2009 Dulles District Football (Super Early) Primer
With the summer months upon us and football season slowly creeping into focus, it's time for a pre-season sneak peak at the lay of the land for the upcoming 2009 season. Sure it's early, but is it ever too early to talk about football?
Virginia Preps recently released their AAA and AA preseason rankings which feature Ashburn's two powerhouse programs as legitimate title contenders. Here's a very early look at the 2009 Dulles District, organized by my first glance prognostications.
The Favorite: Broad Run (14-0)
This is a no-brainer and Virginia Preps thought so highly of the players the reigning state champs have returning to tap them as the No. 1 team in the state heading into the season. With Division I prospect T.J. Peeler taking the reigns as the feature back in a rush-first offense and fellow D-I talent Adrian Flemming providing big plays through the air attack, the Spartans have arguably the top two offensive talents in the district. Peeler's bruising down-hill running style was showcased late in the 2008 season after he returned from an elbow injury and his sterling performances in tandem with AA Player of the Year Breon Earl powered the Broad Run offense during their run through the playoffs. Peeler tallied 1,145 yards (8.9 ypc) and 18 touchdowns in only 11 games a year ago and those numbers could sky rocket this fall with senior linemen John Meier and Taylor Evans blocking for him. Meanwhile Flemming - who didn't get a ton of looks in an offense full of playmakers - came up huge in the state title game and finished the season with 30 receptions for 625 yards and eight scores.
The obvious question here is who will man the helm of the ship with the graduation of senior quarterback Chris Jessop? An early candidate for the job is senior David Weaver who was a key secondary receiver (219 yards, 5 TDs) and special teams standout a year ago. If he can manage the game and get the ball into the hands of the team's top playmakers, this offense shouldn't miss a beat from last year. Senior Ethan Miller, who quarterbacked the JV squad last fall, senior Jake Wenzel and junior Eddie Barnes are also options. Defensively, they'll be hard pressed to replace the plethora of starters lost from last year's unit which gave up just 11.6 points per game. They should score enough points to allow that number to rise a bit, but you can bet Coach Mike Burnett and his assistants will have that defense ready to go when they open up shop at Fauquier on August 28.
The Challenger: Loudoun County (6-5)
You might think the Raiders could be headed for a downturn after the loss of senior quarterback Joe Bushrod and running back Andrew Walczak. While there might be a few ups and downs with a some fresh faces getting more playing time at skill positions, County returns the second leading receiver in the district in senior Michael Ayoub (43 rec., 652 yards, 6 TDs) who will look to stretch the field to open things up for the Raiders' rushing attack. That unit should be led by senior Adam Yesuf who had the second best yards per carry clip in the district last year with a 7.9 mark on 68 carries for 539 yards. Senior Austin Campbell - who saw limited time under center last season - is the expected replacement for Bushrod. He won't be the scrambler that Bushrod was, but that could be a good sign for Ayoub and senior top prospect Chase Williams at the tight end position. Williams is also the biggest defensive name in the district and will be looking to polish of a stellar career at County by dominating the middle of the field and punishing opposing backs and receivers who reach the linebackers. This team really came on strong at the end of the season a year ago and could pick up right where they left off in a district that's wide open once you get past Broad Run. The Raiders won three straight at the end of the season to reach the Region II playoffs and will certainly have their sights set on a return trip.
The Contender: Briar Woods (8-3)
With a 29-0 loss at Broad Run derailing their hopes to battle for a district crown, the Falcons might not have fully fit the "challenger" role a year ago. But a return trip to Region II Division 3 playoffs capped the end of another impressive campaign that saw their dominating defense and stubborn rushing attack propel them to a third place finish in the district. Gone are 23 seniors including Division 3 Player of the Year Ray Taliaferro at running back and fellow All-District first teamers OT Aaron Kakol and DE Austin DeMoss and Division 3 Defensive Player of the Year LB Jake Ashton. The Falcons also lost the rest of their defensive front with Jamie Caldwell and Michael Girolami also graduating along with linebacker Andrew Davidson, wideout Jeremy Gray, running back Matt Eisenman and punter Bryan Mahoney among others. But even with the holes opening up on both lines, the biggest question in Brambleton has got to be who will take the reigns at quarterback this season. Whether its the guy who started the season (senior Austin Fratalli) or the one who ended it (sophomore Edwin Mends), whoever gets the gig will need to bring some more consistency and big-play ability to the position. The rushing attack will continue to be the forte of this group with Coach Charlie Pierce grooming his linemen to do the dirty work that results in extra yardage, but a year ago the Falcons lacked the explosiveness that they had one year prior with Alex Munro. Bruising fullback/linebacker Billy McDonald is back for his senior season, but after him, junior Derek Chase (5 carries, 52 yards) is the most experienced man in the backfield. Needless to say, there a multitude of holes to fill and plenty of questions that need to be answered before we can count on a third straight playoff appearance for the Falcons. But they do have talent coming back and a good crop of young players ready to grab the torch.
The Sleeper: Park View (3-7)
Last year was a real struggle for the Patriots at times, as a team used to being in the district title hunt only managed three wins all season. But with 40 players back from last year's roster, including all three quarterbacks and plenty of speed at receiver and defensive back, the 2009 Patriots could quickly erase the memories of last year's rocky road. Senior Brandon Lee - who at 6 foot 1, 196 pounds is a formidable sight under center - got the most reps last season, using his big arm to throw for close to 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for seven more. Sawyer Hackett, another senior, was much more accurate in the pocket, completing 59 percent of his passes for 511 yards and five scores with only two interceptions. Both could be in the mix when the season gets underway and freshman Jonathan Wooten, who got a few snaps at the end of the season finale, has the skills to be Coach Andy Hill's quarterback of the future. Senior DB/WRs Nathan Santana, Tommy Sedeski and Drew Mason each have plenty of speed to fuel the passing attack and senior tight end Jordan Owens should see a bump in his production. The Patriots lose some bulk and toughness on the line with the graduation of Kenny Smith but plenty of young linemen got their feet wet a year ago and will be ready to step in and contribute this season. You can just about bet on 2-3 trick plays per game when you face Hill's teams and with all explosiveness this group has in its receiving corps along with the speed of senior tailback Daryus Beale, we could see even more in 2009. I've tabbed them as my sleeper but no one should be sleeping on Park View come September because a few confidence-building wins early on could catapult them right back into the district title hunt.
A year removed from the best season in the program's history, the Panthers must go back to the drawing board if they hope to come close to last year's stellar run. The 19 seniors they lost to graduation include their quarterback and leading tackler, the district's leading rusher and scorer, the district's leading receiver, their fullback, kicker, tight end and the bulk of both lines. Gregory Woodlief took all but two snaps under center last season which means junior Harrison Kee and sophomores Zachary Hobby and Garrett Streich will need to find their form quickly once practice begins to gain the trust of those around them. Senior wideout Leo Pittman III is small for an every down back at 5-5, 140, but if Potomac Falls can find a between the tackles runner to compliment him, he could reel off plenty of big plays in their offense. Last year this group was all about the aerial attack and Michael Baker on the ground. This year, they won't have the luxury of a unit with multiple years of varsity experience and could struggle to score, which will put pressure on the defense to keep them in games early on as their offense picks up steam.
Just around the corner, Dominion will likely still be in a rebuilding phase in its second year under Karl Buckwalter. Junior Trey Baxter, who started the year as a running back, ended up the team's top passer with 245 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-43. And then there's that Deandre Reaves guy, the one who rushed for 1,280 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman and managed 853 yards and six TDs a year ago despite being just about the only offense the Titans had to work with. Expect a bounce-back year for the junior speed demon. Derrick Lewis only had 108 receiving yards last season was second on the team in that category and will be called upon for more production in his senior season. While they averaged just 8.5 points per game, the defense was a strong point midway through their campaign, holding Briar Woods, Heritage and Park View to 14 points or fewer in three narrow losses. The Titans will again need to rely on their 'D' to keep them in games against more experienced groups, but with Reaves in the backfield, they're always one play away from an electrifying touchdown run.
The Freedom Eagles (1-9) will also be looking to reload with new head coach Mick Mullins taking over. Losing senior running back Jeff Pugh really unraveled their season last fall and the Eagles will be looking for players to fill several key positions this year, including quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Junior Chuck Thompson and sophomore Andrew Lamant appear to be the most likely candidates at quarterback while senior Phil Britten got some experience in the backfield last season. And look for senior wideout Briar Orr - who led the team last year with 22 receptions for 398 yards and five touchdowns - to be the top target again this season. It could be another long season for the Eagles but its an important one as they look to build a solid foundation in Mullins' first year at the helm. A win or two in district play might not make waves around the district, but it would be a good indicator that the Eagles are headed in the right direction.
Share your thoughts on who you think will take home the Dulles District crown in 2009. Who's your sleeper pick and which teams could make a big jump up the ladder from last season? And if you've got an inside scoop on one of these teams and how they might shape up this fall, let us hear it!
July 2, 2009; 2:34 PM ET
Categories: Briar Woods High School , Broad Run High School , Dominion High School , Dulles District , Football , Freedom High School , High School Sports , Loudoun County High School , Park View High School , Potomac Falls High School | Tags: Briar Woods High School, Broad Run High School, Dominion High School, Dulles District, Football, Freedom High School, Loudoun County High School, Park View High School, Potomac Falls High School
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