Preparing for his team's playoff opener was relatively easy for W.T. Woodson Coach Gerry Pannoni. After pulling the game plan from the Cavaliers' regular season 22-20 victory over Langley, Pannoni and his staff tried to tinker and improve their strategies.
As it turned out, W.T. Woodson's game plan already was pretty good, and the Cavaliers earned an easier victory, 32-7, in the Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 5 semifinals. It was the same story for almost every other area team playing a playoff game this weekend against a team it had faced in the regular season.
"If you won the game the first time, maybe it makes it easier because at least you're comfortable with the fact that although maybe you did some things wrong, at least you did win," Pannoni said. "If you lost, it's probably more difficult because you've got to figure out, 'Okay, what the heck do I do?' "
Of the 11 playoff games involving Washington area teams that were rematches, nine were won by the team that had won the regular season meeting, and Hylton beat Woodbridge after the teams split two regular season meetings. Douglass, which beat Gwynn Park, 35-0, in the Maryland 3A East Region final, was the only rematch victor that did not beat its opponent during the regular season.
"In some ways, it's hard because you know the other team is very familiar with what you're doing, but on the other hand, it is easier [to prepare] because you don't have to go back and start from scratch," said Lackey Coach Scott Chadwick, whose team beat Westlake 13-7 in the regular season and 21-7 in Friday's Maryland 3A South Region final. "But you know you've got to come up with something new because you know they're familiar with your stuff."
Pannoni said that W.T. Woodson changed some of its offensive formations for its rematch with Langley, hoping to take advantage of some potentially beneficial matchups. The Cavaliers are in a similar situation this week in the Division 5 regional final against Edison, a team they beat 42-14 on Sept. 18. It is one of four rematches in next weekend's regional finals, along with Oakton-Robinson, Stonewall Jackson-Hylton and North Stafford-Massaponax.
As for the number of teams that won in the regular season and in this weekend's rematch, Pannoni had an easy explanation: "You would think most of the time when a team wins, it's not a fluke."
-- Josh Barr