Teams in the powerful Virginia AAA Northern District have an especially difficult road to travel this football season. They have to play each other twice.
The situation was brought on by the boundary realignment of Washington-Lee to the Great Falls District, leaving Northern with only five teams.
This means that the Northern District's strong Big Three-- Robinson, T. C. Williams and West Springfield-- will be knocking heads on a home-and-home basis.
And to make it eve more difficult, all three teams must face Annandale, the odds-on favorite to repeat as Northern Region champion, in non-district contests.
Until two years ago, Annandale was in the Northern District. But then Annandale and W. T. Woodson were shifted to the Potomac District.
"Playing each team twice is bad enough," said Robinson Coach Ed Henry. "But then we have to play out-of-district games against Annandale and Woodson. Is that a killer?"
If Annandale (14-0) has a weakness, it's a well-kept secret. Scanning the Atoms' list of strengths, the one area that does not get a gold star at this point is the kicking game. So why kick?
Junior quarterback Mark Cox (19 touchdown passes last year) will complete enough spirals to receivers Kevin Guthrie and Tim Grant and fullback Jim Match will gain enough yards up the middle that the only kicks necessary will be point-after conversions. Defense always has been an Annandale strength. The Atoms surrendered only 53 points last season and shut out four of their last six opponents in winning the state crown. The head men in the trenches are back in 6-foot-2, 228-pound tackle Bruce Hedetniemi and 6-3, 222 Scott Wiggins. Rangy cornerback Paul Frongello will use his 6-3 frame to swipe passes.
The biggest show in town will be the Annandale-W. T. Woodson matchup Sept. 20. The Cavaliers are tired of playing second fiddle to the Atoms and with a bit of luck and a break, could be the team to snap Annandale's 16-game win streak (assuming it wins its first two games).
A host of seasoned lettermen, including fullback Doug Hough, tailbacks Rick Calvert and Jeff Giuseppe and twin tackles Rob Hayden and Rich Matuszko are back on offense. The defense will be awesome, led by tackles Greg Crawford, 6-4 1/2, 254, and 6-4, 210 Andy Brooks.
Stuart (7-3) has enough talent to deliver a few headaches of its own. Speed backs Bobby Williams and Ken Roberts will outrun many a cornerback if they get past a rebuilt offensive line. Lazaro Garcia, who caught 46 passes last year, is a deep threat if someone can get the ball to him.
Fairfax (6-4) will have to find some help on both sides of the ball if it expects to reach the .500 mark. Center Coy Kline and halfback Bois Elias aren't nearly enough.
Wakefield (3-7) and Jefferson (1-8-1) have bodies and a lot of hope. The Colonials will try the I-formation to better last year's total of 69 points and hopefully avoid the five shutouts they suffered in 1978. Backs Nick Amico and Herb Strobel will be the workhorses.
Wakefield could reach the break-even mark if Robert Hall, Billy Blackwell, James Hughes, Tom Houston and Eddie Franklin get a breather now and then. They now have to go both ways.
Falls Church (3-7) has a new coach in Al Fish and a few talented returnees. The jury is still out on just how many games the 1976 region champions could win.
Paul Hines, an assistant to Herman Boone since T. C. Williams was consolidated in 1971, may capture the Northern District title in his first year as head coach. The offense should produce plenty of points, with quarterback David Posey, a 6-4, 210 rifleman, and speed burners Kenny Gaskins, James Amps and Calvin Swanigan. The defense should be even better. Tackles Charles Walls and John Via and ends Alan Gregg and Vern Attles will be backed by twin safeties Sean Johnson and Chris Thompson.
West Springfield (10-1) could successfully defend its district crown if a few key spots are filled. The defense, which had a few problems last year, could be better. Linebackers T. J. Murray, David Spencer and Bill Harvey will be responsible for stopping the run. Backs Jack Brooks and Chris Gleason, both of whom enjoyed good seasons in '78, also return.
Defense will be the name of the game at Robinson (5-5). With seven of the front eight players back, including 6-6 1/2, 252-pound Bill Lawson and 6-2, 208 Scott Kaia at the tackles, the Rams should be stingy at allowing points. The offense will be led by running back Carl Roy, Ron Coleman and flanker Doug Shuler.
Lake Braddock (3-7) lost some close games last year and unless some immediate help is found on the lines, the scores this year might not be so close. The Bruins may be forced to play with 170-pound centers and tackles and that isn't good or safe. Defensive end Pat Stewart and cornerback Ralph DeBardi will see plenty of work.
Chantilly (1-8-1) has very little depth or size. Greg Johnson and George Froman will try to score often enough to keep the games interesting while nose guard Tony Coates, tackle Doug Griffin, end Roy White and mates will try not to surrender 172 points again this season.