What: AAA Division 5 State Semifinals.
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. (Gates open at 12:15 p.m.).
Records: Matoaca 11-1; Stone Bridge 11-1.
How They Got Here: Matoaca won the Central Region by defeating Colonial Heights, 41-15, and Huguenot, 55-21; Stone Bridge won the Northern Region by defeating Madison, 21-17, and Edison, 29-21.
At Stake: Winner advances to the state title game Dec. 10 at the University of Richmond to face the winner of the other semifinal, between Massaponax (12-0) and Hampton (11-1).
In Common: The Warriors and Bulldogs each lost one game this season. The teams to which they lost -- Matoaca to L.C. Bird, 25-18, and Stone Bridge to Oakton, 28-6 -- also will meet this weekend, in the Virginia AAA Division 6 semifinals.
Playoff History: Neither school has won a state championship. The Warriors have come close, finishing as the AA Division 3 runners-up in 1992 and 1993. Matoaca also has reached the Division 3 semifinals, in 1995 and 1997. Stone Bridge twice advanced to the AA Division 4 semifinals, in 2002 and 2003, but has not reached the final.
Outlook: Matoaca enters this state semifinal game averaging 35.0 points per game. Over the past six weeks, the Warriors have been rolling, scoring 41 points or more in five of those six games and twice scoring 55.
Junior running back Patrick Mills (1,644 yards, 25 TDs) did the bulk of the damage against Huguenot in the region final, scoring touchdowns on consecutive carries of 68, 82 and 35 yards in the second quarter. Mills finished the afternoon with 240 yards on 19 carries despite sitting out the fourth quarter.
"They are seriously very athletic with unbelievable team speed," Stone Bridge Coach Mickey Thompson said. "Their running backs are unreal. By far they are the best team we've seen on film this season."
The Warriors did lose standout junior wide receiver/defensive back Kris Burd (44 catches, 862 yards, 6 TDs) last week to a broken collarbone but have many other offensive threats, including senior quarterback Jesse Haney (2,035 yards, 19 TDs) and senior tight end Sonny Claytor (18 catches, 368 yards, 5 TDs).
"We've got to weather the storm," Thompson said. "If they come out and are able to get their athletes in space, we could have problems. We have to be able to weather that storm and stay together as a team. But it's a big advantage for us, as far as just being in a comfort zone, to be playing this game at home, and we're going to need that.
"We can't go into this game trying to play their athletes one-on-one. We have to stick with what we do and hope they have a hard time figuring it out."
Matoaca Coach Pat Manuel said the Bulldogs' single-wing offense is something the Warriors do not face during the regular season. Junior quarterback Terrence Glenn leads Stone Bridge in passing (1,068 yards, 10 TDs) and rushing (939 yards, 14 TDs), but the Bulldogs also have gotten considerable rushing production this season from seniors Shamar Knight-Justice and Nate Hawkins and sophomores Kevan Walker and Jeron Gouveia. The group has combined for 2,495 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns.
So which team will have the most success slowing the other's offense?
Stone Bridge has allowed four teams to score 20 or more points this season, and no team has posted more than 28 points against the Bulldogs. Not only are they solid up front with Hawkins and junior Andrew Nuss, but they also boast hard-hitting linebackers Andrew Holoman and Tom Olson and the speedy Gouveia at defensive back.
Matoaca is yielding 16.8 points per game but could be hurt by Burd's absence on defense as much as on offense. Burd is the team's leading tackler, with 57 solo stops, 23 assists and 3 fumble recoveries. Sophomore linebacker Randolph Granderson and junior linebacker Myron Jones are solid, having combined for 10 sacks this season.
"They're a great football team with a great winning tradition," Manuel said of Stone Bridge. "They've won a lot of close games this year and had to come from behind to do it, so there's no question they know how to win. Their whole team really flies around the football and makes plays. They're very aggressive, and that's something we're going to have to counter. But we've got a veteran football team, and anytime you bring a group like this into the playoffs, they know how to win together, too. That's why we're standing where we are right now.
"This should be a great one."
-- ANGELA WATTS