W.T. Woodson Coach John Cox doesn't like reflecting on the past because one school always seems to revive bad memories.

"Oh, I'd have to say Annandale has created a few problems for us," said Cox, who has lost seven of nine games to that Northern Virginia football power.

"The last four games (this season) have been great, but you have to be careful about looking back. Sometimes, you have to forget about history. I've told the kids those games have nothing to do with them. We aren't going around waving 'Beat Annandale' banners, but we definitely want to win."

Cox could inspire the third-ranked Cavaliers (4-0) for tonight's Virginia AAA nondistrict 8 p.m. matchup against visiting No. 2 Annandale (4-0), by telling his players the hard-luck stories of the past five years.

In 1978 and '79, Woodson lost to Annandale when both were in the Potomac District and finished second, missing a playoff berth. In 1980, Woodson moved to the Northern District and defeated Annandale for the first time for Cox. But the hard-luck Cavaliers still missed a playoff spot when a forfeit (involving several other teams) caused the point totals to be changed.

Two years ago, Woodson beat Annandale, 10-0, in the season opener but lost to the Atoms, 7-6, in the Region semifinals. Last year, Woodson was rolling with a 4-0 record before losing to Annandale on the game's final play, 15-14. The Cavaliers lost their final regular-season game to Robinson, 7-0, and sat out the playoffs.

Cox, who has an impressive 41-8-2 record but has made the playoffs only once in the past five years, said this year's team has been a nice surprise because no one expected them to win their first four.

"We were not that good early," Cox said. "We only had three kids back and we really needed lots of help from the reserves and jayvees. We got it. The kids improved like you wouldn't believe."

Cox expected good performances from tackle-linebacker Andy Heck, safety Doug Beavers and split end-defensive back Jim McLaughlin (15 catches, five interceptions). The most pleasant surprise has been the consistent effort of quarterback Skip Azzarita, a senior who has completed 50 percent of his passes for 608 yards and five touchdowns.

Annandale, usually a good passing team, has had to rely on the running of George Fruchterman and Tim Scott. The Atoms are averaging just under 18 points per game and have allowed only 23 points. Woodson beat Fort Hunt, 29-19, and shut out its other three foes.