The buzz surrounding Friday’s matchup between No. 3 Stone Bridge and No. 11 Lake Braddock isn’t steeped in history — the two teams have never played each other — or in playoff implications — Stone Bridge is in 5A while Lake Braddock competes in 6A. Instead, it’s the unknown of two teams that, on paper, match up pretty evenly that has players and fans alike excited.
“It kind of feels like a playoff game,” Lake Braddock defensive lineman Dwight Lomax said. “We know they have size and play hard and we respect that, but we have heart and crazy athleticism that they’ll have to respect, too.”
“This game right here, we’re looking for it to change people’s mind because some people expect us to lose,” Stone Bridge running back Sterling Dailey said. “If we come in humble, ready to compete and knowing what we are capable of, we’ll be ready.”
Two key areas will be quarterback play and the battle in the trenches between Stone Bridge’s enormous offensive line and Lake Braddock’s defensive line.
Dailey, who rushed for 1,535 yards last season, stands to benefit the most from a Bulldogs’ front line that averages about 290 pounds per lineman, led by 300-pound senior Nate Davis. But between Lomax, who brings explosive strength on the edges, and 340-pound tackle Reece Burnett, the Bruins have the potential to push back against Stone Bridge’s wall of linemen.
“We know they’re big but we’re not worried about that because we’ve got size, too,” said Burnett, a Towson commit. “We also got strength to clog the gap and make things tough for them.”
Under center, the Bruins possess a dual threat in North Carolina commit Caleb Henderson, who rushed for 112 yards and threw for 201 more in last week’s 38-22 win against Robinson. While he has a big target in A.J. Alexander, Stone Bridge sophomore Joe Thompson also has a reliable wideout in D’Ante Yarborough within the team’s tricky single-wing offense.
“Me and D’Ante know there will be a lot of attention on us, but we’re ready for that,” Dailey said. “People aren’t expecting us to be strong like we have been, but this is Stone Bridge and competing is what we do.”
After Chantilly’s last two-a-day practice this preseason, the Chargers football team celebrated by breaking out a slip-and-slide on the field. Pretty soon, the players began chanting for Coach Mike Lalli to join them. He obliged, surfing headfirst through the soapy water as the team went wild in approval.
“That’s probably the best thing about this group,” Lalli said as he wiped the water from his eyes. “They enjoy being together, have a great chemistry and they want to play well and succeed.”
A concerted effort will be vital entering the Chargers’ season opener against Lee. Last week, the Lancers put up 75 points in a wild victory against Edison behind 353 all-purpose yards by tailback Michael Jolly. But Lancers Coach Clarence Martin cautioned his team afterward that a similar offensive explosion against Chantilly is far from a given.
The Charger defense possesses several weapons, led by lockdown defensive back Raeshawn Smith. At the linebacker spot, juniors David Kerns and Jared Re give the perennial contender an athletic duo to roam the field.
Offensively, Lalli hopes that running back Deandre Harris can continue his strong finish to last season, when he rushed for 1,172 yards, and fill some of the void left by the graduation of quarterback Sonny Romine and running back Ross Simms.
“I think I just got more confident at the end of the year and knew I could do more things,” Harris said. “Our seniors that are returning on offense are good leaders so we shouldn’t have that much of a drop-off.” . . . Robinson senior tailback Joe Wilson said he expects to play Friday’s game against W.T. Woodson despite suffering a sprained ankle in last week’s season opener. After rushing for 117 yards on 15 carries, Wilson missed the entire second half with his right ankle wrapped in a brace during a 38-22 loss to Lake Braddock.