For the past five seasons, the Virginia AAA Division 6 Northern Region championship trophy has known only two glass cases -- the ones located at Robinson and Centreville. And it would not be much of a stretch to expect the Rams (10-0) or Wildcats (9-1) taking home the coveted hardware again next week.
But first things first.
Tonight the teams meet in a semifinal, with the outcome likely hinging on one crucial matchup: Centreville speedy tailback Daniel Bailey vs. Robinson's dominant defensive line.
Since Centreville Coach Mike Skinner moved Bailey from wide receiver to running back four games ago, the 5-foot-6, 150-pound junior has rushed for an eye-popping 754 yards. And that is not even his most shocking statistic -- Bailey, who is also a standout sprinter, has reached the end zone 11 times, with seven of his runs coming from 33 yards or more. In the six games prior to the switch, Centreville averaged 22.5 points; the Wildcats are averaging 35.5 since.
"Most people would agree that he is the fastest player in the region," said Robinson Coach Mark Bendorf, whose Rams are defending region and state champions. "You want to track him down before he breaks loose, because if he does, no one is catching him. It's a little scary when you're facing a player who has that type of speed."
The best way to contain Bailey, who tonight will wear a different jersey number for good luck, is to prevent him from reaching open space. And the best way to do that is to slow him at the line of scrimmage. That task belongs to Robinson defensive ends Olu Hall and Nick Hermandorfer and interior linemen Adam Fassnacht (All-Met) and Brent Jones, who anchored a stellar performance last week by holding Derrick Braziel to 35 yards in a 35-0 victory against West Springfield.
He also hopes to beat them while wearing No. 33, the number his father, James Bailey, wore when he played running back at Robinson in the early 1980s.
"Maybe it will bring him good luck," the elder Bailey said. "My son is a Wildcat, so I've learned to become one, too. Maybe you can call me a Wildcat-Ram."
Directions: Take the Beltway to the Braddock Road (west) exit and go 5 1/2 miles to George Mason University. Turn left onto Sideburn Road, then take the second left to the school.