By Dan Sousa
Viva Loudoun Editor
Leesburg (Nov. 3, 2013) – Loudoun Valley High School senior Brandon Grayson was all over the field Friday night at Loudoun County. He returned kicks, made open field tackles from his linebacker spot, rushed for 161 yards on just five carries, including TD runs of 79 and 48 yards, and he intercepted a ball in the end zone with 1:55 left to help preserve the Vikings 21-17 win over the Raiders.
Asked if Grayson, perhaps, would also drive the Vikings bus back home, Loudoun Valley coach Daniel McGrath had other ideas: “He probably should be taking a limo back after tonight with a police escort to Purcellville.”
It was the second closest game in the 53rd meeting of Loudoun’s oldest football rivalry — second only to Loudoun Valley’s 8-7 win in 1973 — and the win had big implications in the Dulles District title race and playoff seedings for both 4A North and 3A East.
Loudoun Valley (5-0 in district, 8-1 overall) will host Purcellville rival Woodgrove (4-1, 6-3) Friday with the winner taking the Dulles District crown. While the district race is purely for bragging rights, Valley’s win cemented their No. 2 seed in the 3A East playoffs which would give them home field advantage in the first three rounds of the playoffs. The Vikings 8-1 start is the school’s best since 2005 when they went 9-1 in the regular season.
“We have a group that recognizes how hard winning is,” said McGrath in his sixth season at Valley. “They have great chemistry and believe in each other.”
Loudoun County (3-2, 5-4) saw its chance to grab a share of the district title slip away and the Raiders moved down to the No. 10 spot in the 4A North playoffs, which would put them on the road in the first round.
“We just made too many mistakes. We had a lot of opportunities and we didn’t do anything with those opportunities. It’s frustrating,” said Loudoun County coach Todd Hill.
Raider junior quarterback Tae Crews-Naylor had a huge night, throwing for 362 yards on 27 of 41 passing, including TD strikes of 23 and 77 yards to senior A.J. Bourscheid, who finished the night with 151 yards receiving on six catches. Crews-Naylor’s pass on 3rd-and-goal from the Viking 8 was tipped and landed in the arms of Grayson.
“To be honest I didn’t know where I was at on that play. I was just running in the back of the end zone and the ball was tipped by one of my teammates and I caught it,” said Grayson.
While the Viking fans celebrated in the visitors stands, the game, however, was not over as the Raiders forced a 3-and-out and took over in great field position at their own 48 with 53 seconds left. Loudoun Valley senior Marcus Oden, who along with Grayson, junior Elijah Cooper sophomore Trey McDyre, had to step up and help carrying the load on offense after junior Andrew Cordani didn’t play in the second half after an injury in the second quarter, made sure the celebration would continue all the way back to Purcellville as he jumped a route along the Raider sidelines and intercepted a pass with 44 seconds left.
“I knew I had to make a play because my team needed me,” said the softspoken Oden, who could barely be heard after the game as his joyous teammates “video bombed” his interview.
The Vikings rolled to 258 yards on the ground on 34 running plays and had just 63 passing yards but junior quarterback Sully Warner and lanky junior wide receiver Ryan Malsch came up huge on an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive that tied the game, 14-14, with 11:16 left in the contest. Warner went 4 of 12 on the night but three of those completions came on the drive. While a Warner-t0-Malsch 34-yard hook up on 3rd-and-9 jump-started the drive, the biggest play came on 4th-and-2 from the Raider 32 as Malsch bobbled and then hauled in a slant under tight coverage.
With Grayson used as a decoy, McDyre took a hand off up the middle and scored from 11 yards out to cap the drive. Aaron Peart’s point after tied the game.
McGrath said the Raiders spread offense had kept his staff up all week in preparation and he even put calls in around the country to coaching friends for advice on stopping the passing attack.
“I went back to school,” said McGrath. “We were even hoping for a rainout to get another day of practice in.”
The worries were justified as Crews-Naylor calmly directed the Raiders down the field in the fourth quarter, connecting on five straight passes at one point as the Raiders moved into the Red Zone.
Loudoun Valley’s defense came up big, however, with sophomore safety Michael Irving sacking Crews-Naylor on a blitz for a 7-yard loss. That help stall the drive at the Vikings 12 and the Raiders settled for a 29-yard field goal by senior Caleb Hilgartner to go ahead, 17-14, with 7:31 left.
Irving came through again on the ensuring pooch kickoff by Hilgartner, collecting the ball and returning it to the Vikings 45. Oden gained seven yards on the next play and then Grayson burst through the Raider defense for a 48-yard touchdown run and with the PAT it was 21-17 Loudoun Valley with 6:40 left.
Crews-Naylor took the Raiders right back down to the Valley end with six straight completions and then two quarterback keepers to move the ball to the Viking 8 with two minutes remaining. Grayson then came up with the huge interception on the deflection.
The rivalry game got off to a slow start with the area’s two oldest schools — County opened in 1954 and Valley opened in 1962 — trading six punts in the first quarter. That all changed on the last play of the first quarter as Grayson took a snap in the Wildcat formation, got around the right edge and out-raced the Raiders to the end zone for a 79-yard touchdown.
The play also seem to spark Loudoun County’s offense as they quickly went 70 yards to tie the game with Crews-Naylor going 5 of 6 on the drive for 69 yards, including a 35-yard throw to junior Antonio Jackson and then the clutch 23-yard score to Bourscheid on 4th-and-9 from the Viking 23.
The score would stay 7-7 at the half as the Raider junior Jake Frye blocked Peart’s 40-yard field goal attempt midway through the second quarter. When Loudoun County threatened to go ahead in the final minute of the first half, Viking senior defensive back Matt Regan came up with a interception at the Viking 23.
Valley’s Cordani, one of the top running backs in the district, was on his way to a 100-yard night with 55 yards in the first half on 12 carries but he was on the sidelines in the second half without his pads on.
County came out roaring in the third quarter as the Raiders scored on their second snap with Crews-Naylor, with plenty of time to throw, hitting a streaking Bourscheid for a 77-yard touchdown.
The Raiders missed a good opportunity to add to their lead when they recovered a Viking fumble at the Valley 37 with 6:22 left in the third. Crews-Naylor found the athletic Jackson for what would have been a gain inside the 10 only to have the play called back on a holding penalty. A run for no gain — County had just 23 yards rushing on the night — an an incompletion forced a Raider punt from the Viking 49.
The momentum from the defensive stop carried over onto offense for the Vikings as they started their game-tying drive from their own 25 with 4:31 left in the third.
The Vikings now own a 32-21 advantage over the Raiders in the all-time series.
“It’s been a good fun rivalry throughout the years,” said Hill.