The ride home from Clarke County on Friday night did not have a celebratory vibe to it, even though Manassas Park won. The Cougars had snuffed out a two-point conversion attempt in the final seconds to squeeze out a 27-26 victory and extend its overall winning streak to 21 games and its regular season winning streak to 31 games.
"I think I even said to one of the assistants, 'It sure doesn't feel like we won tonight,' " Coach Jeff Lloyd said.
The Cougars (7-0, 2-0 in the Bull Run District) lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions against Clarke (3-4, 1-1), but that's not what most troubled the coach.
"Last year I thought every time we took the field we played with great energy and a sense of urgency," said Lloyd, whose team won the Division 2 state title in 2004. "I don't see that from our kids right now.
"I just think sometimes this group of kids is so used to winning that maybe we just think we're going to show up and beat people. I think we're living a little bit [off] last year, and that's going to change."
Senior defenders Jay Terrell, Bucky Griffith and Will Cruz teamed to keep Clarke senior Lee Liggins out of the end zone on the two-point conversion run attempt with 8.5 seconds to play after the Eagles had driven 99 yards for a touchdown.
Manassas Park had beaten Clarke by scores of 37-3, 56-7 and 19-0 the past three seasons.
"I never like to leave the kids with a negative," Lloyd said, "so the last thing I told them [that night] was that as poorly as we played, when they absolutely had to make a play, they did, and that's how champions respond."
Chatham and Gretna, Region B Division 2 teams that like Manassas Park are undefeated, meet this week.
Tigers Aim for Playoffs
Brentsville Coach Dean Reedy has crunched the numbers and believes his Tigers (2-5) could squeeze out a Region II Division 3 playoff berth by winning their final three games, against Central-Woodstock (2-5), Sherando (5-2) and Liberty (5-2).
Brentsville, which ended last season on an eight-game losing streak, has won two straight after starting 0-5 this fall.
The first two games this season, the Tigers had nine turnovers and 16 penalties. In the two most recent games, wins over Millbrook and James Wood, the Tigers had one turnover and four penalties and allowed only three points.
"We're still playing the same as we were before, but we've eliminated the mistakes that were killing us," Reedy said. "It's two totally different teams as far as execution is concerned.
"It was nowhere near the point of lack of effort or giving up late in the game. . . . That was the thing that really [concerned] me the most, was keeping their attention and keeping them upbeat."
Reedy cites the team's eight seniors -- Mike Barber, Zack Basham, Josh Frazier, Chad Garrison, Adam Hall, Matt Tudor, Kyle Waters and Chris White -- for the continued push.
"We've made a turn," Reedy said. "We'll see to what degree it's going to be."