In an all-Potomac District showdown to kick off the Region 5A North playoffs, Broad Run’s ground game outscores Tusky’s aerial attack.
Final score –
Tuscarora Huskies (5-6) 0 14 0 7 = 21
Broad Run Spartans (9-2) 14 7 14 7 = 42
1 / 6:16 – Broad Run TD (Ryan Braithwaite 46-yd run; Atilla Buri kick)
1 / 2:50 – Broad Run TD (Meech Hembry 9-yd run; Atilla Buri kick)
2 / 10:29 – Tuscarora TD (Justin Allen 4-yd pass to Taye Davis; Yassine Elmellouki kick)
2 / 8:07 – Tuscarora TD (Justin Allen 57-yd pass to Gunnar Biebighauser; Yassine Elmellouki kick)
2 / 2:37 – Broad Run TD (Mitch Griffis 32-yd run; Atilla Buri kick)
3 / 7:40 – Broad Run TD (Ryan Braithwaite 15-yd run; Atilla Buri kick)
3 / 3:13 – Broad Run TD (Mitch Griffis 36-yd run; Atilla Buri kick)
4 / 9:02 – Broad Run TD (Meech Hembry 31-yd run; Atilla Buri kick)
4 / 2:36 – Tuscarora TD (Justin Allen 30-yd pass to Taye Davis; Yassine Elmellouki kick)
Broad Run High School, Ashburn, Va. (November 11, 2016) — When something’s working, you keep doing it until it doesn’t work anymore. If it keeps working, keep doing it and doing it…till you win.
The Spartans of Broad Run High School found something that worked in their Region 5A North playoff opener against the visiting Huskies of Tuscarora High School: The ground game. The rush, the carry, the toting of the mail. They worked that scheme for 138 yards in the first half and 155 in the second. They worked it for six touchdowns, all on the ground and most of them big-play. They worked it until the very last snap, when in victory formation they took a knee to close out a hard day at the office with one more (technically) rush.
They did a lot of work, and at the end of the day they earned their pay: A postseason victory over their Potomac District foes the Huskies, and another playoff contest against another familiar opponent.
“This is the kind of ballgame I thought we were going to have,” assessed Broad Run head coach Matt Griffis, before offering the understatement: “I thought we did a good job running the ball.”
It was a chilly, windy November night inside L.F. Jennings Stadium for a large yet initially subdued crowd – cold knows no fanship – but the side dressed in maroon soon found their voice. All-state candidate Meech Hembry tone-set right away with three runs for one first. Then Ryan Braithwaite – next play after a ripping tackle removed his helmet from his flagrantly* full- and long-maned dome, turning a fourth into a first – busted loose into open space on a well-read, well-blocked play, and the speedy run-first senior quarterback exacted six points of revenge almost half a football field later.
“It’s a little punch-back,” a smiling Braithwaite said. “You get hit a lot in the game and you just got to keep your composure… I had to stay focused and that got us the touchdown that gave us the momentum.”
Home-team momentum carried on for Broad Run when their defensive rush at Tuscarora’s Justin Allen led the sophomore quarterback to fumble while throwing a screen pass not long later. (Spoiler alert: The kid wound up delivering three TD passes including one nifty flea-flicker, so he recovered nicely.)
The Spartans got a nice 15-yard punt return out of Travis Hugg and did something they would do just twice in the first half: throw a pass. Fine-throwing freshman QB Mitch Griffis laid one out about 30 yards downfield for Hembry to fight for, and the resulting pass interference set up Hembry’s explosive hole-hitting TD run right after.
The Huskies didn’t care that they were already down 14 points on the road on a cold night. They didn’t care that they were without five starters, or that the Spartans were playing almost twice as many seniors as they. The Huskies fought back, armed with their passing attack. Allen missiled the ball to where Taye Davis dove and basket-caught it for one touchdown, then barely two minutes later Allen burned the Broad Run secondary by hoisting it over them to hit Gunnar Biebighauser in stride for the game-tyer. (Tie-er?)
That was the flea-flicker. First play of the drive, after calling a timeout.
“This team has made us proud,” said Tuscarora head coach Michael Burnett. “In this job success is evaluated by the quality of the kids. In that sense I’m as proud of this group as any, because of the kind of people they are.”
Broad Run then did what Broad Run set out to do: Run the ball, move the chains, eat the clock. Between Hembry and the quarterback-du-moment Braithwaite or Griffis, the Spartans chewed off a good bit of the second quarter with a drive that Hembry continued with a lunging fourth-down conversion. Griffis ended it when he faked handoffs both ways to split the defense and took it himself almost 100 feet for a score.
The senior-laden Broad Run offensive line manned by Connor Gorey, Jacob Boone and Dominick Sangiuliano permitted the Huskies just six tackles for loss, all but one of those for only a yard.
“Our o-line did a great job once again,” their head coach noted.
Braithwaite declared, “We knew we were going to pound the football. This is our home turf, and we’ve always defended it.”
Defending the Spartans’ halftime lead of seven was perilous given Tuscarora’s quick-strike capability, so they made the most of taking the second-half kickoff with a time-consuming drive of 54 yards in nearly five minutes, barely 10 yards a minute. The rushes-only drive culminated in Braithwaite’s sprint through a seam up the middle and into the goal zone. The higher-seeded team was back up two scores, with one-fourth of the second half already gone.
As is their wont, the Huskies clawed back. They scraped their way into the red zone and set their sights on the end zone. Rolling left, the right-armed Allen threw back toward the middle a pass that floated enough for Hembry to step in front and nab. The Spartan whisked it away 32 yards to rob Tuscarora of a comeback-building tally.
That interception return was the first of three rapid-fire plays resulting in another Broad Run touchdown and a 35-14 command. Griffis connected with Hembry on a 32-yard pass completion – the Spartans’ first of the night – to the 36, from where the offensive line opened a path for Griffis to scamper for his second score. A possible 28-21 barnburner became a 35-14 cruise in the span of a minute. Sports.
The guys in the gold helmets engineered another time-wasting drive to deflate the fourth quarter, topped off by Hembry’s dash to the right. The run was still working just fine.
So was the point-after operation. The sure left foot of Broad Run’s Atilla Buri was perfect on his six extra points, just as Tuscarora’s program-leading scorer Yassine Elmellouki nailed his three. (Kickers need props too.)
The athleticism of Davis and the accuracy of Allen aided the Huskies in adding a cosmetic TD with their last possession. The sophomore QB lobbed it up for the sophomore WR for a 40-yard gainer immediately before the duo combined on a scoring reception almost as long. Davis outjumped, then spun away from, defenders to dive into the end zone.
The result capped fine careers for Tuscarora’s seniors, including wideout/d-back/halfback/punter Bryce Sorrell. His is a story of redemption, returning from a suspension a year ago.
“I was setting records from the first three games, and I got kicked off the team,” said Sorrell, displaying emotion. “But I came back better than ever, gained 20 pounds, got back to work and had my best season yet. I just want to let them know, you can do anything.”
Before the interview, Sorrell had just given a younger teammate a consoling slap on the shoulder along with an encouraging “Get back to work.”
The beat goes on for Broad Run, which puts its six-game win streak on the line at second-seeded Stone Bridge in a special playoff edition of the Battle Of The ‘Burn.
Senior linebacker Foster Vargo had an interception in the Spartans’ 10-7 home win October 14.
“Always a big game, always a huge crowd,” Vargo said. “We just need to come out prepared.”
When asked about what lies ahead, the first words out of the head coach’s mouth were, “Let’s go. Gonna be a great game.”
He continued, excitement growing.
“Two great programs in a great atmosphere. It’s going to be a packed house,” said Griffis, a longtime assistant for Stone Bridge’s Mickey Thompson before taking the Spartans’ reins. “Everybody’s going to be there. If you’re not there, you’re missing out.”
*I say with envy.
Cheering For the Cheerers
It was role-reversal time at the half, as the Broad Run Spartans’ competitive cheerleading squad – and their newly won state championship – were presented so that, this time, the fans could clap and yell for them. They did so, heartily.
It’s the first state tite in competitive cheerleading ever for Broad Run. The program produced runner-up finishes at states in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Briar Woods, the defending Group 5A champion, landed fourth in the state cheer meet.
Spotlighting True Heroes
The day of the game happened also to be the day for our veterans, a day of solemnity, reflection and remembrance for those men and women whose service, past and present, affords us the rights and privileges and freedoms and opportunities we dearly cherish. All veterans in attendance were invited to be recognized on the field during the pre-game national anthem and coin toss.
Six gentlemen graced the playing surface as Broad Run student Nadia el Hafdi offered a rich, sublime, mellifluous, brilliant rendition of our national anthem, The Stars & Stripes. Broad Run captain Gorey, out for the coin toss, went over to hug one of the gentlemen in a familial way.
Broad Run stats –
Rushing: Meech Hembry 16-118, 2 TDs; Ryan Braithwaite 16-93, 2 TDs; Mitch Griffis 5-73, 2 TDs; Tim Baldwin 7-10
Passing: Mitch Griffis 2 of 5 for 65
Receiving: Corey Phillips 1-33; Meech Hembry 1-32
Tuscarora stats –
Rushing: Jaylon Lundy 5-8; Justin Allen 10-8; Bryce Sorrell 2-(-1)
Passing: Justin Allen 15 of 27 for 240, 3 TDs; Bryce Sorrell 0 of 1 for 0
Receiving: Taye Davis 5-85, 2 TDs; Gunnar Biebighauser 2-72, 1 TD; Christophe Atkinson 3-17; Kyle Jenkins 2-31; Joe Morein 2-19; Bryce Sorrell 1-16
Other scores –
Heritage 39, George Washington 36
Potomac Falls 28, Orange County 7
Stone Bridge 38, Atlee 10
Patrick Henry-Ashland 53, Briar Woods 28
Charlottesville 48, Champe 20
Millbrook 45, Loudoun Valley 14
Bye weeks for: Woodgrove; Dominion
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications