Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pats, Warriors battle for title

Pats, Warriors battle for title
Region II finalists feature high-powered attacks

By Robert Niedzwiecki
The Winchester Star

STEPHENS CITY — One of Brian Barlow’s first impressions after watching Park View quarterback C.J. Leizear on film was his accuracy.

The senior has certainly had enough practice.

Leizear, the Dulles District Offensive Player of the Year, leads a spread offense with five first-team all-district players into Friday’s 7 p.m. Region II Division 4 final against Sherando at Arrowhead Stadium. The winner between the Patriots (10-1) and the Warriors (11-0) moves on to next week’s Group AA state semifinals.

Sherando, ranked No. 11 in The Washington Post top 20, advanced to this game by rallying from a 14-0 deficit to defeat James Wood 21-14 and Park View, ranked No. 15, rebounded from a loss in the regular-season finale to Broad Run by defeating the Spartans 16-12.

Leizear has thrown the ball almost 350 times — almost 160 times more than Sherando quarterback Ross Metheny. He’s completed 59 percent for 2,944 yards, 29 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.

Warriors coach Bill Hall said the Patriots have been more balanced late in the year, particularly against Broad Run. But he described Park View’s attack as being an "80 percent" passing attack in the beginning of the season, so Sherando knows it’s going to have to disrupt it.

"We have to get pressure and get in the quarterback’s face, or he’s going to complete every pass," Sherando senior offensive guard/defensive tackle Joey Christine said. "We think they’re going to pass a lot."

"He sits in the pocket and picks defenses apart," said Barlow, a Warriors senior defensive end/tight end.

Park View coach Andy Hill said the thing that stands out the most about his three-year starter is his resiliency.

"The team rallies around him," said Hill, who pointed to a 35-22 victory against Jefferson (W.Va.) in which the Patriots twice rallied from deficits. "Quarterback is a difficult position to play because of the pressure, but he had to put up 35 points and he never blinked. He’s gutsy."

Barlow said his receiving options are just as dangerous.

"They’re going to break off big plays here and there," he said. "We’ve got to contain their athletes."

Like Leizear, sophomore wide receiver Tommy Sedeski (956 yards, nine touchdowns) and senior tight end Danny Foley (740 yards, 10 touchdowns) were also first-team all-district. Wide receiver Ryan Pick added 699 yards and five touchdowns, and standout tight end Kenny Smith (6-foot-6, 265 pounds) returned to the team last week after being out since the first week of the season because of cartilage damage to a knee.

Barlow said the Patriots appear to switch up to a single-wing offense when it gets near the goal line, and that they not only rely on big plays, but deceptive ones as well.

"(Assistant) coach (Tim) Lucci always tells us to stay in our zones, because that trick play is right around the corner," Barlow said.

Despite Park View’s potential for explosiveness, Hall said the Patriots’ offense can be easier to prepare for schematically than an offense like James Wood’s.

"A team like this allows you to play your base defense more," Hall said. "Teams like James Wood can all the sudden be unbalanced. They’re putting a lot of people at the point of attack, and we’re having to rotate coverage and bring people down into the box more. It allows us to do a lot of things we like to do in our defense as far as being aggressive. Blitzes, front changes, things like that. Our guys accept this as a challenge."

Hill said his team can certainly do more than pass. The Patriots have run for more than 1,500 yards as a team, and he said the ground game will be a key component Friday. Eric Johnston leads the way with 752 yards.

"We want to avoid negative plays on first down, so we might look to run it more in those situations," Hill said. "But that’s no secret.

"We can’t be stubborn on offense. We’ve seen some teams this year have some success against them early, but then they’re still running the same plays into the second or third quarter. We’re going to have to be prepared for anything."

On offense, Sherando will face a multiple Park View defense (primarily 4-4) that features four first-team all-district players, including defensive player of the year Thomas Mulabah.

"He’s a big guy and he’s got a lot of talent with him," Metheny said. "They have a good defense, so we can’t just focus on him, but we have to find him."

Sherando won’t be looking to surpass its season-high 38 passing attempts last week, but much like the first game against the Colonels (46 runs, 10 passes), the team said it was good for the Warriors to know they can have so much success when they’re forced out of their preferred balanced attack. Metheny (121-of-193 for 1,797 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season) went 6-of-6 for 79 yards on the game-winning drive against the Colonels.

Running back Markeith Brisco (151 carries for 1,274 yards and 20 total touchdowns) provides the balance.

"We’ve got to be resilient and make some stands," Hill said. "Our linebacking play is going to have to be big. They have to get to the quarterback when he passes and keep Brisco from consistently getting four yards downfield, because at that point he can break some long ones."

Ultimately, Hall said the reason for either team winning won’t be complicated.

"It’s going to come down to who controls the line of scrimmage," Hall said.

Sherando appears to be more than ready to do that after last week’s performance. Throughout the first half and into the third quarter, the Warriors didn’t look like the same team that possessed the area’s best scoring offense (38.4 points per game), scoring defense (7.3 ppg), total offense (377.2 yards per game) and total defense (155.9 ypg).

James Wood rushed for 213 yards on 31 carries (6.9 average) through the first 28 minutes of the game after allowing the Colonels just 107 yards in the opening meeting. Sherando dropped six passes before it scored its first touchdown.

"I expect this to wake us up," Hall said after Friday’s game. "(James Wood’s) a heck of a football team, so it’s not like we weren’t playing a great football team. They executed at a very high level, and I was just disappointed we didn’t. I think we’ll learn a lot from this game. We understand we need to play four full quarters for us to reach our own potential."

The players confirmed on Tuesday after practice that they had received that message.

"We’ve got to do a better job of playing to win and instead of playing not to lose," Metheny said.

"(James Wood) really showed us we have to play from right away or we can get down deep in a hurry," Barlow said. "Especially against a team like Park View. They run five or six crazy backyard football trick plays, so if you’re not focused and not playing hard, they can get up on you real quick."

The Winchester Star
2 N. Kent St.
Winchester, Va. 22601


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