3. STONE BRIDGE
2012 record: 14-1 (lost to Lake Taylor, 20-14, in the Virginia AAA Division 5 state championship).
Notable returners: RB Sterling Dailey, OL Nate Davis, OL Connor Smith, WR D’Ante Yarborough
Notable losses: DL Jonathan Allen, QB Ryan Burns
Games to Watch: vs. Lake Braddock (Sept. 6), at Westfield (Oct. 4)
Overview: Though the Bulldogs don’t possess the recognizable star power of years past, Stone Bridge has the potential to put together one of its best seasons yet. That’s saying a lot considering Stone Bridge has reached four of the last six state title games, with the 2007 game marking their lone championship. Coach Mickey Thompson will again look to confuse opponents with his single-wing offense. With running back Sterling Dailey and wideout D’Ante Yarborough joining a big, experienced offensive line, the Bulldogs have the potential to put up a lot of points as they work for another title run.
2. GOOD COUNSEL
2012 record: 11-1 (beat DeMatha, 26-14, in Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship)
Notable returners: DL Jesse Aniebonam, OL Sam Mustipher, RB Leo Ekwoge, LB/S Kobie Walker
Notable losses: WR/DB Kendall Fuller, RB/LB Dorian O’Daniel, QB Brendan Marshall, LB Marcel Ngachie
Games to Watch: vs. Gonzaga (Sept. 20), at DeMatha (Sept. 27)
Overview: Good Counsel has been nothing short of dominant recently, winning the WCAC title and claiming the top spot in the Post’s season-ending rankings in each of the last four years. The drive for five could prove a bit tougher with the Falcons graduating a number of their skill players, including All-Met Offensive Player of the Year Kendall Fuller and RB Dorian O’Daniel. Working in Good Counsel’s favor is the depth and experience featured on their offensive and defensive lines. The Falcons looked unstoppable in the first quarter of their season opener against Gilman behind explosive RB Leo Ekwoge, but when the Western Michigan commit went down with a knee injury, the offense sputtered under new starting QB Bryan Strittmatter en route to a 20-14 loss. The extent of Ekwoge’s injury will be known later this week but the Falcons, who lost their season opener last year, know it’s much too early to panic.
2012 record: 9-3 (lost 26-14 to Good Counsel in the WCAC championship)
Notable returners: LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, RB Taiwan Deal, DL Deonte Holden, OL Brock Ruble, WR Cameron Phillips
Notable losses: None
Games to Watch: at St. Joseph (N.J.) (Sept. 7), vs. Good Counsel (Sept. 27),
Overview: It’s been four years since DeMatha last won a WCAC title, which is a short time for most but a lengthy drought for the Stags, who have won eight championships since 2000 and 19 overall. Optimism surrounds DeMatha’s chances to reclaim the title this season, thanks to a wealth of experience and talent. The Stags return nine starters on defense and boast a handful of Football Bowl Subdivision recruits, including hard-hitting LB Ja’Whaun Bentley and playmaking RB Taiwan Deal. Whether DeMatha can turn this talent into consistent execution and success will be key. In a 24-20 season-opening win against Virginia public school power Phoebus, the Stags were efficient on both sides of the ball and began building the confidence necessary to travail the always-tough path to a WCAC title.