Freedom-Woodbridge linebacker Cortez Jackson ran the fumble back for a touchdown and then kept running. Jackson’s strip-six late in the fourth quarter had sealed a 30-7 win over No. 8 Woodbridge, and the senior was a blur of athleticism and joy.
He sprinted to the sideline, blew by teammates looking to celebrate, bowled over a yard marker and navigated through joyous coaches and fans near the bench. It wasn’t apparent where he wanted to go, but it was clear he couldn’t be stopped.
Jackson and the Eagles defense were the story of the day for No. 19 Freedom (6-1, 3-0 Cardinal District), which clamped down on the Vikings to secure pole position in the district and further shift the narrative of this Prince William County rivalry.
“We take a lot of pride in doing this,” Coach Darryl Overton said. “We haven’t lost a division game in three years. [People] call them a juggernaut, and it’s like, ‘Hold up, now.’ ”
The Woodbridge-Freedom game has quickly emerged as one of the better rivalries in Northern Virginia. The Vikings (6-1, 2-1) dominated Freedom for a decade, winning every matchup from the Eagles’ inaugural 2005 season to 2015. But the past two years saw Freedom rise to prominence and take out its long-bottled frustrations on Woodbridge, beating the Vikings handily in 2016 and 2017.
Both teams entered Saturday’s game with a vaunted defense and a hot running back.
Woodbridge’s Lamonte James and Freedom’s TyQuan Brown, who are cousins, had each eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark through six games played and were hundreds of yards beyond the next closest rushing total in the county.
But their much-anticipated matchup never came to fruition as James went down with a shoulder injury on the Vikings’ second offensive play of the game. He looked on from the sideline as his team struggled to get anything going against the Eagles’ stout defensive front, led by defensive tackle Josh Fuga, a Temple commit.
“We wanted to dominate and get to the ball,” Jackson said. “That’s what we did.”
With five-star prospect Antoine Sampah and Villanova commit Jalen Howard anchoring Woodbridge’s defense, Brown had trouble breaking free into the type of highlight-reel runs his fans and teammates have grown accustomed to. But the senior continued to chip away at the Vikings, and his coaches trusted him with the ball, even giving him a handoff on a key fourth and 12 in the first half.
He finished with 29 carries for 144 yards and a touchdown. Through seven games he has 1,179 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Brown’s consistency, as well as two touchdown passes from quarterback Quest Powell to wide receiver Zak Person, gave the Eagles more than enough offense on a day when their defense seemed impenetrable.
“It feels good because [Woodbridge] is a good football team with a lot of good players,” Overton said. “If they weren’t a good football team it wouldn’t feel so good.”