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Osbourn at Massaponax provides plenty of intrigue

Earlier this week, colleague Katie Carrera wrote a story about off-the-beaten-path offenses in the playoffs and how coaches may or may not stray from their basic principles.

Osbourn’s Steve Schultze, for one, has been adding more and more wrinkles to the Eagles’ single-wing, while Stone Bridge Coach Mickey Thompson -- one of the most devout single-wing folks -- ditched a second, pass-oriented offense that he used during a 28-14 loss to Madison on Oct. 19. The result? A 27-8 win for the Bulldogs and a trip to their eighth straight region title game.

One team that could’ve very easily made it in that story but didn’t is Massaponax, Osbourn’s opponent for Friday night’s Northwest Region Division 5 championship game, which has been moved from Fredericksburg to Liberty High School in Bealeton.

The Panthers (9-2) run the triple-option, which seems to be about as popular as the single-wing these days. When I talked to Massaponax Coach Eric Ludden about his team’s offense after a Week 9 win over Riverbend, the best comparison Ludden gave me was that the Panthers look a lot like Navy.

Fair enough. But while Navy relies heavily on quarterback Ricky Dobbs, Massaponax likes to spread the wealth between three running backs, a point evidenced by the fact that the Panthers are seven yards shy of having four players rush for 500-plus yards this season. The leaders:

RB Najee Narris -- 87 carries, 676 yards, 14 TDs
RB Andre Wyche -- 72 carries, 493 yards, 2 TDs
RB Jauan Latney -- 71 carries, 678 yards, 9 TDs
QB Thomas Robinson -- 89 carries, 501 yards, 6 TDs

“The thing that I like about it, it’s pretty diversified as to who’s going to carry the ball,” Ludden said after the Riverbend win. “We’ve had a lot of different kids involved this year and the chemistry of the team is such that nobody needs the credit. It’s really fun to watch because there are some kids who are really good running backs but they’re not selfish.”

Massaponax must face an Osbourn defense that has been outstanding recently. During a 20-3 win at North Stafford in the semifinals, the Eagles held North Stafford running back Torry Hart to 27 yards on 15 carries -- well off of his per-game average of 120.7.

Credit for the outstanding play can pretty much be spread across the board, although linebacker Tyler Del Rosario, who has 110 first-hit tackles and 47 assists. Defensive linemen Dimitri Mack and Marcus Mathews have also been huge.

Another interesting note on Osbourn’s defense has been its recent turnaround. In the first five games, Osbourn allowed the following point totals: 21, 21, 31, 7, 28. Not so surprisingly, the Eagles were only 3-2. But in the next seven games where they’re 6-1 (with only a two-point loss to Battlefield), here are the point totals: 14, 29, 20, 19, 6, 15, 3. That’s basically a one touchdown difference, 21.6 points per game cut down to 15.1.

To be fair, Massaponax has only allowed 139 points this season but there’s been a bit of a split there, too. Through the first seven games, Massaponax allowed an average of 7.4 points per game. But over the past four, that number has jumped to 21.8.

“We always have something to prove,” Del Rosario said. “At the beginning of the season, we made some mistakes and had to come back and show everybody we’re still good.”

Done and done. The Eagles haven’t allowed a legitimate touchdown since the first quarter of 42-6 win over Heritage on Nov. 6. Two weeks ago for the quarterfinals, GW-Danville scored twice in the fourth quarter, trailing by 56.

Whether it’s the unique option offense or Osbourn’s defense, somebody’s going to win a battle on Friday night and advance to the Virginia AAA state playoffs. My guess here is that it’ll be Osbourn, which is 9-1 in the postseason since 2006. The Eagles are also playing in their fourth region final in the past five years, with a chance to win their third region title in the past four.

By Jason Mackey  |  November 26, 2009; 2:18 PM ET
Categories:  Battlefield , Football , Massaponax , Northwest Region , Osbourn , Osbourn Park  
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