The Loudoun Valley football players went to school Thursday dressed in new T-shirts that Coach Bruce Sheppard had made for the Vikings' showdown last night against Virginia AAA National District unbeaten Edison.
The message on the shirts was intended not only to inspire the team but also engender support from its student body: "Not On This Night. Not In OUR HOUSE."
That was the exact phrase the Vikings' home crowd of more than 3,500 began chanting late in the fourth quarter, when it became clear that Senior Night in Purcellville had gone according to plan.
Loudoun Valley (7-1, 5-0) benefited from two early turnovers and two gutsy calls by its coaching staff in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter to pull out a 21-19 victory over the Eagles. The win gives the Vikings, in their first season since moving up from the AA Dulles District, at least a one-game lead over every team in the AAA National District with games remaining against Stuart and Wakefield.
"Our motto all season coming into AAA is that we had no doubt we could get it done at this level," said senior tailback Tommy Schonder, who was a workhorse for the Vikings with a game-high 114 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. "No doubt we could compete for this district title and in the playoffs.
"And there was no doubt we were winning tonight on Senior Night."
The Eagles (7-1, 4-1) fumbled an option pitch on their second play from scrimmage that Vikings senior linebacker Steven Harvey recovered at the Edison 1-yard line. Another Eagles fumble on their second series gave Loudoun Valley a short field again, this time at the Edison 43.
The Vikings turned both miscues into touchdowns, one on a quarterback sneak by senior Sam Clay and the second on a five-yard carry by Schonder for a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
"They had a short field the whole night, whether off turnovers or good kickoff returns," Edison Coach Vaughn Lewis said. "They never really mounted a drive on us, but they didn't have to. You can't give a good team like this one that kind of advantage."
Edison answered with a 67-yard touchdown pass from junior Shawn Lloyd to senior Justin Smith midway though the second quarter -- the duo connected 10 times for 197 yards -- but failed to keep Loudoun Valley's offense from running time off the clock for much of the rest of the game.
When Sheppard elected to go for it on fourth and three from the Eagles 7-yard line with 10 minutes 37 seconds remaining, that was the beginning of the end. Schonder scored on the play, and on the subsequent kickoff, senior Brock Bell blasted a hard, short kick off an Edison player that was recovered by Vikings junior Jason Danner at the Eagles 46-yard line.
The Vikings' ensuing eight-play drive did not result in points, but it used up more than four minutes.
The Eagles added a nine-yard touchdown pass from Lloyd to senior Ed Baldwin with 47 seconds to play, but their onside attempt was fielded cleanly by Vikings senior Trevor Ikwild and sent the fans charging onto the field in celebration.