A bright spot in what has been a tough season for the Briar Woods High football team has been the impressive play of junior running back Michael Brownlee. The elusive, 5-foot-6 inch, 170-pound playmaker has given opposing teams fits with his uncanny ability of picking up positive yardage.
“He’s a very strong, energetic and hard-nosed running back,” said Briar Woods coach Charlie Pierce. “He’s what you want in a football player – he’s relentless.”
Brownlee, although not physically big, has deceptive strength, allowing him to grind out extra yardage upon initial contact. Perhaps his greatest attribute as a runner is that he is always moving his feet and going full tilt.
“He’s like a human chainsaw. Once you pull the chord he keeps going, going,” said Pierce. “He’s elusive but strong for his size.”
Brownlee, unfortunately, has been slowed down by physical problems this season. He missed two games early in the season as a result of a shoulder injury. And last week, in Briar Woods’ 23-3 homecoming loss to Loudoun County, he missed the game with flu symptoms.
In the four full games Brownlee has played, he has accumulated 658 yards for the Falcons, who were 1-6 going into this week.
“He’s kind of what you want in all your kids,” said Pierce, of Brownlee’s strong work ethic, good attitude and talent.
Brownlee and the Falcons were set to play a couple of games this week. They were scheduled to play at Potomac Falls in a Dulles District makeup game on Monday night of this week. The game was originally supposed to be played last Friday night, but poor weather forced a postponement.
This upcoming Friday night, the Falcons will travel to Park View High for a district meeting with the Patriots.
For Briar Woods, which has qualified for the Region II, Div. 3 playoffs for each of the past two years, the 2009 season has been a challenging one. The Falcons lost their first four games. But in week five, they put things together in a lopsided 45-0 district home win over Freedom High. Brownlee rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in the win. One of his scoring runs came from 70 yards out.
It was a relief for the Briar Woods team and coach Pierce to get into the win column.
“After playing those tough [opening] four weeks against top-notch teams, coming away with a win was a feeling that’s hard to explain,” said Pierce. “We get paid [in high school sports] with victories, and we hadn’t gotten a pay check in a month.”
The win gave the Falcons some much-needed momentum going into the following week’s game at defending state AA champion and unbeaten Broad Run. Briar Woods played a good game against its district powerhouse opponent in a 27-12 loss. The Falcons were right in the ball game in the fourth quarter, trailing just 14-6 with eight minutes remaining. But on a Falcons’ fourth-and-one play from midfield, what appeared to be a first down running play was disallowed because of an inadvertent whistle. Briar Woods had to run another fourth down play, and this time Broad Run made the defensive stop. The Spartans’ offense soon scored a touchdown to pretty much put the game away.
But Falcon fans had to be pleased with the effort and overall play from their team against the Spartans.
In last week’s homecoming loss to Loudoun County, Briar Woods was without several players, including Brownlee, due to illnesses.
<b>DEFENSIVELY</b>, Briar Woods has received good seasons from junior free safety Scott Rolen and senior linebacker Allen Jackson. Rolen has five interceptions on the season and leads the Falcons in tackles. At times, he has moved up from his defensive backfield position to bring down opposing running backs at or around the line of scrimmage.
“He’s just a hard-nosed, physical player and a good tackler,” said Pierce, of Rolen. “He has a nose for the ball.“
Rolen, from a military family, moved to the area with his family from Texas last summer.
Jackson, meanwhile, is a second year varsity starter for the Falcons at linebacker.
“He’s another gutsy defender who has a nose for the ball,” said Pierce, who said both Jackson and fellow senior linebacker Tavis Henry have put together solid seasons.
Briar Woods, which closes the season with a district game at Dominion on Nov. 6, still has a lot to play for, according to Pierce.
“We’d like to play a spoiler role against teams that still have a chance for the playoffs,” said the coach. “What I’m really proud of is that we’re a hard-playing team, something I hope we’ll continue through the rest of the season.”