Going into his senior year at Lake Braddock, Matt Weiler already was a two-time All-Met soccer player and had committed to play the sport at Kentucky. Last year, he spent the fall being regularly pounded as the quarterback of an 0-10 Bruins football team, his first season on the gridiron. When August rolled around, he had to choose whether to play football again.
Don't think the decision didn't make Weiler pause.
"I definitely considered not playing," Weiler said.
But Weiler thought he saw a chance for a Bruins revival, and his hunch has been proven correct.
Behind a brawny defense, big offensive line and bruising running back, Lake Braddock (6-2, 4-2 Virginia AAA Patriot District) has had arguably the best one-season turnaround of any team in Northern Virginia. Weiler, who also plays cornerback and safety, noticed an immediate difference in the defense's attitude under first-year defensive coordinator Joe Dishun.
"In all perspectives, people have much more confidence in themselves," Weiler said. "There's much more hope this year. Our defense has been on a roll. We just know we're going to stop people in big situations."
Last Friday, the defense aced its most difficult test to date. With the Bruins leading West Springfield 28-23 late in the fourth quarter, Lake Braddock faced a first and goal at the 4-yard line against the Spartans, and held for all four downs to secure the team's fifth straight victory. Lake Braddock has held teams to 11.8 points per game this season.
Junior running back Jordan Russell has played just as large a role as the team's defense. Behind a line that averages 275 pounds, Russell rushed for a career-high 306 yards on 27 carries against West Springfield. That outburst vaulted Russell to 1,432 yards on the season, third best in the Washington area.
This week, Lake Braddock takes on No. 9 Robinson, a team that has lost only one regular season contest in five years. Weiler will start at quarterback for the second straight game, after playing wide receiver at the beginning of the season. Going into the game, Weiler said the team has an optimism that he never would have thought possible after last year's 0-10 record.
"We have nothing to lose and they have everything to lose," he said. "Even if we lose, the season has already been as good as we'd ever dreamed.
"We're going to try to make it a little better."