in the end, teams like us and Broad Run who scheduled heavy on the front end are going to have an advantage down the stretch."
No matter the opponent, both teams also must eliminate the turnovers and penalties that have proved costly.
"The key is whoever is going to make the least mistakes," Broad Run Coach Ken Belchik said. "We've been fumbling the ball, jumping offsides, dropping passes. And it's causing us to go three downs and then have to punt, and we can't develop any consistency. We haven't been able to establish any long drives. But the attitude with the kids is good. Their heads are up because they know these are correctable things, and so they're working hard to correct them."
This is the first of two meetings between the schools. They will play a district game Nov. 11 at Broad Run.
-- ANGELA WATTS