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(Sept. 12, 2013) – Early in the high school and NFL football season we have already enjoyed (or not enjoyed, depending on who you were cheering for) some surprising results, and the question for the teams and fans involved is whether these outcomes are blips on the radar or harbingers of things to come. One of the best things about early season football is the tendency to overreact to early season games, providing great fodder for pundits on sports talk radio, social media, and vivaloudoun.com. This week I dissect Stone Bridge’s loss to Lake Braddock, the Redskins beat down from the Eagles, and Tuscarora’s big win over Woodgrove, and let you know whether the games were blips or should raise concern for the teams that lost.
Lake Braddock Knocks off Stone Bridge
Last Friday the Stone Bridge Bulldogs lost their season opener to Lake Braddock of Fairfax in an entertaining 31-26 contest. The Bulldogs and their fans are not used to losing, especially at home.
As reported earlier this week by Jackie Howell, the Bulldogs have only lost just two regular season home games since 2002. But Bulldog fans should not panic. Lake Braddock is a perennial playoff team, and was ranked by the Washington Post as one of the top fifteen teams in the area before the game. They came to Ashburn with a game already under their belt this season, a strong win over fellow Fairfax power Robinson.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, were playing their first game since last season’s heart-breaking loss in the state championship game. Gone were last year’s All-Americans Jonathan Allen (defensive end) and Ryan Burns (quarterback), thus throwing into the spotlight a defense with less star power and new starting quarterback sophomore Joe Thompson, the son of head coach Mickey Thompson.
Although the Bulldogs and their fans would have loved an opening night win, this result certainly falls into the blip category based largely on the strength of the Stone Bridge offense. The Bulldogs racked up a blistering 500 total yards, besting Lake Braddock by more than 200-yards. Returning running back Sterling Dailey rushed for more than 200-yards and three scores. Thompson threw two picks but still managed over 200-yards through the air including an 80-yard touchdown to Chance Frye.
In the end, the Bulldogs were their own worst enemy, as turnovers—Stone Bridge had four, Lake Braddock had none—and penalties were the deciding factors in the game. Expect head coach Mickey Thompson to find a cure for the Bulldogs turnover bug, and big things to come from his squad as the season goes on.
Eagles Stun Redskins
The Redskins continued a proud recent tradition of embarrassing performances on Monday Night Football, as they fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 33-27 in a game that really was not as close as the final score indicated.
In what was supposed to have been the national welcome back party for quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Eagles revamped offense under new head coach Chip Kelly stole the show. Led by the elusive and speedy trio of Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, and DeSean Jackson (which begs the question, should I add something to the beginning of my name? I’m thinking of going with HeSean, but I am open to suggestions), the Eagles blitzed the Redskins defense in an epic performance that may usher in a new era of NFL offensive game planning inspired by Kelly and the Eagles turbo-boosted attack.
The super-paced, spread ‘em out and RUN tactics that Kelly honed in the college ranks worked equally, if not better, in their NFL debut. The Redskins defense looked befuddled for large stretches of the game as McCoy gashed them for 184 rushing yards and Michael Vick looked like last year’s RGIII, zipping pinpoint accurate throws to receivers who seemed to only be covered by the television cameras broadcasting the game.
Vick ended the game with an efficient 257 yards of total offense, including two passing touchdowns and one rushing score.
Meanwhile, the Redskins vaunted offense struggled, especially in the first half. RGIII displayed all of the rust and indecisiveness that frankly should have been expected from a player seeing his first live game action since injuring his knee in last years playoffs. The Redskins ran much less of their “pistol” and read option attack—last year’s most innovative and effective offensive attack in the NFL—and generally seemed out of sync for most of the first three quarters.
While the Redskins eventually settled down and made a better show of things in the second half, the game left more questions unanswered than answered.
RGIII did not seem to have any noticeable physical limitations from his off-season knee surgery, but the common refrain after the game was that he just didn’t look the same as last year. Was it just rust from lack of any action in the preseason, or a lingering but not visible physical limitation?
For the defense, was the fact that they were shredded like the meat thrown on cheese steaks at Pat’s or Gino’s Philly due to their unfortunate status as the first team to take on the Eagles new offense, or personnel and scheme deficiencies that linger from last year’s unit that finished as one of the worst defense statistically?
Bottom line is the Redskins should be concerned, but the next few weeks will provide the team and its fans a better idea regarding whether the first or second halves of the Eagles game are more indicative of things to come. If RGIII looks hesitant and the offense continues to turn the ball over, and if the defense looks as woeful against the run as they did early on Monday night, hopes and dreams for another playoff run may fade quickly. But if RGIII builds on his strong second half performance and if the defense looks less confused moving forward, the MNF loss may be a blip in the rearview mirror.
Tuscarora Beats Woodgrove … Again
Ok, so this game certainly does not carry the same surprise factor as the first two. Tuscarora outlasted Woodgrove in a hard-fought game to pick up the 21-14 victory. But Woodgrove was returning a slew of starters, including the highly touted running back Josh Sweet and defensive end J.J. Jackson. While those payers did not disappoint, with Sweet running for two scores and over 150-yards, the Huskies tough red zone defense and their own vaunted rusher, Noah Reimers, ultimately captured the win.
While Woodgrove has to be disappointed with their inability to capture their first ever win over Tuscarora, the future remains bright for the Wolverines. Woodgrove held Tuscarora scoreless in the second half, and came close several times to overcoming their early deficit. Even with the Husky defense clearly focused on stopping Sweet, he was a force all game long. While passing is not their strong suit, if the Wolverines can develop a little more consistency through the air, the offense will pose problems for any opponent they face. Couple that with a scrappy defense and the Wolverines should make a run come playoff time.