Bulldogs, Falcons Advance to Regional Finals
Stone Bridge escaped an early scare versus Langley, while Briar Woods pulled away from Liberty.
While most of us will be deep in turkey-induced comas come Thursday, players and coaches at Stone Bridge and Briar Woods high school will be preparing for what has become a post-Thanksgiving tradition at both schools: regional football championships.
Stone Bridge Wears Down Langley
Stone Bridge overcame a sloppy offensive performance to outlast a tough Langley Saxon squad and come away with a 33-14 win Friday in Ashburn.
After scoring 56 first half points last week against Edison, the Bulldogs (12-0) were mired in a tough defensive battle for the better part of the game. Both teams traded fourth-down defensive stops and punts in a scoreless first quarter. The second quarter appeared headed for a similar outcome until a costly error by the Saxons (7-5) helped put the Bulldogs on the board.
Forced to punt from deep in its own territory, the Langley team mishandled a snap and the Bulldogs recovered the fumble on the Langley 5-yard line. Two plays later, Christian Strahin broke the scoreless stalemate with a three-yard touchdown plunge.
Another defensive stop by the Bulldogs gave the offense one last chance to score as half approached. Nice runs by Sterling Dailey and Strahin positioned Stone Bridge to score, and on third and goal, Dailey scampered into the end zone with just 23 seconds in the half. The second score gave the Bulldogs a bit of a cushion despite two turnovers and several penalties in the half.
"Offensively we just struggled. Defensively I thought we played great," said Stone Bridge coach Mickey Thompson, "There were bright spots, but this was definitely our worst game."
Jesse Mizell and the rest of the Bulldogs’ stout front seven led the Stone Bridge defensive effort. With U.S. Army All-American pick Jonathan Allen sidelined for stretches of the game because of a lingering shoulder injury – something the Alabama-bound senior has been battling for several weeks – Mizell, Drew Dettra, Josh Hottle and Tony Gallegos combined for several pivotal sacks and tackles that stopped Langley drives.
"Jesse's a really good player, I think he'll be all-region this year,” Thompson said, complimenting the defense. “Our front four is as good as it gets in high school football."
Although Langley held tough in the second half, the Bulldogs’ depth and talent wore the Saxons down. Despite two fumbles, Dailey churned out 192 rushing yards. After a six-touchdown performance last week, quarterback Ryan Burns – another U.S. Army All-American pick – mustered just two scoring tosses, including a game-cinching 50-yard score to D'Ante Yarborough.
Stone Bridge next plays Yorktown at home in a battle of undefeated teams for the Division 5 Northern Region championship the day after Thanksgiving. Yorktown (12-0) thumped South County – the team that ended Stone Bridge's long run of regional crowns last season – to advance to the final. Coach Thompson said he looks forward to the challenge of facing the undefeated Arlington foe.
"I'm glad we're playing them. If you look at the season and what they've done, it should be Yorktown and us” playing for the championship, he said.
Briar Woods Pulls Away from Liberty
The last time Briar Woods faced Liberty in the playoffs, the Falcons narrowly escaped with a 7-0 win en route to their first of two straight state titles. On Friday in Brambleton, the teams appeared destined for another close finish until Brandon Polk's 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown started a string of unanswered Briar Woods touchdowns to secure the impressive 42-14 win.
Polk's momentum-changing play came late in the second quarter, after Liberty pulled to within six points on a 34-yard Tyler Longerbeam touchdown pass to Aristotle Howard. On the ensuing kickoff, Polk sprinted past the Liberty coverage team to extend the Falcon lead to 28-14 heading into halftime.
Much like the Stone Bridge game, the Falcon offense sputtered at times but was helped by big defensive plays as well as Polk's big return. Darryll Gadsden returned an interception 50 yards for a second-quarter score. Even without Under Armour All-American linebacker Matt Rolin – who tore his ACL last week and will miss the rest of the playoffs – Briar Woods menaced the Liberty offense with relentless pressure in the backfield. Josh Jacob, Trei Germany and Darrell Ramey led a defensive effort that resulted in five sacks and eleven tackles for losses.
On offense, quarterback Trace McSorley did more with his legs than his arm, rushing for a 124 yards and a touchdown. Then, J.T. Logan and Cory Colder, who left the game late with an injury, closed out the scoring by finding the end zone once each in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons next play cross-county foe Loudoun County at home Friday. The Raiders advanced with a win over Tuscarora, a team they had been unable to beat the past two regular seasons. Briar Woods dominated LoCo 45-0 in the last regular season game.
Enjoy the photos and video highlights with this article, and check back for more playoff coverage from Ashburn Patch. See more of Chuck Moore’s photography at www.randomsnapsphotography.com.