By Dan Sousa
Viva Loudoun Editor
Purcellville (Nov. 9, 2013) – If the Woodgrove High School football team was one dimensional it would be quite a dimension as stout senior running back Josh Sweet barreled his way to a sixth consecutive game over 200 yards rushing on Friday against at Loudoun Valley, but the Wolverines are also about a defensive that has five shutouts on the season and saw senior Brett Nesselrodt return an interception 40 yards for a score Friday night. And the Woodgrove passing game is quietly efficient with senior quarterback Will Koester tossing two touchdowns to junior Dylan Mellor Friday.
Add it all up and it led Woodgrove (7-3) to surprisingly one-sided 35-0 win in chilly conditions over the Vikings (8-2), who were playing without top running back junior Andrew Cordani who the Loudoun County game the week before with an injury.
“They play hard. They work hard,” said Woodgrove coach Mike Skinner about his hard-nosed team.
The Wolverines defense, led by senior linebacker Will Hoffer and senior defensive end J.J. Jackson crowded the line of scrimmage, holding the makeshift Viking running game to just 14 yards on 19 carries.
While Woodgrove, behind Sweet’s 232 yards on 41 carries, was piling up 393 yards of total offense and 19 first downs, Loudoun Valley was limited to 66 total yards and 6 first downs.
Friday’s win gave the Wolverines seniors three straight wins in the “Battle of Purcellville” after Loudoun Valley steamrolled Woodgrove, 51-0, in the first year of the Wolverines football program.
For Loudoun Valley, the game didn’t affect their playoff picture, as the Vikes entered the contest firmly rooted in the second seed spot in the 3A East playoffs and will host a game next week, but Woodgrove needed the win to stay in the upper half of the 4A North bracket and earn a first round home playoff contest. It appears that Woodgrove will be a No. 6 seed and could host Dulles District foe Loudoun County in a rematch of an Oct. 18 game that saw the Raiders dramatically rally from two scores down in the fourth quarter and win it 31-28 on a last-second field goal.
Woodgrove’s game plan was devastatingly simple and continuation of the plan Skinner laid out over a month ago when he sat down with Sweet and his father and asked them if he could put the Wolverines playoff payload on Sweet’s broad shoulders.
At that point in the year, after four games including tough contests against 5A Tuscarora and Briar Woods, Sweet had just 69 carries for 453 yards. Since then he has carried the ball a bone-weary 212 times for 1,434 yards. That is an average of 35+ carries a game and he is averaging 239 yards per contest since Oct. 4. If Sweet can make it seven straight 200+ rushing game in the playoffs next week he will crash over the 2,000-yard barrier for the season. He also has scored 27 times this year including two TDs Friday, from the 5 and 3.
Skinner says the game plan will not change come the playoffs: “We will keep doing what we do — pound the ball and then take our shots in the passing game when we can.”
Despite the final score and Sweet’s rushing numbers, Loudoun Valley’s hard-hitting defense did a fine job most of the night of containing Sweet, making him earn every yard and not letting him bust loose for big gainers. In fact, 4 of the Wolverines 5 scores didn’t come off of long drives but Koester hit Mellor for a 71-yard score and Koester led a 2-minute drill right before the half that resulted in another Mellor TD reception, and the defense can take credit for Nesselrodt’s Pick Six and giving the Wolverines a short field of just 38 yards for their first scoring drive of the evening.
Woodgrove, however, was able to hold onto the ball and the Wolverines had three drives in the contest that were six minutes or longer. At their last five possessions of the game, the Wolverines moved the ball 84, 77, 65, 56 and 76 yards. While the Vikes no doubt keyed on Sweet, he was nearly impossible to bring down on first contact as his 5-foot-11, 220-pound frame at times appears to be about 210 pounds of leg drive that is constantly churning the pile forward.
On the Vikings first series of the night, Loudoun Valley junior quarterback Sully Warner was sacked at the line of scrimmage on 3rd-and-15 by Wolverine junior linebacker Warren Creech and after a short punt Woodgrove took over at the Viking 38. It was Sweet on six of seven plays running the ball and a Koester to senior Jake Pantaleo 16-yard pass play for good measure on the TD drive.
Loudoun Valley, after another 3-and-0ut on offense, had a spark when a deflected ball was intercepted by Viking senior Atticus Keane at midfield but a holding penalty nullified a series in which Valley tried to get things going in the Wildcat with seniors Brandon Grayson and Marcus Oden in the backfield.
Just before the first quarter ended, Koester took advantage of a 3rd-and-2 call to hit Mellor running up the visitor sidelines and he caught the ball in stride and streaked to the end zone for the 71-yard score.
Woodgrove held again on defense and then went on a monster 14-play, seven minute drive that came up three yards short of a score and no points when a field goal attempt from 20 yards made the right goal post wobble.
It appeared it would go to the locker rooms at the half at 14-0 Woodgrove but the Wolverines had other ideas as they took over at their own 35 with 1:16 left in the half and needed all but four of those seconds to make it 21-0. Sweet got the drive going with a 15-yard gash and the big play was a Koester 36-yard completion to senior Brando Urie on 3rd-and-10 from the Viking 39.
After an incomplete pass stopped the clock with 9 seconds left, Koester hit Mellor for a 3-yard score with 4.2 seconds on the clock.
Getting the ball first in the second half, Woodgrove continued the body blows of Sweet runs between the tackles as he carried eight straight times to start a time-consuming drive that ended on downs just outside of the Red Zone when Sweet bobbled a Wildcat snap on 4th-and-1.
The Vikings needed to get something going in order to mount a comeback but Nesselrodt shut the door on that when he made a great interception — reaching out with one hand to deflect a pass and then gathering in the ball and going 40 yards untouched for the score. Another point after by senior Andrew Harper made it 28-0.
“Once I got the ball I just took it back to the house,” said Nesselrodt.
On Loudoun Valley’s next series, the Wolverine defense didn’t relax as Nesselrodt stormed into the backfield and threw Warner down for a 14-yard loss.
All that was left was one final time-sapping drive by Woodgrove — 76 yards on 13 plays and nearly seven minutes — that finished, naturally, with Sweet plowing into the end zone.
Loudoun Valley showed a lot of heart and was determined to break the shutout but in the final minute of the contest, the Vikings best drive of the evening, ended as Urie made a super interception in the back of the end zone.
“I think we have the best defense in the county,” said Jackson.
That left time for a kneel down in the victory formation and as soon as the handshake at midfield finished, the jubilant Woodgrove fans rushed onto the field, engulfed the Wolverine players and celebrated the win.
As part of the bragging rights in the game, the win left both Woodgrove and Loudoun Valley at 5-1 in the Dulles District schedule and essentially co-champions, though under the new playoff format how team’s fare in district has no factor on seeding for postseason. And Skinner joked that it would make life a little easier in his neighborhood for the next year as he lives in the LoudounValley attendance zone.
“(Winning tonight) will make life easy when I go out to dinner in Purcellville,” said Skinner.
As far as celebrating, Hoffer said that the glow from the win over their rivals would only last until Saturday’s wake-up calls as the team will start to prepare for the playoffs.
“It’s back to the grindstone tomorrow,” said Hoffer.
Battle for Purcellville: The Series
2013 Woodgrove 35, Loudoun Valley 0
2012 Woodgrove 21, Loudoun Valley 14
2011 Woodgrove 24, Loudoun Valley 21
2010 Loudoun Valley 51, Woodgrove 0