Although West Springfield's football team is enjoying its best season in more than a decade and likely will go down as one of the school's best ever, running back Jason Langley said yesterday that posting a winning record wasn't what he and his senior teammates set out to accomplish three months ago.
The Spartans' goal, Langley said, was, and still is, to win the AAA Patriot District and secure their first playoff appearance since 1993. West Springfield has made only four postseason appearances since the school opened in 1966, according to Coach Bill Renner.
After dropping the season opener to Centreville, West Springfield has won six in a row and enters Friday's game against undefeated Robinson with a chance to seize control of the district race. The Spartans are 4-0; Robinson, the four-time champion, is 3-0.
"This means everything to us," said Langley, who has rushed for 1,112 yards and 13 touchdowns on 142 carries. "West Springfield isn't exactly known as a football powerhouse. It would be nice to change that."
The Spartans were in a similar position two years ago, when they faced Robinson in a winner-takes-all regular season finale. Both schools had undefeated district records. The Rams, whose program has a different sort of legacy, prevailed in that game, 35-0.
But this year's West Springfield team is more complete. With one of the region's top passing tandems -- quarterback Joey Skaff and wide receiver Mike Caussin -- Langley's big-gain capability and a punishing defense led by linebacker Scott Price, the Spartans have reason to hope for a different outcome this time around.
"This is the situation you want to be in," Renner said. "In control of your own destiny."
West Springfield will finish the season against a vastly improved T.C. Williams squad and defending state champion Westfield. Robinson has Hayfield and Annandale.
Although Robinson hasn't lost a regular season game on the road since 1999, Friday's game is almost as important to the Rams. A Robinson loss could set in motion a scenario that might leave the Rams out of the playoffs. If the Spartans win the Patriot (district title winners gain an automatic playoff bid), Lee wins the AAA Liberty for a second straight year, Oakton wins the Concorde and Westfield finishes 9-1, Robinson could come up short.
"It's safe to say this is going to be a big test for us," Robinson Coach Mark Bendorf said. "There's no question West Springfield is going to be geared up. We are going to see their 'A' game.
"They have all-region players all over the place," Bendorf added. "They're usually pretty good on offense, but this year they have the defense to go along with it. That is what's made them a contender."