In a Liberty District that features a powerhouse team in Stone Bridge and two recent up-and-comers in both McLean and South Lakes, the Langley High football team has kind of been overlooked this season.
Losing the first two games of a season - even if the two setbacks are against formidable opponents - will do that to a team. The Saxons, now a solid 5-2, have been flying under the radar most of the season. Yes, they have one of the top quarterback-receiver combinations in the Northern Region in QB Braden Anderson and wideout Troy Scharfen. But most of the talk in district football circles, understandably so, has centered more on the success of unbeaten McLean (7-0) and improved South Lakes (5-2), the latter team of which is under a new head coach this season.
But slowly, local football followers are beginning to recognize the successful season Langley is enjoying. The Saxons won their fifth straight game last Friday night when they downed host Jefferson, 28-13, in a district game. The victory improved Langley's district record to 4-0, which puts them in a three-way tie atop the district standings with both Stone Bridge and McLean.
<b>THE SAXONS</b> will undergo their most challenging stretch of the season over the final three weeks beginning this Friday night in Ashburn when they take on home team Stone Bridge, the defending district and Div. 5 region champion which generally defeats opponents by four or five touchdowns. The Bulldogs had one of their toughest games of the season last week in a 28-10 triumph at winless Madison. Stone Bridge, under coach Mickey Thompson, has won games this season by such lopsided scores as 49-6 (over West Springfield), 63-7 (Marshall) and 56-0 (Fairfax).
After Stone Bridge, Langley will host South Lakes on Friday, Oct. 29 and then wrap up the regular season with a home contest versus cross-town rival McLean on Friday, Nov. 5.
Whatever happens over the final three regular season dates, Langley is more than likely to qualify for the eight-team Div. 5 region playoffs.
"We're prepping our guys each week for what is left on the schedule," said Langley coach John Howerton. "They know it's going to be tough. We know we have a good shot at making the playoffs. But to win the district - these are teams were going to have to go through."
The coach has been proud of his team's all-out effort - win or lose - throughout the season. He said the Saxons overcame an overall poor first half against Jefferson last week and played much better in the latter half against the winless Colonials. Langley led 14-13 at halftime before shutting out Jefferson in the latter half while scoring touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarters.
"This team is conscientious of making its best effort," said Howerton. "In the first half against Jefferson, we did not play at our best. But they came out in the second half and showed they were better than how they had been playing."
<b>LANGLEY RUNNING BACK</b> Philip Mun, a 5-foot-9 inch, 145-pound sophomore tailback, had a huge game against Jefferson with 178 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. Mun, the Saxons' top ball carrier this season, had scoring runs of 86, two and 30 yards. With his skill position talent in the backfield and a strong group of linemen in front of him, Mun has rushed for 563 yards with six touchdowns on 86 attempts thus far.
"He has a real knack of finding a seam and he gets through there," said Howerton, of his running back. "He's very quick. He takes a step, and he's off."
Meanwhile, Langley's potent passing attack had another typical strong night as Anderson and Scharfen, both seniors, teamed up for six hook-ups for 111 yards. Anderson (12-of-18, 222 yards) threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to David Paul (4 catches, 70 yards) in the second quarter.
The Anderson-to-Scharfen aerial connection has been perhaps the best in the region this season. Anderson has completed 105 passes in 178 attempts for 1,689 yards over seven games. He has thrown 12 touchdown passes, including nine to Scharfen, and four interceptions. On the receiving end, Scharfen has caught 64 balls for 1,181 yards. Both are near the top in their respective region statistical categories.
"We have the ability to throw and [that duo] has gotten better every week," said Langley’s Howerton. "We can score pretty fast. Those two have been working together now for three years. They are both seniors and they work together year round. Both are athletic, tall, smart, and move well. We have a pretty good [passing] scheme and we make sure we have very good protection for Braden."
Langley, nearly every year, has one of the top offensive lines in the region. This year has been no exception as the Saxons' linemen have paved the way to success both in the team's passing and running games. Key members of the line include senior left guard Tate Besougloff, a third year starter; sophomore right guard Jack Howerton; and senior right tackle Zachary Buffkin, a second year starter.
"It's more of an athletic offensive line," said Howerton. "We use our guards as our primary attack people. We have a right-handed quarterback so we sprint out [right] a lot."
Howerton has thoroughly enjoyed coaching lineman Jack Howerton, his son and the strongest player on the team.
"It's great," said John, of having Jack on the squad. "It gives me an opportunity to really mold him [as a lineman]. I've been coaching all these years and now I have a chance to coach my own son. He works very hard in the weight room and the classroom, and he's a 4.0 student. It's been a great situation."
Langley's defense, although not physically fast as a unit, has played good football for the most part. One of the team's top defensive players is junior safety Marcus Harvey.
"He's our fastest kid and he's been able to run people down when they break through," said Howerton. "He has stopped a lot of obvious touchdowns."
Langley opened the season on Sept. 3 with a tough 49-10 loss to Lake Braddock, the defending Div. 6 region champion. That was followed by a week two setback to Chantilly in overtime. (The Chargers, now 6-1, lost their first game of the season this past week in overtime at Centreville).
But Langley got into the win column with an overtime victory over visiting Madison on Sept. 16 and has been on a hot streak ever since with ensuing wins coming over Fairfax, Herndon, Marshall, and Jefferson.