6A North Region (higher seeds host)
No. 1 Centreville vs. No. 16 South Lakes
South Lakes (5-5) squeaked into the playoffs thanks to its best season since 2010, but now they face the unenviable task of visiting the most dominant team in the state. Centreville (10-0) doesn’t defeat opponents so much as annihilate them, their average margin of victory being 38.1 points.
Still, it’s worth noting that only four of the Wildcats’ 10 wins came against teams that ended up with a winning record. It’s also interesting that South Lakes is 4-1 on the road this year.
“Every play is important, and everybody’s the same now. Everybody’s 0-0,” Centreville coach Chris Haddock said. “We certainly feel good, but we know that the Northern Virginia tournament is the toughest around. We know that we’re going to have to play a lot of good football to continue to advance. When you get to tournament play it’s survive and advance, and that’s all we want to do.”
No. 2 Lake Braddock vs. No. 15 Chantilly
Entering the season, Lake Braddock coach Jim Poythress might have thought 10 wins—including four against teams that ended up with at least seven wins—would land his squad a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. But the Bruins’ 36.1 VSHL rating sits just behind Centreville’s 36.6, meaning they’ll have to settle for a No. 2 seed for the second year in a row.
The No. 2 slot was Lake Braddock’s demise last year, when they were eliminated by eventual champion Oakton in the first round of regionals. Poythress wasn’t too happy to see his team draw another tough Concorde District opponent in this year’s opening round. If they want to fulfill their goal of winning a state championship, the Bruins (10-0) must first keep their focus on a Chantilly (5-5) squad coming off three narrow losses in a row, not unlike the six straight losses that capped Oakton’s regular season last year.
“It got my attention, to say the least,” Poythress said. “I don’t think they’re the 15th-rated team in the region. I think they’re much, much better. They’re an upper-half team to say the least. They lost three games by [a total of] six points. When you take that into consideration, one or two plays here or there, they’re now an 8-2 team.”
Caleb Henderson’s ankle still isn’t 100 percent after he tweaked it two weeks ago against South County, but he’ll make the start for the Bruins on Friday. Poythress said they will keep starting tailback Trevor O’Brien out at least another week to let him heal a sprained MCL.
Chantilly is as healthy as it’s been all season, as DeAndre Harris and Raeshawn Smith have both recovered from injury.
“The cream rises to the top either way,” Poythress said. “If we’re meant to move on and keep playing, then we’ll find a way to win.”
No. 3 Westfield vs. No. 14 Hayfield
Westfield’s postseason will begin against the same team it faced to start the regular season. The Bulldogs (8-2) won that game 35-13, but Westfield coach Kyle Simmons remembers a hard-fought first half that ended in a 7-7 tie.
“I don’t think that this is a team that we can overlook,” Simmons said. “We’ve got a battle on our hands. [Ellis] Knudson’s a good quarterback. They’ve got some good athletes that he can get the ball to. They’re scary on special teams. So we’re trying to keep our kids focused on understanding that this is not a game that we need to be looking ahead on.”
Hayfield (5-5) started the regular season 1-5 but finished it with four straight victories to put them into the playoffs. Each of their losses came against highly-rated playoff teams: Westfield, South County, Centreville, Washington-Lee and Yorktown.
Simmons knows his team could easily be 6-4 if close games against Robinson and Chantilly had gone the other way.
“We’ve had to kind of battle through this season, and I would expect for us to have to continue to do that through the playoffs,” he said. “It’s going to be about us playing as a team and pulling out close wins, and I don’t think a lot of things are going to come easy to us.”
No. 4 Washington-Lee vs. No. 13 Stonewall Jackson
Washington-Lee (8-2) is riding a huge wave of momentum following its 10-0 win against Yorktown last week, a victory that propelled the Generals to their first conference title since 1975. That result broke Yorktown’s 27-year hold over the National District.
Now Sam Appel and company will host Stonewall Jackson (6-4), winner of its last three games.
No. 5 Langley vs. No. 12 Battlefield
Langley (8-2) started the year 1-2 but has since ripped off seven straight wins to stake its claim as one of the hottest teams entering the postseason. Much of its resurgence owes to a high-powered offense that averages 40 points a game this year. The Saxons will face a Battlefield (6-4) defense that has given up 18.7 points per game this season.
“We score a lot of points—that’s the big difference,” Langley coach John Howerton said. “Everything else is similar to what we normally are. We’re able to score fast and often. We’re trying to play more consistent on defense and special teams, but when you can get two or three scores ahead early, you can mess up your opponent’s plan. Hopefully we can maintain that.”
No. 6 Patriot vs. No. 11 Robinson
A blowout loss against Centreville last week isn’t a fun way to enter the playoffs, but Robinson (7-3) can still take pride in one of its best seasons in recent memory. The Rams’ three defeats came against the top three seeds in this year’s playoffs.
If Joe Wilson and Ayvn Johnson find their groove this week, the Rams’ ground-and-pound attack should fare well against Patriot (8-2).
No. 7 Yorktown vs. No. 10 Fairfax
Though it has yet to beat a team with a winning record, Fairfax (7-3) put together its best regular season since 1999, when Tom Verbanic led the Rebels to a 10-0 campaign. The Rebels were close to taking down Stone Bridge (8-2) two weeks ago, but a touchdown with 53 seconds to play gave the Bulldogs a 33-28 victory.
Fairfax coach Kevin Simmonds was impressed with that effort, but he was even happier with how his kids responded in their 24-7 win against South Lakes the following week.
“To me it was great because we played such an emotional, hard-fought game against Stone Bridge, and as a coach you always worry about that letdown the next week,” Simmonds said. “But there was a determination factor in our seniors.”
The Rebels are now determined to pick up their eighth win, which would give them their first playoff victory since 1994. Yorktown (8-2) hopes dynamic running back MJ Stewart has something to say about that. A battle between Stewart and Fairfax quarterback Nick Scott will make this one of the most exciting games of the weekend.
No. 8 South County vs. No. 9 T.C. Williams
Conference 7 runner-up South County (8-2) will try to produce the same outcome that came from last month’s meeting against T.C. Williams (7-3), a nail-biting game that gave the Stallions a 44-37 win. The Titans will be motivated by their first playoff berth in 22 years.
No. 2 Stone Bridge vs. No. 15 Lee
Lee (2-8) has its work cut out for it against defending state finalist Stone Bridge (8-2). The Lancers won’t have anything to lose, though, and they won’t be scared of a quality opponent after facing a tough regular season slate that included games against Lake Braddock, South County, Robinson and T.C. Williams.
No. 5 North Stafford vs. No. 12 Jefferson
Jefferson (4-6) will have to rebound from three straight defeats on the road against North Stafford (8-2).