Team of the Decade
Seneca Valley of Germantown became the first Washington area team to reach 100 victories in the 1990s when it defeated Suitland, 7-6, in last season's Maryland 4A championship. The Screamin' Eagles have a 100-12 record this decade.
They also begin the season with the area's longest current winning streak -- 26 games -- and are working on a streak of three consecutive 10-0 regular seasons, which would tie a state record set by Howard from 1974 to '76. Such success, however, is not new to the Screamin' Eagles: They are 232-44 since beginning varsity football in 1975.
Strasburg and Wilde Lake are the only other area teams that can reach 100 victories for this decade. Strasburg, a Virginia Group A school in the Shenandoah Valley mountains, is 90-21-1. Wilde Lake of Columbia is 88-17.
Waiting Its Turn
If recent history is an indication, St. Stephen's/St. Agnes should be favored to win the five-team Interstate Athletic Conference even though the Alexandria school finished 1-8 last season. Over the past five seasons, every other IAC member has won a conference title: St. Albans in 1994, Georgetown Prep in 1995, Landon in 1997 and Episcopal in 1998. (Georgetown Prep and Landon shared the title in 1996.)
However, St. Stephen's/St. Agnes has more tangible reasons to believe it can capture its first IAC title since 1984. Quarterback Billy Schweitzer threw for more than 700 yards last season despite playing with a cast on his left (non-throwing) hand; he has unofficially committed to attend Virginia. Other returnees include running back Sean Washington (more than 1,000 rushing yards last season), wide receiver Patrick Jennifer (a team-high 43 receptions), starting tight end/defensive end Brian Jennings and three starting offensive and defensive linemen.
44: Touchdowns last season by Seneca Valley All-Met senior Chris Kelley, a quarterback, linebacker and punt returner.
16: Howard County 3A/2A titles won by Wilde Lake since 1974.
13: Consecutive winning seasons for West Potomac. The Wolverines, 12-1 in 1998, never have had a losing season.
Fairfax at Annandale, tonight, 7:30
This non-district game features two of the area's top players: Annandale offensive and defensive lineman Jeremiah Davis, who has unnoficially committed to Penn State, and Fairfax running back Brandon Royster, who has rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.
DeMatha at Dunbar, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Unofficial city title game pits defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion DeMatha against the defending D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association champion Crimson Tide.
Friendly at Hylton, Sept. 9, 7 p.m.
A rare meeting of defending state champs, both of whom were undefeated last season. Hylton won the Virginia AAA Division 6 title, Friendly the Maryland 3A title.
Friendly at Seneca Valley, Sept. 24, 6:30 p.m.
After playing for Maryland-Virginia bragging rights, Friendly goes for Prince George's County-Montgomery County bragging rights in a game against the defending Maryland 4A state champion. It will be the second time in three seasons Seneca Valley has played the defending 3A champion.
Suitland at Northwestern, Nov. 6, 1:30 p.m.
The teams tied for the Prince George's 4A title last season. Suitland won, 28-6, in a state semifinal, avenging Northwestern's 6-0 regular season victory.
Seneca Valley 26
2,000-Yard Rushing Club
Three area running backs have rushed for more than 2,000 yards in a season. Annapolis's Rayvon Johnson -- an All-Met selection as a defensive back -- and Eastern's Lawrence Wade did it last season. Einstein's Umar Ferguson did it in 1997, then missed most of last season after injuring a knee in the season opener.
Wade became the first D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association running back to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season when he gained 2,092. Johnson set an Anne Arundel County single-season rushing mark with 2,060 yards. Ferguson ran for 2,025 yards in 1997.
If Wade and Ferguson can hit the mark again, the achievement could help them become their schools' first All-Met selections this decade.
Park View junior quarterback Nick Smith, below, and senior running back Nelson Stickley combined to set four individual school records last season. Smith set marks for most touchdown passes in a season (11) and most passing yards in a game (233 vs. Potomac Falls). Stickley set marks for most touchdowns in a season (28) and most rushing yards in a game (281 vs. Fairfax). The Patriots run the single-wing offense.
A New Class
A number of area public schools will be in new classifications this season, largely because of enrollment shifts. In addition, Sidwell Friends, a D.C. private school, will join the Mid-Atlantic Conference after being an independent.
Sal Hall Field, named for one of the most successful coaches in D.C. history, sits on one of Wash-ington's highest points and offers an unobstructed view of the city. The gothic-style school is one of the city's oldest.
Buchanan Field is wedged among office buildings downtown. The stadium's south end zone is only a few yards from North Capitol Street, and police must stop traffic for field goals and extra points attempted at that end.
Every game is a sellout at the school's 5,000-seat stadium. The fans, who camp out for tickets, are among the most knowledgeable about their team and the opponent.
This site offers a small-town atmosphere not usually associated with Montgomery County. The town has one stoplight, and a barn that houses the school's athletic equipment is adjacent to the stadium.
The stadium is nestled behind columns of trees. Steep steps rise behind one end zone to the white-pillared school. The stadium has no lights, so games are played Sat-urday afternoon; when the leaves change, the scene is beautiful.
Residents of the two-stoplight town (population 2,500) in the Shenandoah Valley mountains pack the Rams' stadium wearing the school's purple and white colors.