The Loudoun Report: State semifinal edition
In today's edition of the Loudoun Report, a pair of Ashburn teams make return trips to the state semifinals as Stone Bridge looks to get back to the state final for the first time since its 2007 state title and Broad Run tries to repeat as AA Division 4 champs. But first, we wrap things up with Park View, which fell to Handley in Saturday's Region II Division 3 final.
Park View's season ends at Handley
The Patriots completed the biggest turnaround in the Dulles District this season, going from a three-win team a year ago to an eight-win team this fall. But after they dismantled Western Albemerale in the Region II Div. 3 semifinals, they couldn't hang with Handley in Saturday's final.
The Judges found the end zone once in each of the first three quarters and scored twice in the fourth while the Patriots just managed to avoid a shutout with Brandon Lee's eight-yard run late in the fourth quarter. It certainly wasn't Park View's night, but Handley is a strong, veteran team with one of the top backs in the area in senior Jeremiah Wilson (19 carries, 106 yards, 2 TDs) and showed why they're a state title contender in Div. 3.
For a Park View team with state title aspirations, the season didn't last quite as long as they had hoped, but the Patriots returned to their place among the district's elite as they went 4-2 in the district with a win over fellow regional playoff competitor, Loudoun County. Lee was named Div. 3 defensive player of the year in the district and was a weapon on both sides of the ball with 10 rushing touchdowns to go along with 13 passing TDs. Senior wideout/tailback/kick returner Tommy Sedeski also put up nice numbers with 13 total touchdowns and senior defensive lineman Robert Hayes battled through an injury early to become one of the top defensive forces in the league by season's end. The Patriots will lose all three along with 16 other seniors, many of whom start on one side of the ball or the other - or both in some cases. Junior linebacker Eric Palma and sophomore quarterback Jonathan Wooten will be called upon to step up in more prominent roles for a young team next season as Park View looks to build on its success in 2008.
I wrote about this in my story for Sunday's Loudoun Extra but boy, do these Spartans look awfully similar to the group who steamrolled their way to the AA Div. 4 state title last winter. Sure, there are plenty of holdovers from stud running back T.J. Peeler and big-play receiver Adrian Flemming to big Taylor Evans on the offensive line to Johnny Meier leading the linebackers and the duo of David Weaver and Joey Quigg holding things down in the secondary. But who anticipated this much this soon from first-year starter Connor Jessop at quarterback? And how could the defense not take some time to adjust to the loss of an emotional leader like Kenny McAdow and defensive line anchors Will Field and Kevin Sandersen?
Well, here they are, following a third straight perfect regular season and a second consecutive Region II Div. 4 title, one game away from a chance to defend their crown. The Spartans (12-0) bullied Sherando from the outset, forcing a series of three and outs to start the game and pounding the ball on the ground with Peeler. Coach Michael Burnett also did his best Andy Hill impression, going for and recovering two onside kicks to put the ball right back in the hands of the offense following touchdowns. Broad Run forced three turnovers and led 36-0 before giving up two late scores in the fourth quarter. A week after showing some vulnerability in a close win over Liberty, the Spartans looked more than capable of defending their title with Friday night's performance.
Next up is a trip down I-95 to battle undefeated Powhatan, the Region I champions, on Saturday afternoon. It'll be a new experience for the Spartans who enjoyed the luxury of their home-field all the way up to the state final at Liberty University last year. But it appears the team shook off their struggles against Liberty and have harnessed the momentum that carried the 2008 Spartans to their first state title.
New faces, more drama, same result
All those who anticipated this would be the season Stone Bridge would falter in the Northern Region have one thing in common right now: they're all sitting at home while the Bulldogs are still playing. There were several points this season where it looked like the youth and inexperience of a team that had to replace 20 of 22 starters from last season's state semifinalists might be too much to overcome. The passing game struggled for much of the year and was non-existent at times. The defense gave up big plays and the offense coughed the ball up at times. But this Stone Bridge team, perhaps more than any of the great teams before it, relied on its mental toughness and a tremendous desire to keep the program at its peak for another season.
When I talked to Coach Mickey Thompson before and throughout the season, he would say, "We're hanging on by a thread," or "We're really not a great team right now, but fortunately, no one else seems to be, either." But when you look at where this group of role players and second-stringers from last season came from and where they currently stand - one win away from a trip back to the state final - you can't help but be impressed with the poise and dedication of both the coaching staff and the players.
Here's another take on Stone Bridge's journey this season from Paul Tenorio's story in Sunday's Loudoun Extra, and here's Preston Williams' game story from the Bulldogs' 21-10 win over Lee in Friday's Northern Region Div. 5 final. The Bulldogs host Massaponax Saturday in Ashburn for their toughest test yet.
November 30, 2009; 5:14 PM ET
Categories: Broad Run , Football , Park View , Stone Bridge High School , VHSL
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