By George Khalsa
Special to Viva Loudoun
Ashburn (Sept. 12, 2013) – After three consecutive VHSL state football championships at the Division 4A level, the Briar Woods High School football team, because of increasing enrollment, moved up a level to 5A in 2013. Thus far, after two games, it appears the transition is working out well as the Falcons take take a 31-game winning streak to Leesburg tonight when they face Loudoun County at 7 p.m.
In the season opener the Falcons thrashed long-time 5A powerhouse Brooke Point in Stafford by a score of 63-13. Last week was a 28-19 victory over 6A Colonial Forge, a team that went into the season rated No. 9 in 6A.
A cadre of 21 seniors on the 2013 squad, all of whom have been contributors to at least two state championships, provide the kind veteran confidence you’d expect from a program of Briar Woods’ caliber.
Meet two of those seniors, Jared Coker and Chris Larco, who as team captains are key leaders on this team.
Jared Coker, Offensive Guard
At 6-4, 285 pounds, Coker has the size of a NCAA Division I offensive lineman which, he will be next season when he plays for the Bowling Green State University Falcons in Ohio. Coker is what you can call a football success story.
“Football,” he says, “has given me confidence and strength. It’s turned me from a boy to a man.”
Coker says he was a big, chubby freshman when he showed up for freshman football.
“I was kind of lazy. Didn’t have any goals,” he remembers. But the approval he got from the coaching staff on his efforts to learn the game, inspired him to work harder.
At the end of his freshman season he was promoted to the varsity squad for the playoff run that ended in the Falcons’ first state championship. When he reported for camp the next season found himself listed as a starter on the depth chart.
“In my sophomore year I realized I realized I had a shot at playing Division 1 football. That’s when I really started to work.”
The work has paid off. Last season he was first team All-Region at guard. This season his teammates chose him to be a team captain.
I asked him how he felt about the team playing in a higher division this season. “We’re more than ready,” was his first comment. But he and his teammates know that they will be playing more teams who will be the physical equal of the Falcons. “Everyone knows this is going to be a dogfight.”
An August scrimmage with Battlefield only served to emphasize the point. “They were big and tough. That’s what Brooke Point and those teams are going to be like,” said Coker.
Coker intends to study computer science and religion at Bowling Green. He’s very open about the importance his faith plays in his life. And he is grateful for the quality of coaching he received at Briar Woods. The coaches “believed in me. I grew to believe in myself and my teammates.”
Bowling Green is getting a quality football player and more importantly a quality young man. But Briar Woods has him for one last season and Coker is determined that in his final season, he and his teammates get to play another 15 games.
Chris Larco, Inside Linebacker and Running Back
Chris Larco is, simply put, a football player. On a high school field he could more than hold his own at any position, line or backfield. At 5-11, 200 pounds he has the combination of speed and power that allows him to excel as both an inside linebacker and a running back.
He led the 2012 championship team in tackles with 67 and grabbed two interceptions. At running back he made the most of his 58 rushes gaining 348 yards and four touchdowns. This season he figures to get more carries as the featured back on many offensive formations. This won’t interfere with his ILB duties which will be an every-play job.
What do you look for in an ILB? “I like hitting people,” he said, thus fulfilling the major requirement of the job.
He has a keen sense of where a play is going and once he puts himself in the middle of the opponent’s play, he is quite adept at ending the play with a tackle. While strength was his main calling card last year, he spent the summer concentrating on increasing his foot speed. His 40-yard dash time has gotten down to 4.6. Head coach Charlie Pierce believes the added speed will put him in the ranks of the elite Virginia high school linebackers.
Off the field the easy-going Larco seems to have a perpetual smile. He doesn’t smile much on the field, however. Pierce calls him “an intense competitor.
Larco is realistic about his future in football. “I want to play at the next level,” he said. “Probably at the Division II or III level. I just want to play…somewhere.”
He has visited Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. Shepherd University in West Virginia, the alma mater of Pierce would seem to be a good fit.
According to Pierce, “The school that gets Chris will have a competitor who will not only help them win games, but be a great teammate and an asset to the program.”