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(Sept. 5, 2013) – There is nothing better than the beginning of football season.
Across this great country, men, women and children of all races, creeds and colors, of all socioeconomic classes and levels of educational obtainment, wait in giddy anticipation for the kickoff of the NFL season after indulging gleefully in the appetizer of high school and college games this past weekend.
Sure, there are certain events in life that likely rival the beginning of football season, but do any really top it?
Buying a puppy? Pretty great, but ultimately messy and smelly.
Summer vacation? Can be awesome, but there are mosquitoes, ticks, Lyme disease and no football.
Birth of a child? Of course an amazing moment, but there’s no doubt that most parents hope to one day be cheering for the kid playing football.
Think I’m overreacting? Ok, maybe a little, but the statistics do not lie: eight of the ten highest rated television programs for 2012 were football games and Super Bowl coverage.
The NFL and college football are multi-billion dollar enterprises. Even in the face of controversies regarding player health and league realignments, America’s insatiable appetite for football appears to only be growing.
But why? What is it about football that lures us in, seduces us into spending hours of our time and significant chunks of our wallets on what is still a child’s game?
Sure the games are exciting, and the marvels of high definition television and the slick packaging of the NFL marketing colossus have made the home viewing experience unparalleled in the entertainment industry. But perhaps the greatest allure of football is that it truly is the best reality programming on television.
Football is about stories. Every week there are new stars, heroes, and villains, underdogs and evil giants, the “haves” and “have nots,” and your team versus my team. It’s about the personalities of players, coaches, owners, and fans, all drawn together in chaotic harmony as the autumn winds begin to blow and everyone still shares the same impossible championship dreams.
Perhaps nowhere are these intoxicating football story lines more abundant or interesting than right here in our own backyard.
Loudoun County has become somewhat of a football mecca. Home to the Washington Redskins and their all-everything quarterback Robert Griffin III, as well as some of the best high school football in the state, LoCo football fans have a veritable football smorgasbord awaiting them as the season gets underway. The following are just a sampling of the delectable football story lines every LoCo football fan should be aware of as we head into this most wonderful time of the year…
The Loudest Knee in the Universe
It was an anti-climactic ending to what had become both an intriguing and annoying national headline. On Monday, Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan officially announced that super star quarterback Robert Griffin III will start the team’s season opener on Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles.
In the Adrian Peterson cyborg knee universe that we now live in, where athletes recover from torn ligaments in the amount of time previously reserved for rolled ankles and other “ouchies,” the amazing feat of RGIII’s recovery was sadly overshadowed at times by the circus-like saga that followed every twist and turn on his road to recovery. Everyone had an opinion about RGIII’s knee, from coaches, to players, to doctors and celebrities.
The rumor mill of social media fomented what was either a very real, or completely non-existent, test of wills pitting the star quarterback—and even his father—against the Redskins organization and world renowned physician James Andrews, himself a key player in this verbal drama. It started shortly after Griffin underwent knee surgery last year and appeared in a commercial indicating he was “All in for game one,” and continued even through Shanahan’s announcement on Monday.
In the end, Knee-Gate 2013 may be soon forgotten if RGIII stays healthy and the Redskins build off their 2012 NFC East championship season. If RGIII gets off to a strong start and suffers no physical setbacks, the strange verbal jousting that epitomized the Redskins offseason and exposed some potential cracks in Washington’s head coach and quarterback relationship will be a distant memory.
But if that knee wobbles, bends, or breaks, what seemed like a minor annoyance over the summer could explode into a full blown controversy that could threaten the very fabric of a team seemingly on the brink of greatness.
Can Briar Woods 4-peat?
The Briar Woods High School Falcons have moved into that rarefied air of the under-appreciated champion.
After completing their most dominating season to date, an undefeated barnstorming tour of AA Division 4 football that saw the Falcons demolish opponents by an average margin of victory of more than 35 points, some questioned whether the Falcons would be able to compete this year after moving up to what is now being called 5A under the new VHSL realignment. Perhaps there was some validity to the questions. The Falcons closest game last year was a five point win over cross town rival and 5A team Broad Run, and their last loss was to that same Spartan team two years ago.
The Falcons lost a lot of talent to graduation with the departures of All-American linebacker Matt Rolin and Wake Forest bound tight end Cam Serigne, to name a few. Maybe Briar Woods won’t be able to hang with the big boys when pitted against a full slate of 5A teams? Well, at least initially, such thoughts appear to be complete folly.
In their opening game of the season, the Falcons went on the road to face perennial playoff contender Brooke Point of Stafford County, and completely eviscerated the host Blackhawks by the score of 63-13. One player who is not gone is quarterback Trace McSorley, who tallied four touchdowns in the win. The 4-year starter looks primed to try and lead his team to an unprecedented fourth straight title, and become the first quarterback in the state’s history to accomplish such a feat (Am I right? Readers correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe there has never been a quarterback in state history to start and lead his team to state titles four years in a row).
The Falcons host another Stafford team this Friday, as Virginia High School League Hall of Fame coach Bill Brown — formerly of Potomac and Hylton — leads his Colonial Forge team to Brambleton for what should be a great game.
Can Stone Bridge Get Over the Hump?
Just up the road, the Stone Bridge High School Bulldogs continued their own successful ways last year with yet another run to the AAA Division 5 title game. But once again the Bulldogs championship hopes were thwarted by a school from the tidewater area’s vaunted “Eastern District,” with Lake Taylor being their latest nemesis as the Bulldogs lost for the fourth time in five trips to the title game over the last eight years.
Like Briar Woods, there may be some doubts about the Bulldogs heading into this season as they look to replace a pair of All-Americans in defensive end Jonathan Allen and quarterback Ryan Burns. However if ever a cliché is true, the mantra that the Bulldogs “don’t rebuild, they reload,” is certainly fitting.
With a decade of dominance under their belts, and a slew of returning starters such as running back Sterling Dailey and wide receiver D’Ante Yarborough, do not be surprised if come December head coach Mickey Thompson and the Bulldogs are making another trip to Charlottesville to try and end their title game woes once and for all. The Bulldogs kick things off this Friday when they host Fairfax power Lake Braddock in a key early season match up.
Will a non-Ashburn Team Challenge Loudoun County’s Elite?
For the past several years, the majority of headlines for LoCo high school football have been reserved for the aforementioned Falcons, Bulldogs, and just a few years ago, the Broad Run Spartans of Ashburn. But will 2013 be the year that another LoCo team bursts onto the scene and makes a championship run?
Loudoun County has been the most consistent team other than the big three in recent years, and wrapped up a successful 2012 campaign with a 10-3 record. But the loss of quarterback Jake Lokey leaves a large void the Raiders will need to address.
New kids on the block Tuscarora look to build off a strong season last year, with returning quarterback Nick Azzarita still at the helm. But Woodgrove may be the team best positioned to make some waves come playoff time, as they return a lot of starters from last season, most notably star running back Josh Sweet and the University of Virginia bound defensive end J.J. Jackson.
But could the new coaches at Heritage (Reed Prosser), Potomac Falls (Jason Allen) and Freedom-South Riding (Jared Van Acker) breathe life into those programs with one emerging as this year’s dark horse candidate? This time of year, everyone has hope and a chance for a big season, and these teams are no different.
What are your biggest story lines in LoCo football this year? What did we miss?
Add a comment or email me your story ideas at email@example.com and your idea may be featured in an upcoming story.
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