Brian Rody and his Stone Bridge High football teammates were one fired up team going into their Northern Region Div. 5 semifinals playoff game against visiting Madison last Friday night in Ashburn. Afterall, it was the Warhawks from Vienna who had handed Stone Bridge its lone loss during the regular season – a 28-14 Madison win on Oct. 19.
Stone Bridge, the two-time defending region champion, was relentless from start to finish in Friday’s convincing 27-8 playoff win. The victory improved the Bulldogs’ season record to 11-1 and advanced them to this Saturday afternoon’s Div. 5 title game against Lee High of Springfield. Kickoff for the championship game is set for 1:30 at Stone Bridge. The winner will advance to next week’s state playoffs.
Madison, which at one time, following an Oct. 10 homecoming loss to South Lakes, stood at 3-3 and looked to be a Div. 5 afterthought, concluded a successful season at 7-5. The Warhawks, under coach Gordon Leib, went 4-2 over their final six games this fall.
But against Stone Bridge in the playoff affair, Madison was facing a driven Stone Bridge team riding a four-game win streak and wanting nothing more than to avenge the earlier loss to the Warhawks.
“We just wanted to come out and beat them because they beat us before,” said Rody, Stone Bridge’s junior quarterback, of the Bulldogs’ natural desire to atone for the team’s earlier loss this season. “We didn’t want to lose to the same team twice. Before the game we were as fired up as we’ve been all year.”
The game was never really close as Stone Bridge put together touchdown drives on its first two possessions of the night. The first score came on the Bulldogs’ fifth offensive snap of the game when standout running back Marcus Harris, a junior, took a direct snap from center before bursting through the middle of the line and into open field for a 56-yard touchdown run. Harris was never close to being brought down upon breaking into the Warhawks’ secondary. It was the start of a big night for Harris, who finished with 170 yards on 21 carries.
On its next possession, Stone Bridge drove 55 yards over 13 plays and scored on Kyle Gouveia’s one yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Abdul Shaban’s second extra point kick made it 14-0 Bulldogs.
Later in the quarter, Madison’s defense came up with a big play when the Warhawks stopped Stone Bridge on a fourth-and-one running play at the Bulldogs’ own 49. But the momentum was quickly lost when, on Madison’s first offensive play following the big defensive stop, Stone Bridge defensive back Dexter Rogers intercepted a long Eric Roland pass thrown down the left side of the field.
The contest still stood at 14-0 at the half.
But Stone Bridge effectively put the game away on the opening drive of the third quarter. The Bulldogs, starting at their own 40, needed just eight plays to go 60 yards, the touchdown coming on another one-yard score from Gouveia. Just like that, following Shaban’s extra point kick, it was 21-0.
Stone Bridge, over its next two possessions, would put together drives that would result in field goals by Shaban – a 23-yarder in the final minute of the third quarter, and a 35 yarder in the fourth quarter – to give the Bulldogs a 27-0 lead.
<b>MADISON</b> showed heart on its final possession of the game, driving 65 yards over 11 plays and getting its lone touchdown of the night on a brilliant 32 yard scoring run by senior QB Roland. On the play, Roland rolled right, found some open running space and jetted down the sideline. It looked as if he would be tackled or pushed out of bounds a few times on the scoring play. But the signal caller made it all the way to the end zone. On the ensuing extra point play, he rolled out right before tossing the ball to Ben Powers in the end zone for two points, making the score 27-8 Stone Bridge with less than two minutes remaining.
While the touchdown played no factor in the game’s final outcome, it did break the shutout. But overall it was a tough offensive game for Madison, which managed only five first downs, three coming on that late game scoring drive. Madison finished the game with 111 total offensive yards, 81 on the ground.
Meanwhile, Stone Bridge, behind its shifty offensive sets in which the ball can be snapped to any member of the backfield, dominated on the ground. Led by Harris’ big game, the Bulldogs rushed for 296 yards on 53 carries and accumulated 16 first downs.
“Our offensive line did great,” marveled Rody.
The Bulldog quarterback had kind words for Madison.
“They have real aggressive players and they run their offense real well,” he said. “They play well on defense too and their coaches are good.”