George Marshall High School guard Dave Jagels was actually smiling when he finished watching films of John Marshall's 6-foot-1, 317-pound nose guard Larry Johnson and 6-1, 275-pound tackle William Anderson wreaking havoc on an opponent.

Jagels, a 5-10, 180-pound senior who earned all-Great Falls District honors, will be facing the largest line and challenge of his football career when the Statesmen (11-1) host John Marshall of Richmond (11-0) in a Virginia Group AAA Division 5 state semifinal game Saturday at 1:30 p.m. But Jagels isn't the least bit worried.

"I'm looking forward to it, it should be fun," Jagels said. "The first problem to overcome is not to get intimidated. I just have to use my speed and agility to get around him. He's big, but he can be moved."

In preparation for his meeting against the Cavaliers, Jagels will work against 260-pound teammate Mike Brown, the Statesmen's only substantially sized player. Perhaps each of Jagels' offensive line mates should take turns working against Brown.

"They are definitely the biggest team we've played," George Marshall Coach Neil Callahan said. "We'll try to do everything quickly so they won't fall on us."

Callahan and his players may give the impression they are worried, but the Statesmen have been in this position often.

One of the Northern Region's smallest schools, Marshall has faced larger-sized teams in the past and done very well. The Statesmen finished with a 10-3 record last year and won the regional championship (before the Virginia High School League decided to split the regions according to enrollment) before losing, 14-6, to Salem in the state playoffs.

Marshall was even more successful this year, losing only to Lake Braddock, 35-28, in triple overtime.

"I think the playoff experience last year really helped us this year," Callahan said. "We have a handful of kids who have won four straight region championships {in football and baseball} and they know how to compete in big games. I think that's the reason we came from behind to beat Madison. We were losing, 9-6, and had a third and eight at our 40 with 1:06 to play and we pulled it out {by 14-9}. I still don't know how we won."

Since Callahan took over the fledgling program six seasons ago, the Statesmen have learned how to win close games. Marshall's records have gone from 2-8 to 5-5 to 6-4 to 7-2-1 to 10-3 to this year's 11-1.

"Steady progression," Callahan said. "We worked on getting a little bit better each year. The kids worked on the weights, we got better athletes and we had the same coaching staff for all six years. My assistants Rick Wells, Tim O'Toole, Pete Bendorf, Mike Skinner, Jeff Yost and Dean Sissler have done a fantastic job. I think the program is in good shape right now. We've had two good years back to back and we only start about 11 seniors. Plus, our {junior varsity} was 8-1."

In Callahan's first year, only 35 players were on the varsity and there was no junior varsity team. This year, the varsity has about 55 players and the junior varsity 35.

In addition to Jagels, All-Met center Joe Pierce, quarterback Lonnie Goldberg (950 yards passing for 13 touchdowns), running back Joe Swarm (1,150 yards and 16 touchdowns), running back Carroll Smith (66 yards, eight touchdowns), linebackers Robbie Felts and Kevin Forelke and All-Met safety Richard Kinsman (seven interceptions) have had good years.

Marshall's offense has lacked sharpness lately, but its defense has been consistent, allowing 14 or more points only three times. In the playoffs, Marshall defeated Edison, 21-6, allowing a touchdown on a fake punt, and defeated Fairfax, 12-6, with Fairfax's score coming on a fumble return.

"I don't think we've been as sharp, but we know what is at stake and if we miss, we are out," Goldberg said. "Last year, we were not expected to get as far as we did. This year, we put pressure on ourselves to succeed. We haven't played well in the first half lately and we know we'll have to have two good halves to beat John Marshall. They are big and quick. I was impressed."