With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff picture is taking shape for football teams in Loudoun and Fauquier counties.
The road is most clear for Class AAA newcomers Loudoun Valley (AAA National) and Stone Bridge (AAA Liberty). The Vikings and Bulldogs are not only unbeaten in their respective districts but also hold at least a one-game lead over every other team in their districts. That means that by winning each of their last two games, Loudoun Valley and Stone Bridge will advance to AAA Northern Region play.
Where the teams will be seeded in the four-team regional bracket is certain for only the Bulldogs. Though Stone Bridge and Loudoun Valley are both 7-1, the Bulldogs' come-from-behind 17-14 victory over the Vikings in Week 3 gives them an edge in the point standings.
That means Stone Bridge is expected to go in as the No. 1 seed, giving them home field throughout the region playoffs. Loudoun Valley, which currently ranks second in the Virginia High School League point system, could still slip to the third seed behind Edison (7-1) despite defeating the Eagles last week.
"The way the point system works for the VHSL, it doesn't matter if we are the [AAA National] district champions," Loudoun Valley Coach Bruce Sheppard said. "It will still come down to the point system, and our nondistrict schedule could hurt us in that regard and force us to go to Edison."
The fourth seed is projected to go to either Jefferson, Madison or Yorktown.
Whether the Vikings get a home or road game in the first round, it still sets up the potential for a rematch between former Dulles District rivals Stone Bridge and Loudoun Valley in the regional championship game.
"We've got a lot of work to do between now and then," Sheppard said. "First of all, we want to finish what we started and win our district title. And then we'd still have to win a game in the playoffs to potentially get back to Stone Bridge. But certainly our kids are harboring that in the back of their minds. It would be great for the community, great for the rivalry.
"But it would be a tremendous mistake by anyone involved in our program to be looking ahead to that game until we make it a reality. There are still three teams in front of us trying to prevent that game from ever happening."
The only other area team in control of its playoff future is Park View. The Patriots, despite their 4-4 record, remain unbeaten in the AA Dulles District. Park View can lose one of its remaining games, against Loudoun County and Broad Run, and still win the district title and an accompanying regional playoff berth.
"Our goal all along was to win the district championship, and the playoffs is just a subsequent reward of that," said first-year coach Andy Hill, whose team likely would be the fourth seed and forced to travel to unbeaten Harrisonburg in the opening round of Region II Division 4 play. "We know we're looking at the number four seed, but all we care about right now is getting there on a strong note and having the opportunity to play."
Liberty (6-2) also could sneak into the Region II Division 4 playoffs but would need a Sherando loss (the Warriors have games remaining against Millbrook and Brentsville) or wins from its nondistrict opponents and losses from Sherando's opponents to advance. Sherando defeated Liberty, 19-14, earlier this season.
"There's still a chance, but right now we don't control our own destiny," said Liberty Coach Tommy Buzzo, whose team has made a regional appearance three of the last four years. "We need help. But we're going to try and take care of business these next two games and see what happens."