Week after week, the Freedom-Woodbridge football team stood on the brink of a breakthrough, only to come up just short. There were two overtimes against Colonial Forge; four overtimes against Hylton; a decisive, untimed down against Forest Park.
Each of those games ended in defeat, and the Eagles finished with yet another three-win season.
The big win they so desperately needed finally came last month. On the road against a Mountain View squad that blew them out in 2015, the Eagles emerged with a 43-35 victory to open the 2016 season. Mountain View’s top two quarterbacks have since gone down with injuries, so Freedom remains the only team to have beaten the Wildcats at full strength this year.
Midway through the season, Freedom boasts a 4-1 record, which already matches its highest win total since the school was founded in 2004.
“We’re just a lot stronger physically and a lot smarter,” Freedom Coach Darryl Overton said. “We recognize plays a lot faster. Our recognition and football awareness is a lot higher.”
Improvement came with a full offseason workload. Overton was hired in April 2015, giving the Eagles precious little time to adapt to their new coach before installing new systems over the summer.
This year, Overton oversaw maximum turnout at workouts in February. The team underwent weight lifting and conditioning sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Players convened at the stadium for 5 a.m. practices every Friday.
“Last year Coach O came kind of late, so we couldn’t really prepare how we wanted to,” running back Tyquan Brown said. “This year we had a full offseason of work, so that helped a lot.”
Brown was a freshman on a 2015 Freedom squad that fielded just three players with varsity experience. Eight starters returned on both sides of the ball this year, including every offensive lineman.
That experience up front benefits Brown, who ran for 1,300 yards as a diminutive newcomer last season. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound back already has 865 yards and six touchdowns this year, including a career-high 328 yards on 21 carries against Gar-Field last Friday. The 56-13 victory marked Freedom’s first homecoming win in school history.
Adversity might be awaiting the Eagles on the back end of their schedule. Each of their five remaining opponents were playoff teams last year. Freedom last made the playoffs in 2014 with a 3-7 record, but that was before it moved from Class 5A to the more challenging 6A format.
“We know we can beat them. We know we can do it,” Brown said. “We’ve just got to prepare hard like we’ve been doing all year long.”
Consecutive losses for Stonewall Jackson after Friday’s 32-8 defeat against Potomac. The Raiders have won just five games since Virginia Tech standout Greg Stroman graduated from the school after the 2013 season.
The Bulldogs limited Woodbridge to 53 rushing yards and minus-1 passing yards in Friday’s 24-7 win. Woodbridge’s lone touchdown came off a 50-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.