Football Night in Loudoun County
Tonight features a huge matchup in the Dulles District with first place on the line between Broad Run and a surprising young Dominion team. I'll break down that contest in detail and then touch on the other five matchups involving Loudoun teams, which include a border battle in the Dulles and a pivotal Cedar Run matchup.
But first, your game of the week...
Broad Run rushing offense vs. Dominion front seven
Everyone knows what T.J. Peeler can do. The senior tailback is already over 1,000 yards on the season and has 11 touchdowns to his name. But his success starts up front where the Spartans offensive line has been blasting people in the trenches. The Titans will be showing different looks and bringing people from different spots to try to confuse this unit, but that's where Peeler can make plays to hurt you. All he needs is a hint of daylight and then he could be off to the races. This is where the Titans need to step up and tackle, because as Dominion coach Karl Buckwalter told me, "we've got to be able tackle or the game is going to be over - Peeler's going to have a field day."
Broad Run passing offense vs. Dominion secondary
Sophomore quarterback Connor Jessop is really coming to his own under center for Broad Run. With targets like Adrian Flemming, Joey Quigg and David Weaver roaming the field, one of the top running backs in the area and a dominant line, how could he not be brimming with confidence every time out? The Titans secondary is also a confident bunch. A very quick, athletic, confident bunch led by junior DeAndre Reaves. They won't have the size to match up with Flemming on the outside, but they have the speed and playmaking ability to take advantage of any mistakes Jessop may make - though he only has one interception this season. The goal for the Titans is to slow the running game in order to force Jessop to make plays through the air. If they can do that, they'll have a shot.
Dominion rushing offense vs. Broad Run front seven
Reaves finally broke through last week against Freedom-South Riding, cracking 100 yards on the ground for the first time this season. Through five games, he only has one rushing score, but his playing time was limited through the first three weeks by a nagging ankle injury. Now healthy, Reaves showcased his explosiveness a week ago with a punt return and interception return for touchdowns. The normally stout Spartans defensive line was gashed for 174 yards by Briar Woods tailback Michael Brownlee last week, and could be vulnerable to Reaves' combination of strength and speed. Dominion also has the most mobile quarterback in the district in junior Trey Baxter, who could present more problems for the defense.
Edge: Titans (barely)
Dominion passing offense vs. Broad Run secondary
Baxter isn't asked to throw often, but when he's done so recently, it's resulted in big plays. Last week he was a modest 3 of 3 for three touchdowns. Derrick Lewis and Sammy Coleman are big, strong receivers who can take advantage of matchups and get up to make plays downfield. But Weaver and Quigg are fast, fundamentally sound defensive backs and rarely get caught out of position. Add to that the pressure the Spartans hope to apply on an inconsistent Titans O-Line and Dominion may not have the pass protection necessary to setup passing plays. The Titans need their line to play much better than it did a year ago for them to compete.
Broad Run special teams vs. Dominion special teams
In Reaves, Flemming, Quigg and whoever else either coach might throw out there to return kicks and punts, this game will feature several of the most explosive returners in the league. Reaves showed what he could do last week and Flemming has multiple returns for touchdowns on the season. Kick coverage will be essential for both teams as they look to control the battle for field position. With the Titans not having the ability to move the ball as quickly up and down the field as their opponents, Reaves will need to provide them with short fields as often as possible. If the Titans are in it late, "Gus the Mule" - a.k.a. Dominion kicker Charles Donkor - could be a factor. He's already nailed field goals of 42 and 36 yards and has the leg to get it done from range. The Spartans have shuffled kickers due to injuries but have yet to find consistency. They've only converted 19 of 30 extra point tries and have not made a field goal on the year.
Three Keys for Broad Run
1. Establish the run - When the offensive line is playing to its strengths and T.J. Peeler is running hard, no one can stop the Broad Run running game. Take it to Dominion early and let them know they're in for a long night of smashmouth football.
2. Don't give up the big play - The Titans don't have the most efficient, threatening offense, but they do have playmakers in Reaves, Baxter and Lewis. Don't let anyone get behind you, because a big play could ignite the entire Dominion team and the crowd.
3. Remember last year - A year ago, Dominion gave the Spartans their toughest test on homecoming in Ashburn. With the Titans coming in at 2-0 in the Dulles District, there's no need for added motivation for the Spartans. But they need only flip the calendar back 12 months to see what their opponents are capable of if they play to their potential.
Three Keys for Dominion (made easy by my interview with Buckwalter)
1. Alignment and assignment - Dominion made enough mistakes for the whole season in its first few games. Now that they have the system down, they can't afford to blow assignments or take bad penalties. Line up correctly, know your assignment and execute and you'll have a shot against the heavy favorites.
2. Tackle and get stops - If the Titans can't tackle Broad Run's ball carriers and get a few stops defensively early on, it'll be a long night in Sterling.
3. Put together a few lengthy drives - They don't have to put points on the board every time they have the ball, but the Titans must move the football in order to keep the ball out of the hands of the Broad Run offense and control field position.
Now let's take a look at the rest of the action...
Park View (3-2) at Potomac Falls (2-3), 7:30
The Patriots are riding high after their upset of Loudoun County while the Panthers had their bye to nurse their injuries and digest their first ever loss to Dominion.
October 9, 2009; 10:12 AM ET
Categories: AA Dulles , AAA Cedar Run District , AAA Liberty District , Briar Woods , Broad Run , Dominion , Football , Freedom South-Riding , Heritage High School , Loudoun County High School , Loudoun Valley High School , Park View , Potomac Falls , Stone Bridge High School
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