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The VHSL has released its bracket for the 6A Football Playoffs, and there are intriguing matchups and stellar teams to watch embark on a quest to Old Dominion University for the state championship. 

Among the notable teams in the playoffs is the James Madison Warhawks. Last season, the Warhawks made it all the way to the state title game, losing to powerhouse Oscar Smith. The Tigers currently are the top seed in the A-Region, while Madison sits atop the D-Region standings.

Madison Head Coach Justin Counts is not thinking about last year but rather what the Warhawks must do this year to finish the job.

“This is a very resilient group,” Counts said. “They are part of a team that’s done that (going to a championship), and they know what it takes to get there.”

It won’t be easy; the field is stacked with talent across Region D, where most Fairfax County powerhouses reside. This region has Madison atop the bracket, but fellow Concorde district foes Centreville and Westfield reside within those confines.

Regions B and C are no exception. Region B has Freedom-Woodbridge at the top, and the Eagles look to be a force to be reckoned with. Region C has the undefeated Fairfax Rebels sitting atop the standings, and Patriot district powerhouses South County, West Springfield, Lake Braddock, and Robinson are also in the hunt.

Should the Warhawks win their region, they will likely take on the region C champion in the state semis. Still, Counts said the team is not looking that far ahead and instead is focused on their first-round opponent, the Generals of Washington-Liberty.

“They are extremely well coached,” Counts said. “At one point, we used to be in the same district as them, and Coach [Josh] Shapiro’s kids also play hard and fast, and they’ve got the top defensive player in their district on their roster, so the challenge is that we’ll have to play kids who play hard and extremely well coached and it should be a good game.”

The Warhawks certainly have the talent to make a run, with several players earning awards for their excellent play in the Concorde District. Senior Kevin Chadwick Jr. was named the 6A Concorde District Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-District. 

Additionally, running back Angelo Jreige, linebacker Jake Green, defensive tackle Eli Novario, wide receiver Sonny Endicott, tight end Nolan Wilbricht, and defensive end Eric Anderson were named first-team All-District. Defensive back Michael Delgado and offensive lineman Nolan Farley made the second team, while center Ari Rosenburg received an honorable mention.

Like Green, most Warhawks members named to the district’s first team were on the roster a year ago, embarking on one of the most memorable seasons in school history. While Green got a ring from winning the lacrosse state title later that year, most of Madison’s players are still looking for that elusive piece of hardware.

However, while they are happy to be in the playoffs, Green said nothing about last year, and the regular season matters except for the next game, their first playoff game. That mentality has been instilled in the players every day they practice and in how they conduct themselves off the field. 

“We know teams are gunning for us; we always have a target on our back. We’ve all seen what it takes to play at a state championship level and know that it’s going to be an uphill battle throughout the playoffs in order to get back in that state championship seat,” Green said. “The work is put in, day in, and day out, and the boys are confident in making a run.”

Madison’s bout with Washington-Liberty is set for Nov. 11. Should the Warhawks win, they will take on either the Saxons of Langley or the Patriots of Yorktown in the next round.

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