It wasn't supposed to unfold this way for Landon. After a season in which they won their first Interstate Athletic Conference title since 1999, the Bears were expected to fall back to Earth a bit this year with the loss of 30 seniors to graduation.
But following a 19-7 win over St. Stephen's/St. Agnes on Saturday, Landon is 6-1 and stands alone atop the conference standings. So tomorrow, for the second straight season, Landon could clinch at least a share of the IAC title against rival Bullis.
"I have not had many teams that didn't achieve what everyone thought they could achieve, so having this team overachieve is a real thrill," Landon Coach Rob Bordley said. "I think the kids feel the same way: Nobody expected them to be much. After Saturday's game I said, 'Boys, you're 6-1. Last year's team was never 6-1.'"
The Bears (6-1, 2-0) returned most of their starting offensive line and, for a team that predominantly runs the ball, that consistency has been a major reason for its continued success. Running back Conor Cassidy has run for 652 yards this season on 92 carries, and rushed for a season-high 217 yards against St. Stephen's/St.Agnes on Friday.
"Most of those yards have been on eight- and nine-yard runs," Bordley said. "It's not like he's beating someone and cutting back against the grain. Our offense isn't that fancy. Sometimes we're passing two to three times a game and teams are loading up the box on us."
Bullis (5-2, 1-1), which is coming off a loss to undefeated Mercersburg Academy on Saturday, will remain in contention for it first league title in 27 years with a win tomorrow.
"If we win this game, we get a piece of the championship," Bordley said. " But the way I see it is nobody wants to share anything. We're the only team with no [conference] losses and fate's in our hands right now."
If the season were to end today, No. 17 Quince Orchard would earn the second seed in the 4A West Region playoffs. And despite his team enjoying a comfortable spot away from the muddled 4A playoff race, Cougars Coach Dave Mencarini doesn't anticipate stepping on the brakes as the season winds down.
Instead, he said the Cougars (6-1) will approach each of their final three games against Walter Johnson, Gaithersburg and Churchill as though their playoff fate depends on it. The situation strums up memories from last season. With a playoff spot in hand, the Cougars were 7-2 heading into the season finale against Gaithersburg and came out of the game with a 21-15 victory.
"When you control your own destiny it's a good feeling," Mencarini said. " I don't want to leave it up to anyone but ourselves. That's why I want to win the next three games."
The Cougars' 12-0 victory over Northwest on Friday was two-fold in its implications. Not only did it clear up Quince Orchard's postseason prospects, it made Northwest's (4-3) road to the playoffs significantly more difficult. And that's fine with Mencarini who, if given the choice, would like Friday to have been the last time he sees the reigning 3A champion Jaguars this season.
"I wouldn't mind not seeing those guys in the playoffs," Mencarini said. "They're a scary team. They're a team you want to play once and not again."