The Loudoun Report: Bright horizon in Ashburn
At long last, the football season is over, but not before two teams from Ashburn added another chapter to their recent dominance of the Virginia high school football landscape.
Broad Run does it again
There's just something about those Jessop boys. Whether it's the baseball background or the ice water that seems to run through their veins, brothers Chris ('08) and Connor ('09) who have led the Broad Run Spartans to back to back AA Division 4 championships have some intangible trait that seems to show itself in the most important moments of the season.
Following Saturday's 21-16 win over Amherst, Broad Run Coach Mike Burnett said the following to Paul Tenorio about his sophomore quarterback:
"You got to do some genetic testing in that family because they're missing a gene that the rest of us don't have. His brother was the same way and he's the same way. They're just, they're unflappable, it just doesn't seem to matter what the situation is."
When star running back T.J. Peeler was lost to a knee injury late in the second quarter, Jessop took the reigns of the offense and produced his best game yet when it mattered most - throwing three touchdown passes and flashing the type of poise older brother Chris displayed in the 2009 final.
But it wasn't just Jessop's performance that pushed the Spartans to a second straight title and a 28th consecutive victory. The defense held strong down the stretch and veteran playmakers like David Weaver and Adrian Flemming found the end zone to bring another trophy back to Ashburn.
Is it too early to talk about a three-peat? I'd certainly say so. But that doesn't mean we can't peak ahead to see what the Spartans will return for 2010.
It all starts under center with Jessop, whose early emergence as a sophomore gives him two more years to develop and lead an offense that I suspect will become increasingly wide open next fall. In 6-foot, 235-pound junior running back Mitch Nicholas, the team has a runner with a body similar to that of Peeler, but his limited use (41 carries, 221 yards, 4 TDs) means it could take time for him to develop into the team's top backfield option. And then there's the fact that Burnett is fond of splitting up carries to feature the strengths of multiple athletes in the run game. All that points to Jessop being given more responsibility through the passing game in 2010 - which should only excited a Spartan fan base that has seen what the youngster can do.
There will be plenty of holes to fill on both sides of the ball as the Spartans graduate 29 players from this year's team. But for a blueprint on how to maintain success in the face of a mass exodus, they need only to look down the road at Stone Bridge, which managed the feat this fall.
Bulldogs Loaded for 2010
As I watched Stone Bridge's players step up to receive their second place medals on the field following Saturday's 15-10 loss to Phoebus in Charlottesville ), I caught myself mentally checking off the players who could be back on that very field in next year's title game on that very field.
Marcus Harris, who turned in one of the more impressive rushing efforts I've seen with record-shattering 47-carry, 191-yard day? Check. Spenser Rositano - the tackling machine whose play in all three phases of the game kept the Bulldogs on track all season? Yup. Rob Burns, the 6-7, 220-pound defensive end who finished the season with eight sacks? Yes. How about quarterbacks Kyle Gouveia and Brian Rody, who struggled Saturday but were critical to the team's run to the final? Double-check.
While it's difficult to look ahead so soon after an emotional loss in which the team on the losing end thoroughly dominated the victor in nearly every phase, take solace in this number: 13. That's the number of non-seniors in Saturday's starting lineup. One year after losing 20 of 22 starters, the Bulldogs are set to return more than half of their starters and a total of 40 players from this year's squad. If that's not a reason for optimism, I'm not sure what is.
But if you're looking for expectations in Ashburn, don't ask Mickey Thompson, whose old sandbagging ways were in full effect only minutes after the final whistle.
"We're going to suck," Thompson deadpanned to the room full of reporters. "I'm stickin' with it. Anytime I've ever said we were going to be good we didn't get to this game. So we're not going to be any good."
Forgive us if we don't take the bait this time.
December 14, 2009; 6:59 PM ET
Categories: Broad Run , Football , Stone Bridge High School
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