Tuesday, November 27, 2007

SB Wins 4th Regional Football Title in Six Seasons

SB Wins 4th Regional Football Title in Six Seasons
By Dan Sousa
LoudounPrepSports.com Editor

Ashburn (Nov. 26, 2007) - The Stone Bridge High School defense, led by junior defensive ends Brian Slay and Zach Thompson and hard-hitting defensive back Jeron Gouveia, boxed in elusive Edison quarterback Ben Barber Friday as the Bulldogs captured the AAA Northern Region Division 5 title for the second time in three seasons with a 27-14 win over the Eagles.

SB junior quarterback Patrick Thompson threw for three scores and 185 yards, including two first-half 15-yard touchdowns to Matt Irwin, and a 36-yard second-half strike to Ryan Moody when the Bulldogs were ahead by just six.

The Virginia Tech-bound Barber was held to 57 yards rushing on 13 attempts and his longest run of the day was his first carry, just 15 yards. He also threw for 123 yards. On seven of his touches, the SB defense held Barber to one yard or less.

Edison ran just 14 plays in the first half as SB took a 20-7 lead, out-gaining the Eagles 188-83 in the half. After Irwin's second TD of the half, Edison fumbled the kickoff return and the Bulldogs were able to convert the turnovers into three points on Ronnie Shaban's second field goal of the half as time expired.

For Stone Bridge and head coach Mickey Thompson the regional title added another milestone to a glowing resume that now includes four regional titles for the 8-year-old school, including crowns in 2002, 2003, 2005 and Friday’s win. Thompson now lays claim to leading six teams to regional titles including his 1993 and 1999 Park View teams. Thompson’s six regional titles in 18 seasons is more than all the other coaches in Loudoun history combined.

The Bulldogs next task is a Phoebus squad from Hampton that is not only undefeated at 13-0 but the Phantoms have won 20 straight contests, including the 2006 AA Division 5 title game over Edison. SB hosts Phoebus this coming Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Stone Bridge set the tone for the game on the first series. A good Ronnie Shaban kickoff and a Eagle muff, left Edison on its own 10. Slay, a transfer from Georgia that has been as sweet as a peach for SB fans and just the pits for opposing offenses, stuffed Akeen Perry on a power run.

Barber, a wide receiver on Edison’s state runner-up team in 2006 turned quarterback, took center stage on the second play. On a play that Stone Bridge had practiced agasint all week, with former SB standout quarterback Terence Glenn -- brought back from Rhode Island where he is a redshirt freshman – running scout team and doing his best Barber impression, the real Eagles quarterback faked with a flow of traffic to the left and then cut back to the right.

The Bulldogs were ready, but Barber, showed why some think he will start next season at Virginia Tech as a freshman, as he displayed a combination of grace and power to break three tackles and gain 15 yards.

It was the last time all day that Barber would break as many tackles and gain as many yards. In fact, on the next play, the Bulldogs were a little disgruntled about the gain and to show their displeasure they threw Barber for a 1-yard loss with linebacker Travis Hannam, Slay and noseguard Jimmy Bradford all piling on the QB.

Barber earned Edison a first down with a 11-yard pass to Brandon Suggs in the left flat and Perry blasted for six more, but with Barber playing without a handwarmer on a windy and cold day after it came loose earlier in the series and was tossed off the field, the Eagle quarterback was trying to shake loose for extra yardage on the next play when he coughed up the football with Bradford making the recovery.

Before Edison could wrap its mind around the early turnover, SB’s own Tech recruit, Gouveia, running behind blocking that includes junior David Wang, an early signee with Tech where his older brother Ed plays, swiveled his way for 15 yards.

On the next play, Thompson found Moody on a crossing route for a gain of nine. SB then unveiled a new jumbo or heavy set that it hadn’t showed this season. Both Slay and Zach Thompson, a combined 495 pounds of blocking horsepower, were dropped into the backfield in front of Gouveia and he plowed behind them for four yards and a first down.

A Thompson quarterback keeper for two yards was followed by a procedure penalty on SB and then a 3-yard Gouveia gain to set up 3rd-and-10 from the Edison 15. The Bulldogs called a play they had specifically put in for the game: showing run to the right, wingback Irwin cut back across the field and Thompson hit him in the left corner for the 15-yard score.

On Edison’s second series it was more Hannam, 220 pounds of under-rated grit who starts on defense at linebacker and on offense at blocking back, Thompson and Slay. The result was 3-and-out.

The Eagles defense, however, put Edison right back in the game. After forcing a fumble by Thompson that SB recovered, the blitzing Eagles cornered Thompson near the right sidelines as he tried to throw on 2-and-11 from his own 21 and the ball came loose and popped right into Kevin Carter’s arms and he sprinted into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.

Stone Bridge bounced right back with a 11-play drive that featured a 4th-and-2 conversion on the Edison 21. On this occasion, Stone Bridge, running its “spin series” out of its single-wing offense, had Thompson hit tight end Dan Elliott for six yards and the first down.

On 3rd-and-4 from the 9, Irwin almost got his second touchdown as a ball deflected off Moody in the right corner to Irwin, who caught it safely in bounds, only to have the officials rule that he had stepped out of bounds while running along the back of the end zones prior to the catch.

Thompson, showing his respect for Edison, opted for a 26-yard field goal by strong-legged Shaban instead of going for it on fourth down and the Bulldogs led 10-7 with 9:27 still to go in the first half.

A big difference in the game is that Stone Bridge was able to convert on fourth down numerous times and Edison failed in its attempts. That was a turnaround from 2006 when Thompson felt that his team’s failures on fourth down tries cost them that regional title.

The Eagles moved the ball into SB territory on the strength of a 17-yard run by Perry and a Barber 21-yard pass to Drew Baldwin. It should be noted that on the Perry run, Gouveia came up to make the hit and flipped the 185-pound running back. Perry was a little shaken, but unhurt, but he would net just nine yards the rest of the game.

The Bulldogs forced 4th-and-5 from the SB 30 after Daniel Lee made a tackle on Cash at the line of scrimmage for no gain and then Zach Thompson, showing why he is considered a NCAA Division I recruit, was able to track down Barber as he turned the corner and shove the Eagle out of bounds after just a one-yard gain.

Instead of looking for a short gain on fourth down, Barber went for six and Baldwin had a step on the defense but the ball was slightly overthrown and SB took over on downs.

If it wasn’t bad enough that Edison failed to get any points, what happened three plays later was even more deflating. On 3rd-and-4 from the SB 36, Thompson threw a floater down the field to Gouveia, who was double-covered and pinned in by the sidelines. Somehow Gouveia out-jumped both defenders and brought down the catch for a 32-yard gain.

Irwin continued his central role in the game during the drive with a carry for two yards, a catch for 13 and then his second touchdown, another 15-yard play. With 3:20 to go in the half, SB led 17-7.

The Eagles did not make a lot of mistakes in the 2006 win at Stone Bridge, but the same wasn’t true Friday as Edison fumbled away the ensuing kickoff with junior Andrew Ansell making the jarring hit and junior Brian Burnett recovering at the Eagle 24.

SB senior running back Kareem Alexander took the first three carries for a total of 13 yards. Two plays later Gouveia broke a tackle before getting dragged down at the 2 with 33 seconds left.

The Bulldogs, out of time outs, tried to punch it in with Gouveia but he was stuffed and the clock might have expired but for a Edison player injured in the end zone that stopped the clock with four seconds left. After he was helped off the field, Thompson spike the ball with one tick left.

A two-fingered pirate could probably count the number of times that Mickey Thompson as a head coach has kicked a field goal at the 1-yard line but he wasn’t about to let Edison get any momentum going into the locker room so Shaban was called upon for the chip shot from 18 yards to give SB a 20-7 lead at halftime.

The Stone Bridge defense had some extra work to do in the second half as the Bulldogs special teams made a rare mistake to start the half, letting a pooch kick drop and the ball bounced back towards the onrushing Edison players for a recovery at the SB 24.

SB’s defense rose to the occasion. On first down, Cash was hit in the backfield for a 2-yard loss. On second down, Barber was dropped for a 5-yard loss with Slay leading the charge. Barber hit Perry on a short pass but Ansell was there to hold the play to just four yards. That rang up 4th-and-13 and Barber found Suggs, but Gouveia, who time and again in the game came up to make hard tackles, stopped the Eagle three yards shy of the first down.

Last year, Gouveia spent the regional title game on crutches after getting injured the week before. This year, he was everywhere on the field to the point where Edison fans could be heard to ask: “doesn’t that boy ever come out!”

SB couldn’t move the ball and Edison finally put together a scoring drive, its only one of the game. The key was a Barber to Corey Washington hook up that resulted three completions, the last for 16 yards and a score. A roughing the passer penalty also hurt SB on the drive.

Trailing now just 20-14, Edison needed a defensive stop but SB took control of the game back. On 3rd-and-10 from its own 26, Mike Stancik took a screen pass and picked up a hard-nosed nine yards. Thompson didn’t hesitate going for it on his own 38, despite just the six-point lead, and Alexander dove for two yards in what could be called the most important gain of the day.

On the next play, Thompson was chased out of the pocket and he picked up 11 yards and got 15 more tacked on to the carry after he got hit out of bounds. Thompson then dropped back and threw deep for Moody, who made a great leaping grab over the Edison cornerback, for a 36-yard touchdown to put SB back up by two scores, 27-14.

Neither team would score in the final 15 minutes of the contest though they both had chances. Moody missed a chance for a second touchdown when he couldn’t hold a ball after getting behind the Edison secondary and Edison had one drive stall on an interception by John Bladell at the SB 27 and another stop when they couldn’t convert on 4th-and-8 from the SB 40. On the play before that, Slay, Bradford and Ben Palmer all converged on Barber to pound him for a 4-yard sack.

The Bulldogs are known for their dedication to the weight room and it showed in the later stages of the game as SB not only looked strong but showed its depth with a number of substitutes coming in to shore up the defense.

As the clock counted down, it was fitting that Thompson found Irwin one final time on 4th-and-10 with 11 seconds left. Irwin only needed 11 to end the game … and he gained 35. And the celebration was on … for the fourth time in six seasons.



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Ashburn, VA 20147


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