No. 8 West Springfield at No. 1 Westfield
Coming off three losses in its past four outings, West Springfield needs to regroup quickly before it hits the road to face undefeated Westfield. The Spartans’ latest stumble came last week in a 42-9 loss to Lake Braddock, a team that suffered a 20-point defeat against Westfield earlier this season.
Whatever the outcome, this season represents West Springfield’s best since 2008, when it won eight games.
As for the Bulldogs, coaches are doing everything they can to prevent their players from taking upcoming opponents lightly.
“We want to make sure we’re continuing to move forward,” Westfield coach Kyle Simmons said. “10-0 turns into 0-0 real quick. You can’t afford a let-down, or you’re done. I know these guys don’t want to go 10-1.”
No. 7 Oakton at No. 2 Lake Braddock
This is a matchup between two teams riding completely different trajectories. Oakton wants to shake off four consecutive losses, while Lake Braddock hopes to continue the strong play that has brought it seven straight double-digit wins.
The Cougars will need to keep the pressure on junior quarterback Caleb Henderson, a dangerous pocket passer who has thrown for 2,259 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first season with the Bruins.
“I think they have a very potent offense,” Oakton coach Jason Rowley said. “They’ve got skill players all over the place. They’re very big up front and very athletic on both sides of the ball. I think it’s going to be a great matchup.”
Oakton has a capable quarterback of its own in Kyle Downer, who resembles Henderson with his size and ability to beat defenses both on the ground and through the air. The senior signal caller is on pace to exceed 1,000 yards both rushing and passing this season.
“Right now we’re treating it like every game is our last,” Downer said. “We’re thankful to have the opportunity to put on the pads again and get out there. It’s a whole new season for us.”
It will be a rematch of last year’s regional opening round, when Lake Braddock triumphed 50-21.
No. 6 West Potomac at No. 3 Centreville
West Potomac needs to overcome a recent slide that has seen it drop three of its past four games, including a 13-10 loss against T.C. Williams last week.
The return of their most dynamic player, Demornay Pierson-El, should give the Wolverines a much-needed boost. The junior tailback, who has tallied 25 touchdowns this season, has been cleared by doctors in the wake of a leg injury he suffered two weeks ago against West Springfield.
After surrendering 239 yards and two touchdowns to him in a 27-20 loss Sept. 7, Centreville won’t be ignoring Pierson-El this time around.
“We have an opportunity to have a second chance at a game that we lost earlier this year, so I think we’re excited about that opportunity,” Centreville coach Chris Haddock said. “But we also know that Pierson-El is one fantastic player, and we’re going to have to play a great game to stop him.”
The defending state finalists will be out to prove they’ve come a long way since the season’s outset.
“I think that we’re a very different team right now than when we played West Potomac in Week 2,” Haddock said. “In that game we had a lot of injuries and we were shuffling different players in different positions. We’ve settled in to having guys in the spots that they’re in now.”
No. 5 Robinson at No. 4 Chantilly
These two teams will meet for the second week in a row following last Friday’s 41-21 Chantilly win at Robinson. This one will take place at Chantilly, where the Chargers are 4-1 this season.
Robinson looks to play a cleaner game after dishing out four fumbles last week that resulted in two critical turnovers. The pair of lost fumbles occurred on the Rams’ side of the field, allowing Chantilly to execute quick scores and build a sizable first half lead.
“I think more than revenge, we just want to go out and do things right and take care of the ball,” Robinson coach Trey Taylor said. “We’ve got to get them off the field when they’re on offense. They controlled the second half with their option offense, so we need to shore that up and give our offense a chance.”
The Rams will need to shore up their run defense against a formidable triple option attack that includes running backs DeAndre Harris and Ross Simms, both of whom topped 100 yards last week.
“They have three legitimate players that are carrying the ball,” Taylor said. “It’s not like just one of the kids is carrying the rest. If one of those three gets the ball, they could go the distance, so you really have to make sure you take care of all three phases.”
No. 8 Edison at No. 1 Stone Bridge
Stone Bridge gets an Edison team that has hung around with some quality opponents this year. Four of the Eagles’ five losses have come against playoff teams, including a narrow 47-45 defeat last week against Hayfield.
That shouldn’t scare a Stone Bridge side that has annihilated every opponent it’s faced this year. The Bulldogs’ rock solid run defense will need to focus on Edison’s Malcolm Sherman, a senior tailback who has compiled 821 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
No. 7 Jefferson at No. 2 Yorktown
Coming off its best regular season since 2004, Jefferson faces a stiff challenge against undefeated Yorktown. Led by dynamic tailback M.J. Stewart (1,277 yards, 26 touchdowns), the Patriots have outscored their last three opponents 118-7.
Getting to this stage was quite the accomplishment for Jefferson, which won its last three games to qualify for its first playoff appearance since 2008.
Senior running back Patrick O’Connor topped 1,000 yards rushing on the season thanks to his 215 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 36-0 triumph against South Lakes. The Colonials totaled 320 rushing yards on the day, which complemented a defense that grabbed three interceptions and limited the Seahawks to 176 total yards.
Still, beating Yorktown will be a tall task for a squad that has yet to defeat a team with a winning record this season.
No. 6 South County at No. 3 Madison
Coming off an 8-2 campaign that marked its best regular season since 2007, Madison hardly was rewarded with its first round playoff draw. It will go up against a South County squad that has erased the memory of a 1-5 start with four straight blowout wins that has them entering the playoffs as one of the area’s hottest teams.
Madison has shown a knack for coming out on top in close games, but it might have a hard time keeping it close against a resurgent South County defense that has shifted standout linebacker Oren Burks to the middle of the field.
“The way we’ve considered it in the last four weeks, they’ve all been playoff games,” South County coach Gerry Pannoni said. “I basically told the kids, ‘Look, we’re one and done. If we lose a game, we’re out.’ So we treated every game like a playoff game. I think they have that playoff mentality now, and they know how to prepare for these games.”
No. 5 Langley at No. 4 Hayfield
After three straight wins to close the season, Langley enters the playoffs believing it’s better than its 6-4 record indicates. Its losses this season came against quality opponents (Chantilly, Madison, Stone Bridge and Yorktown), including a narrow 35-34 defeat against Chantilly.
This week the Saxons hope to use their size advantage to counter Hayfield’s speed.
“I think we’re playing like we have been all year, maybe making less mistakes and cutting down on the turnovers,” Langley coach John Howerton said. “Our spread option game that we run is getting better each week, and we’ve been playing good defense all year.”