By Stephen Spiewak
While much of the football shine in Virginia has traditionally stemmed from the southeastern area of the state, Virginia’s northern region is home to several dominant teams this season, and people around the state – and the country – are taking notice.
Led by Stone Bridge and Oakton, northern Virginia plays home to potential state champions in both Division 5 and Division 6, the state’s two largest classifications.
While Division 6 more frequently features teams from northern Virginia making deep runs in the state playoffs, Division 5 has been dominated by teams from other parts of the state. Until recently.
Before last season, Division 5 was seemingly a toss-up for whichever team from the Norfolk/Hampton Roads area was strongest. In 2007, however, the Stone Bridge bucked that trend, knocking off Phoebus in the semifinals, en route to a 38-0 state finals victory over Potomac.
“In my opinion, Stone Bridge has been the most dominant team on any level over the last few years,” said Paul Tenorio, a writer for the Washington Postwho covers the Loundoun County high school sports scene.
If last season’s state title run was a wake up call, this season’s performance has been a loud banging on the door, putting the rest of the state on alert. The Bulldogs from up North are for real.
In 11 games this season, Stone Bridge has outscored opponents 563-95. Since the team opened with a 42-28 victory against West Springfield, the Bulldogs have not allowed more than two touchdowns in any game.
Even without star quarterback Patrick Thompson, who was recently injured, the offense has hardly missed a beat as senior running back Daniel Allen and senior slot back Michael Prince have continued their fine play. Allen has 12 rushing touchdowns, while Prince has scored a total of five touchdowns.
Sophomore Marcus Harris has run the ball well of late, while back up quarterback John Bladel has filled in admirably for Thompson.
Preston Williams, also of the Washington Post and an expert on Northern Virginia area, shares Tenorio’s impression of Stone Bridge.
“Stone Bridge is just so dominant,” he said of the Bulldogs, who tallied 486 yards last week in a 58-7 win over Jefferson.
Stone Bridge’s path to a second consecutive title is far from clear. Undefeated Edison still awaits in the Northern Region bracket. The two teams have met in the region final each of the last three seasons.
Also boasting a perfect record is Lake Taylor, still alive in the Eastern Region. Phoebus, hoping for a rematch, lurks in that bracket as well.
The Bulldogs, currently No. 100 in the MaxPreps/Army National Guard Rankings, would likely soar up even higher with a victory over Phoebus for a second straight season. William Dee’s Phantoms currently sit at 32.
Whichever team comes out on top in the semifinal game between the eastern and northern bracket winners projects to be a heavy favorite in the state final against the squad that emerges from the central and northwest brackets.
In Division 6, it has been Oakton that has made short work of its opponents in northern Virginia.
Head coach Joe Thompson has piloted his team to an 11-0 start and has the Cougars on the fast track to another shot at a state title.
Oakton will see West Springfield in the Northern Region semifinal. If they can hold off the Spartans, the Cougars will play either Chantilly or Westfield, two traditional powers that Oakton has already beaten this season.
Thompson last led the team to a state title victory in 2005. Having played with a young team the last two years, Oakton now relies on a talented core of seniors on both sides of the ball.
“They were sort of building towards this year,” Williams said.
Multi-talented quarterback Chris Coyer has passed for nine touchdowns and run for 10 more, proving to be a menace to opposing defenses with both his arm and his legs.
Running back Jonathan Meadows has added 10 touchdowns on the ground. Trey Watts,who is equally dangerous rushing or catching passes, has over 1,000 total yards and leads the team with 20 touchdowns.
Watts is the son of former Oklahoma quarterback J.C. Watts, who later went onto serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Defensively, Oakton has been stout even against talented offenses. Jack Tyler has been a star, recording over 100 tackles already.
“They’re consistently pretty good,” said Williams of Thompson‘s program. “And often, they’re very good.”
Oakton’s performance in recent years, coupled with the strong play from other local teams, has led to northern Virginia’s success in the state’s largest classification, in clear contrast to the Hampton Roads/Norfolk area-reign in Division 5.
“There is sort of a disparity that way,” Williams said. “Northern Virginia winning Division 6, southern Virginia winning Division 5.”
Despite Oakton’s fine play, the Cougars may not even be the favorite in Division 6. Oscar Smith, not surprisingly hailing from the state’s talent laden eastern region, is also 11-0, and in the eyes of some, the state’s the best team.
Still, it’s Oakton that is perched firmly in the MaxPreps/Army National Guard Rankings, currently checking in at 74.
“Oakton is definitely legit,” said Tenorio, seemingly echoing the sentiments of those in all parts of the Old Dominion State, and, if the MaxPreps rankings areany indication, the rest of the country.
The Cougars’ game against West Springfield is set for Friday at 7:30 p.m. At the same, Stone Bridge will be hosting its Division 5 Northern Region semifinal game when the Bulldogs take on Mount Vernon.