The Fairfax High football team will be going up against an old friend this Friday night when the Rebels meet host team Centreville in a Div. 6 first round Northern Region playoff game. Game time for the quarterfinals round contest is 7:30 p.m.
Fairfax (6-4) will be playing a Wildcats' team coached by Chris Haddock, who just one year ago was leading the Rebels into the postseason as the Fairfax head coach.
But Haddock, who helped re-build the Fairfax program during his three seasons at the helm, accepted the head coaching position at Centreville this past offseason. His new team has benefited greatly under his direction as the Wildcats, members of the powerful Concorde District, were 8-0 at one point before losing the past two weeks to finish the regular season at 8-2.
Kevin Simonds, a former Fairfax assistant coach under Haddock and the Rebels' current head coach, understands the coaching storyline leading up to Friday's postseason game. But he said the playoff affair is not about the coaches.
"One of the biggest things I've been telling the kids this week is that this is not coach Simonds versus coach Haddock, but Fairfax versus Centreville," said Simonds. "We are very excited about being in the playoffs."
Fairfax, in the eight-team Div. 6 playoff format, is the No. 7 seed while Centreville is the No. 2 seed. The winner of Friday's game will advance to the semifinals next week.
A year ago, under Haddock, Fairfax lost its first round Div. 6 playoff game, 19-14, to eventual region champion and state runner-up Lake Braddock. This year's Fairfax squad, under Simonds, will be looking to take that next step with a playoff victory — which would come at the expense of the Rebels' former coach.
Simonds and Haddock both understand the others' coaching style.
"I have all the respect for Chris Haddock," said Simonds. "This will be a matchup I'm looking forward to because we're familiar with [his style]. I coached three years under Chris."
Simonds said he believes his underdog Rebels can match up well on offense, defense and on special teams with the much heralded Centreville team. The coach said his players are anxious to play the Wildcats.
"We had a great practice yesterday," said Simonds, on Tuesday. "There was lots of enthusiasm. You realize how nice it is to practice now [for the playoffs]. You get to turn on the lights [for a night workout], breathe in the crisp air and experience the emotions of the playoffs."
Fairfax, the coach realizes, will have to play a great game in order to defeat Centreville and advance.
"Definitely, they are stout and a good team," said Simonds. "But we have confidence. It's going to come down to turnovers, special teams play and who can run the clock and move the football and keep the other teams' offense off the field."
<b>FAIRFAX</b>, which went 3-3 in the Liberty District this season, has proven it can play well against some of the region's top teams. The Rebels defeated Concorde District champion Robinson, 20-12, way back in week two of the season. They nearly defeated district opponent McLean in a week eight game, but lost 24-20. The Highlanders, celebrating homecoming that night, improved to 8-0 with that victory over the Rebels.
Since that setback, Fairfax has come back strong with district wins over Marshall, 34-16, and Jefferson, 21-0, to clinch a playoff berth.
Centreville, meanwhile, heads into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak following its 8-0 start. The Wildcats lost a week nine affair at Westfield, 35-14, than fell at Robinson, 27-0, last week.
Centreville has true game-breakers in star running back Manny Smith, who is averaging 138 yards per game, and quarterback Chance Roman, who has tossed 16 touchdowns.
Fairfax has an outstanding playmaker in running back Marcus Bailey.
"Stopping Marcus Bailey will be tough," said Haddock. "Marcus is a great kid with an elusive and powerful style of running. He will certainly be on our radar."
Haddock has tons of respect for his former team and coach Simonds.
"Kevin Simonds is a good man and an opponent that does things the right way," said Haddock. "It is always great to play people and programs like that.
"We are very excited to be back in the playoffs," said Haddock. "Playing Fairfax will be a challenge but one our team is up for. We have played two of the toughest teams in the Northern Region the last two weeks as well as many other tough teams and hopefully that will have us battle tested for the playoffs."