It took about a minute for the public-address announcer and the visiting fans at Centreville High to notice that Stone Bridge had taken the field. The Bulldogs started their 2019 season by walking silently in pairs, hand-in-hand, through the frenzied preparations of the Wildcats’ band and cheerleaders. 

They looked dangerous and would later prove to be in a 28-14 win, but they also looked calm and confident. The No. 9 Bulldogs are one of the most consistently successful programs in Virginia, and they have thrived for the better part of the past two decades through a defined style and culture. 

“Playing for Stone Bridge means working the hardest. Don’t let anyone beat you,” senior running back Zakias Moore said. “And the guy that’s across from you? You have to be better than him at all times. At all times.” 

Friday night was the first meeting between Stone Bridge, a Class 5 power, and the Wildcats, a perennial contender in Class 6. The matchup arrived at two distinct points in the development of both programs. 

While the Bulldogs (1-0) are secure in their identity, Centreville (0-1) is trying to forge a new one. Friday was the first game after the retirement of coach Chris Haddock, who led the Wildcats to a state championship in 2013. Jon Shields, formerly the defensive coordinator at Westfield, replaced him and will work to carve out a spot in this area among teams such as Stone Bridge. 

The Wildcats briefly tied the game at 14 just after halftime off two circus grabs by junior wideout Avery Ford. But Stone Bridge pounded away at them in the second half, mostly through Moore. The senior had 110 of his 128 yards rushing in the second half, and his two third-quarter touchdowns were the difference.

 “I told them in the second half that we’re not going to get fancy. We’re just going to get tough,” Coach Mickey Thompson said. “And that’s our MO. Whenever we’re backed into a corner, we’re just going to plow ahead.”

Stone Bridge has made a habit of plowing through defenses with its signature single-wing look. This season, Moore is joined in the single wing by senior Jared Cole, a Massachusetts commit whom Thompson and his staff like to move all over the field. He finished with 113 yards rushing and 109 receiving. 

 “You never know which way we’re going to go,” Moore said of the Stone Bridge offense. “We might go this way, we might go that way, or we might hit you straight up the middle.”