The Park View football team's defense may be among the best in Virginia this season. The Patriots, however, haven't received much notice on that side of the ball.
That's because Park View runs the single-wing offense, an unusual formation that usually draws the attention of opponents, fans and the media.
"The single-wing kind of overpowers everything else," senior defensive tackle Andrew Hoffman said. "The defense gets kind of left in the background."
College scouts haven't overlooked the Patriots' defense: Hoffman has signed with the University of Virginia, senior defensive tackle-linebacker Joe Larson is being recruited by Virginia Tech and Maryland and junior Nick Smith--the team's quarterback--is being recruited by Penn State to play defensive back.
Indeed, Park View Coach Mickey Thompson said almost all of his defensive players could play at the college level.
Park View broke a school record by limiting opponents to 46 points during the regular season. The Patriots have yielded 62 points in three playoff games, but many of those came late in games when the outcome was decided.
Park View's players, many of whom play both ways, credit the defense for giving the offense good field position.
"As a team, at the beginning of the year we wanted to get the defense more involved," said Larson, who has recovered three of the 19 fumbles Park View has forced this season. "I think we knew from the beginning this would be a big year for our defense."
Before the season, Thompson and his coaching staff decided to switch from a "40" alignment--four defensive linemen and three linebackers--to a "50," which consists of five linemen and two linebackers. The change has improved the Patriots' pass rush and has forced opponents to beat them by passing.
That's no easy task, considering Park View's secondary. Smith and junior Tim Murphy each has four interceptions and one touchdown. Senior Michael McDermott has three interceptions and a touchdown.
"We're not really that big, but we've got a lot of guys that run to the ball well," Thompson said. "We're very athletic."
Thompson and his players credit defensive coordinator Pat Elliott, who implemented the team's switch this season. Thompson said Elliott, who has coached at the school for 19 years, has "an overall concept and knowledge of the game that a lot of us don't have."
"Our coaches set a goal for us at the beginning of the year, which was to allow nine points a game," Hoffman said. "We haven't just lived up to that goal--we've exceeded it."
Park View (13-0)
vs. Salem (13-0)
Virginia AA Division 4 Final
Kickoff: 1 p.m., James Madison University's Bridgeforth Stadium.
Analysis: Park View, which last won a state championship in 1988, will try to prevent Salem from repeating as the AA Division 4 champion. Park View has outscored its opponents 139-62 in three playoff games; Salem has outscored its opponents 130-16. Park View junior quarterback Nick Smith has passed for 23 touchdowns and rushed for 17. Patriots fullback Nelson Stickley has rushed for 1,272 yards and 15 touchdowns. Salem senior quarterback Andy Mullins has thrown for 1,088 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Notable: Smith threw for 261 yards and a touchdown and ran for 98 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 48-19 victory over Lafayette.
Directions: From Washington, take I-66 West to I-81 South. Get off at Exit 245 in Harrisonburg. Take a right at light at end of ramp on Port Republic Road. Take a right at next light into campus onto Bluestone Drive. Stadium is on left, about one-fourth of a mile.
-- Seth Emerson