By Dan Sousa
Viva Loudoun Editor
Ashburn (Dec. 1, 2013) – There is something about Briar Woods and Broad Run that brings out the best in high school football.
On Black Friday the Ashburn rivals went at it for nearly three hours in arguably Loudoun’s most exciting playoff game ever staged with the Broad Run “Comeback Kids” rallying from a 17-0 first quarter deficit to force the contest into double overtime before Trace McSorley and the Falcons senior class added another storybook chapter to their legacy as McSorley’s 1-yard TD plunge earned Briar Woods the thrilling 37-34 win.
Briar Woods (12-1) has now won 18 consecutive playoff games and is two wins away from becoming just the third school in Virginia High School League history to capture four consecutive state football titles (Hampton did it from 1995 to 1998 and Phoebus from 2008 to 2011).
First the Falcons have a shot at avenging their only loss on the season, a 19-7 loss to North Stafford on Sept. 20, when they host the Wolverines on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 1:30 p.m. in the 5A North regional final/state semifinals. No. 3 seed Briar Woods earned the home date after No. 5 seed North Stafford (11-2) knocked off top-seed and previously unbeaten Massaponax over the weekend, 42-21.
Broad Run (9-4) finished a season that saw the Spartans rally in the regular season from a 17-6 fourth quarter deficit to beat Tuscarora and pull off an upset heard around the state last week when No. 7 seed Broad Run scored with less than a minute left to beat No. 2 Stone Bridge, 23-21.
“I have never been prouder of a group of young men than I am of you,” said Broad Run coach Matt Griffis with true emotion in his voice as he spoke to exhausted and hushed players after the game. Griffis went on to say that later in life when he “can’t remember my name, I’ll remember games like today”.
On the home sidelines, Briar Woods coach Charlie Pierce spoke about the challenge he made to his 22 seniors to leave a legacy. McSorley, the Vanderbilt-bound quarterback who is now 54-4 in high school as a starter, took Pierce’s motivation to heart and pointed to the legacy quote pinned up on his Falcons locker.
“We’ve had a very good run up until this point,” said McSorley modestly. “There have been a lot of great moments that have happened on this field.”
McSorley had another monster outing, throwing for 294 yards on 23 of 34 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions and also rushing for 102 yards on 14 carries and two scores.
After Briar Woods missed a 42-yard field goal attempt as time ran out in regulation, the game went into overtime and McSorley hit junior Brandon Polk on an 8-yard TD that put the Falcons up 31-24. Broad Run answered right back on their first overtime snap as junior quarterback Brady Reitzel hit lanky senior receiver Travis Fulgham on a 10-yard TD fade. Sammy Sergei’s PAT sent the game into double overtime at 31-31.
McSorley, a two-way standout for Briar Woods, had not been in the game at safety since suffering a hip pointer in the first half but when the Spartans started the second overtime, McSorley was back on the field on defense and on second down, just when Reitzel looked like he might turn the corner on an option read, McSorely came up to make a huge tackle. On third down, as Reitzel went out of the pocket, looking for an open man in the end zone, Briar Woods seniors Chris Larco and Christian Campbell chased the Spartan quarterback out of bounds at the 5.
The Spartans settled for Sergei’s 27-yard field goal to push ahead, 34-31.
On the Falcons first snap of their second overtime possession, McSorley hit senior Tristan Miller along the sidelines for an 8-yard gain to the 2. McSorley couldn’t get in on first down but on 3rd-and-goal, the senior burrowed in behind the beefy Falcon offensive line to end the contest and set off a wild celebration the Falcons side of the field.
At the start of the contest it appeared that Broad Run was suffering from a letdown after the emotional win at Stone Bridge the previous week and with the Spartans down 17-0 in the first quarter, Briar Woods looked poise to repeat their 34-0 regular-season win over the Spartans.
Broad Run, however, behind the play of Reitzel, seniors Fulgham and Corey Hilberath and junior Chuck Davis, fought back to give the Falcons their biggest playoff scare during their 4-year postseason run since Briar Woods beat Broad Run, 24-21, in the 2010 regional title game. That regional title win ended Broad Run’s two-year reign as 4A state champion and touched off the Falcons three straight 4A state titles.
The opportunistic Spartan defense forced four turnovers in the contest which kept them in despite being out-gained on offense, 463 to 251 yards.
Emotions ran high at times between the two teams — with players on both sides growing up together in the Ashburn Youth Football League — and there was a whopping 20 total penalties in the contest for 200+ yards. The officials even gathered the coaches at midfield in the first half and then had talk to their squads after things started getting chippy after the whistle.
McSorley, on a 4-yard run, and junior Anthony Martinez, on a 9-yard scamper, scored in the first quarter and LaFrankie hit a 27-yard field goal to make it 17-0 Falcons with 2:12 left in the first.
The Spartans got a field goal from Sergei of 37 yards and then Hilberath made a strong TD run from 10 to cut the lead to 17-1o but the Falcons went into the locker room up 24-10 when McSorley hit senior Melvin Holland, Jr., on a 4-yard TD with just 1:03 left in the first half.
Broad Run, however, came out of the locker room determined and Reitzel hit Davis on a 27-yard TD and then Fulgham hauled in a pass in stride across the middle and out-legged the Falcons defense for 88-yard TD that tied the game late in the third quarter.
Reitzel finished 8 of 16 for 180 yards.
For the Falcons, Tristan Carter had 117 yards receiving on six catches and Holland, Jr., caught seven balls for 70 yards.
Broad Run stayed in the contest with Alex West recovering two fumbled including one inside the Broad Run 10 and Da’Qwan Earl and Jashawn Banks each had interceptions off deflected balls.