Even if Woodbridge senior linebacker Zack Weatherington did not know that Osbourn is off to its best start in years, he would be able to tell from watching just a few snaps on film that the Eagles have something good going.

"They put forth quite a bit of effort on every single play," Weatherington said. "Even the backside guys, players that it doesn't seem like it matters on the play whether they make their block or not, are still putting forth effort even when the play's done or when the play is not in their direction. They're motivated. They want to win."

In some ways, the Osbourn (4-0) of this season is similar to the Woodbridge (3-1) of last season. The 2004 Vikings were experiencing their first sustained success of their high school varsity careers en route to reaching the Virginia AAA Division 6 playoffs for the first time since 1997.

Osbourn, also in Division 6, is striving for its first playoff berth since reaching an AA program in 1992. A nondistrict win at Woodbridge on Friday would assure the Eagles of at least a .500 season for the first time since 1997.

"Once you get a program to believe in itself, it's a tumbleweed effect and just keeps going on and on, and the kids believe they can always win," said Woodbridge Coach Keith King, whose team has won three straight. "I'm sure that's how they feel right now. . . . They have a lot of energy. When they score, you can see how excited they are."

By that measure, the Eagles have had much to celebrate. They have scored 114 points the past three weeks, most recently a 28-6 victory over Freedom in which Osbourn's top offensive player, junior quarterback Brandon Hogan, did not play for undisclosed reasons. His status for Friday was unknown when Extra went to press Tuesday night.

In Hogan's absence, senior Ryan Anderson rushed for 182 yards and four touchdowns and threw for 119 yards.

Just as the Osbourn of 2005 is similar to Woodbridge of 2004, Osbourn's offense this season is akin to the current Woodbridge defense -- each unit has undergone a major overhaul.

In Osbourn's case, Coach Steve Schultze shelved the single-wing offense for a spread scheme, and the new look seems to fit the Eagles. In Woodbridge's case, the defense has changed dramatically not in scheme but in personnel. Weatherington is the only returning starter, and seniors Jonathan Tazwell and Jay Kirland, primarily offensive players last year, have switched to linebacker and safety, respectively.

The other eight defensive starters are 2004 reserves or new to the varsity.

After a troubling scrimmage against Centreville, the Vikings have settled in nicely. They gave up only 12 points in a season-opening loss to Richmond school Highland Springs, shut out Battlefield, surrendered only a special teams score to Fauquier and did not allow Stonewall Jackson a touchdown until the final minute last week.

It wasn't that long ago that Weatherington was fretting about how the defense might shape up.

"I was still a little concerned [after the scrimmages], but after the first two games, I was confident in the defense again," he said.

Now that confidence is obvious to anyone within eyeshot of the Woodbridge practice field. The defensive starters are sporting the black jerseys they usually get to wear only after shutouts.

King withheld the coveted garments after the blanking of Battlefield but said he would hand them out if the unit kept Fauquier to a touchdown or less. And the cosmetic touchdown that Stonewall scored was not enough for the Vikings to have to give up their size XXL trophies.

"I think Coach King will let us keep them," Weatherington said, "unless we mess up real bad."

Woodbridge's defense has been a handful for opposing teams this year. Senior linebacker Jonathan Tazwell, right, switched from a primarily offensive role last season.