After a 12-0 loss to West Springfield in the third game of the season, Robinson High School football coach Ed Henry decided it was time for a change.
The wily master of the one-liners and a veteran of 22 years of coaching in Northern Virginia replaced one fine athlete. Mark Krynitsky, with another multitalented player, Todd Kirtley at quarterback and the Rams began to jell.
Henry's move showed its biggest dividend in the Robinson-Madison box score in the form of four touchdown passes and a surprising 38-14 triumph in the Virginia AAA Northern Regional title Saturday.
The fifth-ranked Rams (10-2) now face surging Gar-Field (8-3-1) in a Virginia State semifinal game on Saturday. The winner will meet the Hampton-Freeman survivor for the State crown Dec. 3.
"Overall, I think it (the quarterback switch) was a good move," said Krynitsky, an All-Met selection at safety. "Basically, I was a better runner and Todd a better passer. I had a bad game against West Springfield and Mr. Henry decided to open up our attack more with the pass."
The offense has been virtually unstoppable with All-Met Kirtley throwing (60 of 115 for 804 yards, 12 touchdowns) to either sure-handed split end Pete Fornesar (36 catches for 627 yards, seven scores, or Krynitsky (15 receptions for 200 yards, five tallies) and Dale Wilmot (395 yards rushing), Krynitsky (386), Jeff Miller and Tim Newell sharing the ball-carrying duties.
"Mark and Todd and tremendous athletes and you want them on the field most of the time," said Henry. "I think by moving Todd from safety to quarterback and letting Mark play some offense plus his safety spot, we have given ourselves more options."
Krynitsky, who completed nine of 13 attempts for 123 yards and rushed for another 20, said the Madison game was probably his best overall effort in three years.
Robinson was 2-3 two years ago, 5-2-3 last season.
"We remember those days," said Kirtley. Kirtley, Krynitsky and Co. are attempting to bring the first State football trophy to the Fairfax County school in only its sixth season.
Henry, well-known for his defensive teams, dabbles in the offense but for the most part allows Kirtley to call the plays.
"The one play I called against Madison, we fumbled," said Henry.
Robinson, which was won four straight and eight of its last nine games, didn't make many mistakes against Madison. It totaled more than 340 yards offense, running up its highest point total of the season. In addition to Kirtley's fine effort, Krynitsky caught two touchdown passes, intercepted a pass and picked up a fumble and raced 79 yards for a score.
Middleguard Winston Streeter, called the "meanest 160-pounder you have ever seen" by Henry, defensive tackle Mark Sofia, linebacker John Batal and Krynitsky anchored a defense that shut down Madison's highly regarded attack.
Gar-field coach Bob Pruett, watching intently from the stands, was impressed with the Rams.
"They're tough. If they play like that against us, we're in trouble," said Pruett. "They've really got some big-play people."
Because Gar-Field lost so many players during the first few weeks of the season Pruett said he considered practicing at the nearby hospital grounds. But it has won four straight games, allowing only 10 points and reaching the State semifinals for the third straight season.
"Judging by the films, this game won't hardly be a runaway," said Krynitsky, "but we didn't expect one against Madison, either."
Kirtley says the game plan against Gar-Field will be the same as the one against Madison - throw and throw some more.
Above all, Kirtley knows he can open up to his heart's delight because Henry has decided to relax and let the youngsters play.
"It's a kids' game. Let them play it," Henry is fond of saying.