When Woodbridge played Hylton three weeks ago, the Vikings took a brief lead, picked up 17 first downs and, if you discount two long pass plays, allowed a modest 123 yards in holding Hylton to its fewest number of offensive points in a game this season.
But they still lost, 27-3. Their first drive stalled at the 12-yard line (resulting in the field goal) and their last drive reached the Hylton 8. Another first-and-goal at the nine resulted in a missed field goal. Other possessions ended at the Hylton 33 and Hylton 26.
"Moving the ball from the 20 to the 20 doesn't do anything for you," Vikings Coach Keith King said. "We can't kill ourselves when we get in the red zone. They're too good offensively to think you're going to win the game with three or four field goals. You have to find a way to get in the end zone."
And there was a fumbled punt that set up a short Bulldogs' scoring drive, an interception returned for a touchdown and the two long pass plays from Hylton junior Darius Reynolds to senior Marshall Dill.
So the Vikings have a lot of ground to make up at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Virginia AAA Northwestern Region Division 6 semifinals at Hylton if they want to block the Bulldogs' path to an eighth consecutive region title.
"I think the game was a lot tighter than the score indicated," Hylton Coach Lou Sorrentino said of the first meeting. "They're a good opponent. I thought that then and I feel that now. I thought somewhere along the line we'd have to play them [again], whether it was the regional finals or the first round."
Since that game, Woodbridge was not particularly impressive in a 27-6 win over Freedom, nor in a 22-20 win over Gar-Field, in which the Vikings needed to kick a 39-yard field goal with 15 seconds left to preserve their playoff berth.
"It's a long season," King said, "and to keep the kids at a certain level of intensity is tough, and after losing to Hylton, they lost a little bit of intensity. We've discussed the season starting over and that it's time to find that intensity again.
"There's only so much you can do as a coach to motivate them to get that way. When you get to this level and in the playoffs, you have to find as a player your own self-motivation."
Fit to Be Tied
Woodbridge and Franklin County ended up tied with 254 Virginia High School League power points, and they did not meet head to head, so the next tiebreaker was adding the power ratings of the teams each school beat, and dividing each total by eight (both teams went 8-2).
Franklin County's conquered opponents had a combined 20.7 power rating. Woodbridge's had a 19.6. So Franklin earned the third seed and Woodbridge got the fourth, and for the second straight year is paired with Hylton in the first round.
That tiebreaker did not take into account Woodbridge's high-quality losses to Highland Springs (8-2) and Hylton (10-o).
According to the VHSL Handbook, the final tiebreaker is a "draw by lot."
Hoping for a Winning Drive
In 2oo2 and 2003, Franklin County made the five-hour drive north for region semifinals at Osbourn Park, losing both, 21-15 and 35-20.
The Eagles, from the Southwest Virginia town of Rocky Mount, would make stops along the way to stretch their legs, but this season they plan to take that one step further and stop for a 45-minute walk-through at a school to be determined.
"It's just something a little different that will give us the opportunity to go through our pregame on the way up and keep the kids focused on the game," said Franklin County Coach Billy Miles, whose team has won seven straight. "We're anxious to come back up there. We haven't done real well the first two times we came up."
When the Eagles reached the region playoffs in 2002, it marked the first time in the 52-year history of the school. They lost two of their first three games this season, to E.C. Glass (6-4) and Virginia AA school Pulaski (5-5), both of whom have reached the playoffs.
Franklin County avenged the Glass loss later in the season -- the first one did not count toward the Western Valley District standings -- and also played league mates George Washington-Danville and Patrick Henry-Roanoke twice each.
Eagles tight end Wynn Sigmon, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior, has drawn Division I interest, Miles said.
A Familiar Looking Opponent
Manassas Park players should recognize their counterparts from Goochland tomorrow night in the Virginia A Region B Division 2 semifinals -- the Bulldogs returned all but two starters from last year's team that lost, 41-14, to the Cougars in the region final.
"They look faster and stronger this year on tape, to me," Manassas Park Coach Jeff Lloyd said. "But again, it's one of the things we preach to our kids that if we kind of take care of what we do, we don't really care what the other team does."
In last year's game, defensive lineman Ellery Moore, a sophomore at the time, recovered a fumble in the second quarter to halt a 10-minute Goochland drive, and the Cougars picked off four passes.
Goochland is 10-0 for the first time in school history, but as Coach Joe Fowler says, "We picked the wrong year to do it."
Despite being unbeaten, the Bulldogs must play a road semifinal because it finished with a lower power rating than top seed Gretna and second seed Manassas Park, teams that also went 10-0.
Fourth seed Chatham went 9-1, with a one-point loss to Gretna.
"If I had a nickel for every time somebody asked me how we could go 10-0 and not get a home game, I'd be a rich man," Fowler said.
All in all, these are fun times in Goochland, located between Richmond and Charlottesville. Fowler's first three teams went 0-10, 1-9 and 3-7. Last year's team went 8-4.
The Bulldogs have rushed for 3,055 yards; junior left-handed quarterback Brian Jordan has thrown for 366. But seven of his 18 completions have been for touchdowns.