Every season, Gaithersburg Coach Kreg Kephart compiles highlight tapes for his senior players, usually about a dozen clips for them to remember their playing days by.
For linebacker Brian Bradford, the Trojans' leading -- and hardest -- tackler, Kephart is well into a second reel.
Bradford leads Gaithersburg in search of its third Maryland 4A championship appearance in four years when it hosts Montgomery County rival Sherwood in a semifinal tonight. The 2000 state champion Trojans (9-1) have won five straight over Sherwood (9-1) by a total of 23 points, including a 13-10 victory on Nov. 4.
Bradford, 215 pounds and now 6 feet 3 after recently growing an inch, is known among his teammates and coaches for his quiet demeanor and hard-hitting style of play. He epitomizes a defense that has yielded 10 fourth-quarter points since a surprising season-opening loss to Magruder. Bradford leads the Trojans with 90 solo tackles.
"We watch tapes of him and we see him line up against the other teams' formations, and it seems like he knows where the play is going before the other team runs it," Sherwood Coach Tom Crowell said. "He has an instinct for the ball that I haven't seen in a while. . . . He sniffs out plays so well, it is like he is in the huddle."
One of the highlights on Bradford's videotapes comes when he disrupts a Thomas Johnson running play by taking out a lead blocker and running back at the same time; another has him catching Seneca Valley speedster Brandon Chapman from behind in a key 42-30 victory on Oct. 4.
"Hitting is a big part of the game. People who make the big hits stand out the most," said Bradford, who has doubled at fullback for the first time since his sophomore year after two others were injured early this season. "A fullback is like a linebacker on offense. I just run around like a madman and open holes for [halfback Brian] Porter."
Bradford and his teammates will have their hands full against Sherwood, which won four straight against Gaithersburg from 1995 to '98. The Warriors combine the backfield duo of seniors Romeje Richards (1,003 yards, 10 TDs) and Josh Twyman (852 yards, 15 TDs) with a defense even stingier than Gaithersburg's. Sherwood posted shutouts in three of its first five games and has outscored its opponents 273-65 this season.
Directions: From the Beltway, take I-270 north, then take I-370 east to Route 355 north, to the school, which is on the left.