Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Seniors protect the Bulldog football legacy

By Dan Sousa
Source: Special to the Loudoun Times-Mirror

After Stone Bridge lost to Madison on Oct. 19 – the school’s first-ever loss to a Liberty District opponent in 35 games -- the Bulldog seniors gathered in a somber players-only huddle on the field.

“We were down,” senior left guard Eric Volz said. "We needed to come back hard."

The loss highlighted a fear that this senior class, which had gone just 4-6 as freshmen in a program that simply did not lose freshman football games, would somehow let down the Stone Bridge legacy of six consecutive district titles and seven straight trips to regional title games and beyond, including a AAA Division 5 state title in 2007.

“We heard people say, ‘Your senior class is going to be bad,'” said senior right tackle Rich Freitas, who moved into the program midway through his freshman year. “After the Madison loss, we just said, ‘Let’s get back to work.'”

And that's what the seniors and Stone Bridge did, going back to basics, which meant running the single wing offense.

The Bulldogs were able to add their chapter to the school’s football legacy with three wins to finish the regular season, including a 45-22 victory over South Lakes Nov. 6 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.

With a fifth consecutive Liberty title and an incredible eighth-straight district title in the bank with the 9-1 regular season, the Bulldogs weren’t ready to think about a rematch with South Lakes this Friday at home in the Northern Region Division 5 quarterfinals.

Instead, they were ready to celebrate by posing for photos with the district-title banner and the smiles were biggest on the sweaty faces of the seniors.

“This has got to be satisfying for them,” Stone Bridge coach Mickey Thompson said. “They were committed to the weight room. They were loyal. They stayed loyal to the program, to the coaches. They didn’t point fingers after that freshman season.”

Victories paved on the back of adversity are, perhaps, the sweetest to savor and Volz was almost emotional describing the feeling for the seniors.

Senior center Kyle Wrenn said, “It was harsh that year, having to go 4-6.”

While the junior class, led by running back Marcus Harris – who had four touchdowns Friday – and quarterback/safety Kyle Gouveia and safety Spenser Rositano, were the face of this year’s Bulldog success, that was just fine with the seniors as long as they continued the winning tradition.

“We are not a flashy group,” Freitas said. "We are down to earth and hard working."

The loss to Madison also forced the Bulldog coaching staff to huddle. The Bulldogs spent almost half of the loss to the Warhawks in offense sets other than their trademark single wing offense and it just wasn’t working.

“It was like a slap in the face to the coaches,” Thompson said. “That loss really helped us. We finally stopped searching for something that wasn’t there.”

The result was Stone Bridge from start to finish against South Lakes in the single wing, running the spin series that over the years has confounded defenses. Run after run resulted in 300 yards on the ground.

“The single wing ... That is what we do. That loss made us go back to basics, to our roots and just play football,” Thompson said.

Stone Bridge 45, South Lakes 22

First Quarter
SB: Harris 3 run (Shaban kick) 10:16
SB: Shaban 21 field goal 4:45
SL: Price 48 pass from Rana (Belt kick) 3:19
SB: Harris 49 run (Shaban kick) 2:07

Third Quarter
SB: Rositano 34 pass from Gouveia (Shaban kick) 9:48
SB: Harris 1 run (Shaban kick) 5:35
SB: Harris 3 run (Shaban kick) 2:52

Fourth Quarter
SL: Jones 3 run (Belt kick) 10:56
SB: Thomas 3 run (Shaban kick) 1:52
SL: Khan 4 run (Lewis from Zarco) 0:06

Individual leaders

Passing: SL-Rana (9 of 18 for 127 yards, TD); SB-Gouveia (2 of 3 for 49 yards, TD), Rody (4 of 6 for 37 yards, Int.)

Rushing: SL-Jones (9 for 37 yards, TD), Smith (10 for 36 yards); SB-Harris (23 for 188 yards, 4 TD), Rankin-Bell (6 for 48 yards)

Receiving: SL-Price (8 for 127 yards, TD); SB-Rositano (2 for 46 yards, TD)

-Read more of Dan "First and Goal" Sousa's work at VivaLoudoun.

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