Fauquier High School has been one of the surprise football teams in the metropolitan area this season. Picked to finish near the bottom of the Virginia AAA Commonwealth District, the Falcons stunned followers and foes by tying defending champion Courtland for the district title and earning a playoff berth.

The Falcons (10-2) defeated Osbourn Park, 20-6, and Woodbridge, 28-0, in the first two rounds and will meet Hampton (11-1) in a Division 6 state semifinal game Saturday at Fauquier at 1 p.m.

Second-year coach John Chmara said just having the chance to play a school such as Hampton at this time of the year is reward enough for having a good season.

"I told the kids we have nothing to prove now," said Chmara, who also is the school's athletic director. "We lost all 11 starters on offense and six on defense so we almost had a new team. We lost two more guys this year but the three guys we had back -- linebacker Earl Bunn and defensive backs Bart Zopp and {All-Met} Carlton Raymond -- were a good nucleus to start with. Everyone came through at the right time and here we are. The kids worked hard and had the right kind of attitude."

Chmara failed to mention another big factor in the Warrenton school's success -- total support from the administration. That is a change from several years ago, when Principal David Graham became disenchanted with what he felt was overcompetitiveness among coaches, parents and players, and went to the school board and told them of his concerns.

"Basically, my personal opinion was that football was being overemphasized. I just felt the game had become too expensive, parents and coaches were placing too much pressure on the athletes, hoping to get that college scholarship or that one shot at {NFL} glory," said Graham, who played at Virginia and was a starting offensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960s.

"Oh, athletics are important, but people tend to be too serious. When I played, you played during the season. Now it's like a job all year round. The game is much more sophisticated now, especially in the colleges. That has filtered down into the high schools."

Graham and Chmara hit it off immediately since they shared a philosophy about athletics.

"We emphasize academics and sportsmanship," Graham said. "If the kids don't adhere to the rules here, we don't allow them to play. It may not have helped our quality but its's helped our program."

The Falcons finished 4-6 before going 8-2 last year. Despite the inexperience, this year's team is in position to enjoy the school's finest season.

"We didn't do anything different than we did last year," said Chmara, who coached 29 years in Bluefield, W.Va., before coming to Fauquier. "If anything, I would say it was a total effort by everyone to have a good season. Our defense was the key early, they kept us in the games. In recent weeks, the chemistry has been there on offense and we've played much better."

Fauquier has scored 20 or more points in four of its last five games. The game the Falcons didn't score 20 was a 16-14 win over Courtland.

The Falcons have allowed 81 total points but only six came in the two playoff games. The defensive line has been anchored by ends Craig Thomas (eight sacks the last two games) and 6-foot-1, 250-pound William Hamm, and 6-5, 275-pound tackle John Logan.

In addition to playing defensive back, Raymond, along with Corey Foddrell, has been the big threat on offense. The two have combined for 20 touchdowns.

If Fauquier beats Hampton and top-ranked T.C. Williams beats Highland Springs, it would set up an all-area state final. "We are not looking ahead to playing a T.C. Williams," Chmara said. "We are just grateful to still be playing."