Before each player on the No. 6 Fairfax High football team entered the locker room to suit up for last night's game with Paul VI Catholic, he saw a huge white banner that read in large blue letters: "Rebels, no hype, Paul VI, no problem."

The banner was torn down by the time players returned from beating Paul VI, 17-14, in a tense and exciting game that lived up to expectations. Fairfax (8-0) and Paul VI (6-3-1) had never met in school history despite being 2.2 miles down the road from each other on Route 50. In fact, it was a game that meant little football-wise to each team, because it was a nonconference game for Paul VI, a member of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. Fairfax gets no additional power points credited toward the Virginia AAA Northern Region playoffs.

But in spirit, Brandon Royster -- who led Fairfax with 161 rushing yards and scored one touchdown -- admitted the game had a lot of deserved hype.

"A lot of people say it doesn't count for anything for Fairfax, for power points or anything," he said. "But we wanted an undefeated regular season, and we're proud to have represented Fairfax tonight."

It was Royster who provided the Rebels with a quick start. Paul VI took the opening drive down to Fairfax territory but Royster forced a fumble by Paul VI junior fullback Wade Johnston to give Fairfax the ball at its 27.

Two plays later, senior quarterback Ian McAlpine passed for five yards to senior Mike Daniels, who immediately lateraled the ball to Royster for what turned out to be a 64-yard touchdown run.

Fairfax took the ball 59 yards on seven plays, culminating in a three-yard touchdown run by junior Mike Davis, and the lead was 14-0.

With under a minute remaining in the first half, Fairfax had the ball deep in its own territory and tried to run out the clock. But on second and nine, Royster broke off a 32-yard run to give Fairfax the ball at Paul VI's 46 with 26 seconds to go. Two plays later, Daniels stole an interception from a Paul VI cornerback to give Fairfax the ball at the 16, setting up a 33-yard field goal by sophomore Adam Jelinek as time expired.

"I can't cry over spilt milk, but the tie goes to the offensive guy," Paul VI Coach Wade Keel said. "We felt we got [the interception]. I'm sure they felt they got it."

"We knew we were playing a quality team, but we thought our fans might not know that," Fairfax Coach Tom Verbanic said. "They should know that now. Paul VI gave us all we could handle."