In its first-round playoff game against Robinson last week, Chantilly wanted to avoid a recent habit of getting off to a slow start. But just as they had done the week before, the Chargers looked up at the score board at the end of a sloppy first quarter to find themselves trailing Robinson, 7-0.
With its first-quarter warm-up lap complete, Chantilly launched into a full sprint that yielded 35 unanswered points and, by race’s end, a 56-21 win that vaulted them into Friday’s Division 6 semifinal against Westfield.
“Once we get going, I think our offense is pretty much impossible to stop,” said senior quarterback Sonny Romine, who ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns against Robinson. “We just need that one big play and then we put up points. We put up 21 in like a five-minute span. We really shot out of the cannon there, and that’s kind of how our offense is: very explosive and a lot of talent.”
Last Friday’s deficit-to-blowout pattern was a perfect example of the predictable game plan Chantilly (8-3, 3-2) has used to vex defenses all season long. Opponents know exactly what kind of plays will be coming their way against Chantilly’s run-option offense, but the Chargers’ smash-mouth ground attack has a knack for steamrolling defenses into submission as games wear on.
Romine, an athletic signal-caller who prefers to beat defenses with his feet, leads a Chantilly offense bursting with playmakers. Junior running back DeAndre Harris uses his raw speed to spearhead a backfield that rotates three dangerous runners in and out behind Romine. Ross Simms and Raeshawn Smith are the other featured tailbacks of an offense that occasionally mixes in throws to senior tight end Sean Huelskamp, who has racked up 539 yards and six touchdowns in his first season at the position.
“I always joke around about how we have too many weapons for the ball,” Romine said. “Sometimes DeAndre gets a ton of yards, sometimes Ross does, sometimes Raeshawn Smith comes in and puts in a great game. Our offensive line has been really solid and consistent, and that’s really been the anchor of our team.”
No weapon proved more lethal last week than Harris, who gobbled up a season-high 202 yards and four touchdowns on 13 carries. Harris thrived on pitches to the outside that allowed him to follow blockers and pull away from slower defenders down the sideline.
“Our linemen were blocking great, and our receivers did a great job blocking,” said Harris, who has rushed for 1,139 yards and 17 touchdowns so far this year. “Sonny made some great reads and made some nice pitches. I just had to run.”
In the wake of a 2011 season that saw them lose five of their final six games, the streaking Chargers look like a team bent on redemption. Winners of its past three games, an experienced Chantilly side harbors plenty of holdovers from last year who are aiming for a region title this time around.
Their biggest obstacle will face them Friday night when they roll onto Stonecroft Boulevard to take on undefeated Westfield (11-0, 5-0). The Chargers will vie for payback against their arch rivals, who handed them a 24-21 defeat six weeks ago. With both teams having put up more than 40 points in each of their last three games, Friday’s showdown might have the makings of a back-and-forth shootout.
“They’re talented. They have a young defense that’s gotten better and better each week,” Chantilly coach Mike Lalli said. “Their offense, starting with their running game, is very strong. And they throw the ball efficiently too. So we’re going to have to come out and play our best game to do well against them.”
No. 3 Centreville vs. No. 7 Oakton
The Concorde District has stolen the regional playoff show once again this year, as the Wildcats and Cougars will duke it out in the other Division 6 semifinal Friday night. It will be a rematch of a regular season finale that saw Centreville triumph, 49-28.
Like that game two weeks ago, this one will be played on Centreville’s home turf, where the Wildcats are 6-0 this season. Centreville has coped well with the departure of so many seniors from last year’s state finalist team. They have consistently relied on steady performances from several key newcomers, including sophomore running back A.J. Turner, who has 1,096 yards and 18 touchdowns to his name this season. Turner tore apart the Oakton defense two weeks ago with 264 yards and five touchdowns.
Coming off four straight losses, Oakton tightened its defense up last week in a 20-13 upset win against No. 2 Lake Braddock, which boasted a high-octane offense that had helped garner seven consecutive victories. The Cougars made several position adjustments last week, including rotating standout quarterback Kyle Downer on defense to help the secondary against Lake Braddock’s dangerous aerial attack.
Downer — who tallied 151 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the other side of the ball — likely will stay on offense this week against a Centreville team that prefers to do its damage in the running game.