South County lost its first three games last season before reeling off 11 consecutive victories and reaching the Virginia AAA Division 5 final.
The Stallions are not following the exact same path this season, but they do seem to be positioning themselves for another playoff berth even though they dropped five of their first six games.
“We were beat up a little bit early so we played a lot of different kids which later in the season has helped us immensely,” said South County Coach Gerry Pannoni, whose team has scored at least 21 points in each game. “We can do a bunch of different things than we thought we could do.”
One is use a power running game. Out of necessity, Pannoni used defensive linemen Anthony Johnson, a junior, and Danny Lavin, a senior, in the backfield, to complement the Stallions’ option and misdirection game.
Pannoni considers junior quarterback David Symmes perhaps the most dynamic offensive player in the district. He is likely to finish the season with more than 1,000 yards both rushing and passing.
The 6-foot-3 Symmes, bound for West Point to play lacrosse, has grown about five inches since the start of his sophomore season. He had 214 offensive yards Friday in a 48-14 win over West Springfield.
South County has been playing Vanderbilt recruit Oren Burks mostly at inside linebacker, enabling him to make more tackles all over the field. Senior Aaron Jackson has scored a team-high 10 touchdowns, eight on catches.
“Right now they believe they can beat anybody [in the region] in Division 5,” Pannoni said. “The kids were talking about that Saturday morning in the weight room. They said, ‘Coach, we want to practice Thanksgiving morning.’ ”
West Potomac junior Demornay Pierson-El rushed for a season-high 309 yards in a 26-13 win over W.T. Woodson, with four touchdowns. No. 6 Westfield had kept him out of the end zone the previous week, the only team to do so this season.
T.C. Williams (3-5) scored two defensive touchdowns in its 52-7 win over Annandale, with junior Rashawn Jackson returning an interception 60 yards for a score and senior Tim Garvin scoring off a fumble recovery. Senior Dealo Robertson carried 22 times for 175 yards and Alec Grosser threw for 214 yards and three touchdowns.
It was the Titans’ second consecutive win, but even with victories against Lee and West Potomac the next two weeks, they almost certainly will miss the Division 6 playoffs for the 22nd consecutive season.
No. 16 Stonewall Jackson trailed at halftime for the first time this season at Osbourn on Friday before erupting for 36 second-half points in a 46-28 win. The Raiders were down 21-10 to start the second half.
“We went in at halftime and said stop crying about the officiating and this and that and the other thing and execute the game plan,” Stonewall Coach Mike Dougherty said. “Before we knew it we were rolling again.”
An interception return for a touchdown by senior Keenan Boyce helped flip the game in the third quarter. Junior Javon Purvis rushed for almost 200 yards and junior quarterback Greg Stroman threw for 177 yards and ran for 75. Senior receiver J.R. Washington had six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Stonewall is fine-tuning its hurry-up offense and caught Osbourn with 12 men on the field multiple times, said Dougherty, whose team is aiming for the program’s first Virginia AAA Cedar Run District title since 2004.
The Raiders are tied with No. 10 Hylton for the highest Virginia High School League power rating among Division 6 schools in the Northwest Region. The top two teams will earn first-round byes in the six-team Northwest Region playoffs (eight teams qualify in the Northern Region).
Stonewall, with no winning season since 2004, drew a strong following to the game Friday at nearby Osbourn, a team that had outscored the Raiders, 307-90, in wins the previous seven years. Stonewall has not always drawn fans, particularly during the down seasons.
“It’s great to see the students surrounding themselves around what we’re doing,” Dougherty said. “Kids I don’t even know are approaching me in the hallway congratulating me and my kids are saying the same thing.”
Potomac (Va.) junior Torrey Dixon ran 30 times for 286 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-13 win at Gar-Field to keep the Panthers unbeaten in the Virginia AAA Cardinal District headed into their game Friday at Hylton, which also is unbeaten in the district.
A quick glance at the box score from last Friday’s Virginia AAA Concorde District battle between Westfield (8-0, 3-0) and Oakton (6-2, 1-2) could have left some wondering how the Bulldogs pulled out the win. Not only did Westfield commit more penalties (seven) and convert 12 fewer first downs than Oakton, but Cougars QB Kyle Downer outrushed Westfield’s potent ground attack, 164-141.
In the end, though, the difference in Westfield’s 28-14 victory proved to be its quick offensive execution — perhaps too quick, if you ask Coach Kyle Simmons.
“One of the reasons our defense struggled some was because as soon as our defense was sitting down on the bench to make adjustments, our offense had scored on the second play of a drive and we had to send our defense right back out there,” said Simmons, whose team clinched a playoff berth for the 12th straight season.
The quickest and biggest plays came through the air by way of the Chris Mullins-Devon Burns connection. With the score tied at seven in the first half, Mullins, who threw for 246 yards, found Burns for touchdown passes of 46 and 95 yards, respectively, to give Westfield the necessary cushion for victory.
Ironically, Westfield watched a similar performance during last week’s team dinner. With the playoffs looming, Simmons decided to show the school’s 2007 state playoff game against Oscar Smith in which they gave up over 500 yards passing but still found a way to win.
“That box score made it look like we got killed, too,” Simmons said, “but just like on this past Friday, the kids made plays when it counted.”
The same resolve will be necessary this week when the Bulldogs face Centreville (6-2, 2-1), which rallied for a win against Chantilly to set up a Friday matchup that could decide the district title. . . .
For the past three weeks, Jefferson has been missing perhaps its most important component for this part of the season: healthy starters.
Two-way starters Patrick O’Connor, Jack Brown, Daven Kim and Brandon Zhang were sidelined following the Colonials’ 42-7 loss to Stone Bridge on Sept. 28, leaving Jefferson undermanned in equally tough games against Madison and Fairfax.
With those players back for Friday’s game against Marshall, the positive effect proved obvious, as the Colonials snapped a three-game losing streak with a 42-18 win. It also marked the third time Jefferson has scored at least 42 points in a contest this fall.
O’Connor made the most of his return, rushing for a season-high 223 yards and three touchdowns to help the Colonials overcome a 12-0 first-quarter deficit.