Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bulldogs' Irwin Stars In Region Title Game

Bulldogs' Irwin Stars In Region Title Game
No. 13 Stone Bridge 27, Edison 14

By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 25, 2007; LZ13

Before each game, Stone Bridge football players never know which of them will have microphones and tape recorders in their faces afterward.

On Friday afternoon, after a 27-14 home win over Edison in the Virginia AAA Division 5 Northern Region title game, it was senior Matt Irwin's turn. He caught two touchdown passes for the first time this season, both for 15 yards in the first half.

And true to never knowing which player will shine, there was no guarantee that Irwin would find the end zone on either play.

On the first one, "I ran out of the backfield and tried to stay small, because I'm nice and short," the 5-foot-10 Irwin said with a smile. "It worked out for me. I just put the ball over the goal line, and luckily I got in."

On the second touchdown from junior quarterback Patrick Thompson, Irwin was not the primary receiver but converted the catch to give his team a 17-7 lead.

Ryan Moody caught his 15th touchdown pass of the season, Kareem Alexander bulled his way for 67 yards and Jeron Gouveia totaled 71 yards of offense. They are all seniors.

Thompson threw for 173 yards.

"We have a few more playmakers than they have, and we're able to utilize all of our guys," Stone Bridge Coach Mickey Thompson said.

The 13th-ranked Bulldogs (12-1) faced Edison (10-3) in the region final for the third straight year and neutralized the Eagles' primary playmaker, senior quarterback Ben Barber. For the first time in 15 games, Barber did not have a touchdown.

Stone Bridge was willing to yield some space in the middle of the field because Gouveia, a safety, could prevent the big play. The emphasis was on not letting Barber get to the outside. As Edison Coach Vaughn Lewis said last week, Barber might be most effective when the receivers are covered downfield and he can tuck the ball and run.

Barber threw for 95 yards and ran for 48, but there were no big plays, and he committed two turnovers -- a fumble recovered by junior Jimmy Bradford that led to the Bulldogs' first touchdown, and an interception by junior John Bladel midway through the fourth quarter after Edison had driven to the Stone Bridge 41-yard line.

"I didn't feel like we could come in this game and let Barber beat us," said Mickey Thompson, the Stone Bridge coach, whose team will host a state semifinal Saturday. "If they were going to beat us, they were going to beat us with him throwing the ball and other guys making plays.

"There were so many times when I thought we were in position to really take control of the game," Thompson added, "and then Edison would come back and make a play or two, or we wouldn't make a play or two. I never felt comfortable."

Edison beat Stone Bridge in the region final last year, when Barber played wide receiver. The Bulldogs certainly had that 31-17 loss on their minds. Or at least it seemed that way to Barber.

"Not just their defense, their whole team came out with a lot of intensity," he said. "We matched it the first quarter, but when you lose like they did in the last game of their season last year, they come out with a vengeance. That boosted them ahead this game."
Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Virginia

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