The teams with the best defenses in the Virginia AA Northwestern District met to unofficially decide the district champion last night. In the end it was Broad Run that dominated the grind-it-out game, defeating Loudoun County, 9-6, in Leesburg.
After the game the Spartans all but claimed themselves district champions by lifting Coach Jerry Smith on their shoulders. "This wasn't an end-all, be-all game, but it was definitely a must win situation for us," Smith said. "But we still have several big games ahead."
But if Broad Run plays like it did last night, especially its defense, it should have no problems.
The Spartans (6-1, 4-0 in the district) came into the game having allowed only 42 points all season, with four shutouts. Led by linebackers Seth Lawlor and David Potts, Broad Run continued its dominanace against the Raiders (4-3, 3-1).
With some help from their ball control offense, the Spartans limited the Raiders to just 14 first-half plays. Nine of them were runs by Kenny Tarkin, and he was held to 20 yards. The rest of the offense tallied four yards in the half.
"We hadn't beaten Loudoun County since we were freshmen," said Lawlor. "We just came out tonight and had a big game."
While the defense was stopping holes, the offense was patiently keeping the ball on the ground, holding it for close to 10 minutes of the first quarter.
After receiving the first of five Loudoun County punts, the Spartans drove 32 yards in 12 plays, eating up more than seven minutes. On the first play of the second quarter, Ethan Harlow kicked a 35-yard field goal for the game's first score.
Broad Run also was having trouble running due mainly to the Raiders' 284-pound defensive tackles, Tom Lodge and Jamie Donaldson. But the Spartans kept hammering away, lulling the Raiders' secondary to sleep.
On second and eight from their 39, quarterback Mike Suddueth threw a play-action pass to Jeff Herzog for 48 yards to the Raiders 13. Three plays later Suddueth sneaked over from the 1. A bad snap on the extra-point attempt left the Spartans a 9-0 halftime lead.
But after being thrown around in the first half, Loudoun County came out in the second half and immediately drove 71 yards for a score.
The Raiders mixed it up a bit this time, with Brian Allen, Tarkin and Brian Custer running the ball, and Robert Mawyer completing a pass to Steve Hol. Custer's six-yard run culminated a 4 1/2-minute drive and made it 9-6.
"I don't know about everybody else," said Lawlor, "but I was really nervous."
But Broad Run started to run outside the tackles, helping Lawlor pick up 77 yards on 18 carries, and the defense got stingy again, limiting the Raiders to 53 yards for the remainder of the half -- 153 for the game -- and Broad Run went home with a critical victory.