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Liberty District Preview

Stone Bridge
n2011 record: 10-2
nCoach: Mickey Thompson
nKey players: DE Jonathan Allen, sr.; QB Ryan Burns, sr.; DT Drew Dettra, sr.; RB Rassaun Goldring, sr.
nOutlook: The Bulldogs will be a force on defense with Allen, a first-team, All-Met selection, leading a group of seven returning starters. If Burns, who has committed to Stanford, can display consistency on offense, this team could be looking at an undefeated regular season.
Madison
n2011 record: 7-4
nCoach: Lenny Schultz
nKey players: QB Dan Powers, sr.; RB Jake Hall, sr.; K Nick Dorka, sr.; FB/LB Nick Hoy, sr.; LB Dan Schwab, sr.
nOutlook: There’s plenty of talent and experience to go around on offense for the Warhawks, and their defense is bolstered by depth at linebacker. A repeat, second-place finish in the district is likely if they can find consistency on defense and timely special teams play.
Fairfax
n2011 record: 6-5
nCoach: Kevin Simonds
nKey players: OL/DL Brownlee Snider, sr.; QB Austin Black, sr.; RB/DB Nick Scott, jr.
nOutlook: Overall talent and speed at the skill positions might have the Rebels eying a playoff run by season’s end. To get there, though, they’ll need to shore up the offensive line and recover from some preseason injuries to their linebacking corps.
Langley
n2011 record: 5-6
nCoach: John Howerton
nKey players: QB Nick Casso, jr.; RB Philip Mun, sr.; G Jack Howerton, sr.; CB Alec Shklyar, sr.; OLB Philip Novacki, sr.
nOutlook: As usual, the Saxons are big and experienced up front. However, the team lacks depth and speed. A shot at a third straight playoff appearance will depend largely on whether Casso can continue his progress from last year — when he took over for injured quarterback Austin Vasiliadis mid-season.
McLean
n2011 record: 6-5
nCoach: Dennis Worek
nKey players: RB/DB Gabe Sutherland, jr.; OL Burke Bartow, sr.; WR/DB Samer Abdelmoty, sr.; RB/DB Austin Jenkins, sr.
nOutlook: The Highlanders have a new head honcho in the longtime Liberty District coach. It remains to be seen whether the team’s 11 returning starters can grasp the new playbook well enough to spearhead a fourth consecutive playoff appearance.
South Lakes
n2011 record: 1-9
nCoach: Marvin Wooten
nKey players: QB Rashaan Jonesm sr.; CB/WR Zac Parker, sr.; FB Antonio Dixon, jr.; CB Kai Denny, jr.
nOutlook: Most everybody returns from a team that played a lot of sophomores last season. The Seahawks have speed and athleticism this year, but they still lack the depth necessary to go far.
Thomas Jefferson
n2011 record: 3-7
nCoach: Ken Kincaid
nKey players: QB Nick Mattes, sr.; RB Patrick O’Connor, sr.; OL/DL Jack Brown, sr.
nOutlook: Keep your eye on Jefferson in the Liberty District this year; it has close to 30 returning seniors.
Marshall
n2011 record: 2-8
nCoach: Greg Sullivan
nKey players: FB/LB Kekoa Yamaguchi, sr.; WR/LB Colton Hodge, jr.; TE/DE Tim Garner, jr.; QB/FS Dorian Monson, sr.
nOutlook: It could be another tough year for the Statesmen, who return only two starters on offense and three on defense.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Liberty
nJonathan Allen, Stone Bridge: The Alabama recruit, considered by many to be the best football player in the Washington, D.C., region, enters his senior season.
nJack Howerton, Langley: John Howerton has produced 14 Division I linemen in his nine years as Langley’s coach, and you can bet on his son, Jack, being the 15th. The 6-foot-2, 325-pound guard should pave the way for another 1,000-yard season from shifty tailback Philip Mun.
nRashaan Jones, South Lakes: “He’s got the ability to play all around. He’s just a very gifted athlete who’s got the skill to take it to the next level.” — Fairfax coach Kevin Simonds

Fairfax junior Nick Scott is one of the most highly-recruited football players in the area, but hardly anybody in the Liberty District has heard of him.

The running back’s talent prompted Boston College to extend him a scholarship offer this summer, while schools such as Alabama, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, West Virginia and Penn State also have shown interest.

Yet any mention of his name in Northern Virginia elicits blank stares.

Scott won’t remain a mystery much longer — not with Fairfax’s season set to kick off Friday night against Annandale. That contest will give the Rebels’ new starting tailback a chance to showcase his talents before a home crowd. Just how long it takes him to equate this new environment with home remains to be seen.

Scott moved to the area this year after making a name for himself at Brookline High School, an 1,800 student public school just outside Boston. Despite sitting out three games with a fractured ankle, he finished his sophomore season with more than 1,200 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, in addition to more than 400 yards passing and four more scores.

Now the junior transfer finds himself enmeshed in the Liberty District, a division he admits he knows nothing about. One thing he has noticed, however, is an uptick in competition.

“The biggest difference I’ve seen so far in scrimmages is speed and intensity,” said Scott, whose father prompted the move when he got a new job at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Washington, D.C. “In Massachusetts they had athletes, but they didn’t necessarily put the time in during the summer to get big and get faster. So it’s a lot faster and a lot more intense out here.”

Scott toured several area schools, including Lake Braddock and Oakton, before settling on Fairfax. His decision ultimately had little to do with football, as he selected Fairfax based on its academic standards and the sense of ease he felt walking through its hallways.

Scott’s choice has been welcomed with open arms by teammates and coaches alike, all of whom have admired his proactive attitude.

“For him to sit there and stay after to learn the plays and ask teammates to show him how things are done and have that trust, I think a lot of our guys have really keyed into that,” coach Kevin Simonds said. “Coming in not only to learn it but also to absorb it so quickly has been impressive.”

During last year’s 4-7 season at Brookline, Scott grew accustomed to standing out. This year, though, he joins a pool of talent harboring the potential for a playoff run. Few expect the Rebels to go stride for stride with district power Stone Bridge, but they might have enough depth at skill positions to sneak by teams such as Madison and Langley. Senior quarterback Austin Black complements Scott’s playmaking ability with a strong arm, and senior tight end/defensive end John Koch has the ability to make an impact on both sides of the ball.

Don’t expect Scott’s contributions to come solely out of the backfield this season; his 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash and raw athleticism make him a threat at just about any position. At Brookline, Scott played running back, quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback and safety. Simonds plans on using Scott mostly as a running back, but also plans on sending him out wide as a receiver and occasionally testing his abilities in the defensive backfield.

“When he gets in the open field he’s not going to get caught,” Simonds said. “He’s going to be a huge weapon for us. There’s going to be no hiding him once film gets traded and people start seeing him. He’s definitely going to be a threat, and it’s our job to make sure we’re using him in the best way possible to make the team successful.”

Athleticism might have been ingrained in Scott at birth, but it was cultivated from an early age by a father who wanted to see his kids play football just like he did. Scott’s oldest brother, Irvin, is a starting junior cornerback at Holy Cross, and his other brother trained with him every day this past summer.

“Truly one of the reasons why I think me and my brothers are so athletic is because as soon as we could walk, my father was in the backyard with us, throwing footballs, tackling us,” Scott said. “So from then on we’ve all loved the game.”

While Scott’s ability to break down defenders in the open field has quickly garnered attention, he might have won the respect of his teammates more for his workman’s mentality. Whether in the weight room or on the field, Scott typically is the first one to arrive and the last to leave, and he is the first to jump up whenever coaches need a volunteer for the scout team. That has pleased Simonds more than anything, because the prospect of transfers always cause coaches to worry about how such players will mesh with new teammates.

Scott knows he can offer the kind of physical ability few others can, but he relies more on the strength of his character than on the drive in his legs.

“I’ll bring a positive attitude,” Scott said. “I’m always trying to keep guys up, trying to keep guys moving forward.”

neilerson@fairfaxtimes.com