Ashburn, Va. — Broad Run High School football (8-4) experienced many highs and a few painful lows in 2015 starting their season with six consecutive wins – including a blow out of Centreville and a narrow win against rival Briar Woods. Yet the season took a turn, when the Spartans took the season’s first loss against their rival Stone Bridge on October 16 and continued to lose three of their last five games.
After a 1-0 restart in the VHSL 5A North region playoffs – earning a first round win over Briar Woods on November 13 – the Spartans’ season came to an unfortunate end on November 20, when the eventual VHSL 5A state runner up Stone Bridge Bulldogs once again handed Broad Run a loss.
Broad Run head coach Matt Griffis has been with the Spartans since 2010, and led Broad Run to the third round of the playoffs in both 2013 and 2014. Griffis left the Stone Bridge football program in 2010 to replace former Broad Run and current Tuscarora head coach Michael Burnett.
LoCoSports staff writer Josh Meyers got an exclusive interview with Griffis – a 1991 Herndon High School graduate – to give us the scoop: inside the huddle.
Josh Meyers: Congrats on another impressive season at Broad Run. Over the past four years Spartans football has seen almost constant growth. What do you attribute that to?
Matt Griffis: The kids: they have tremendous work ethic. They come out willing to work hard in practice day in and day out. They work hard in the offseason. We continue to put out a very good product. We’ve had the opportunity in two of the last three years to practice on Thanksgiving Thursday which means we’ve made it to the elite eight in the state. That’s our goal every year: practice on Thanksgiving.
Meyers: This season you played Ashburn-rivals Briar Woods and Stone Bridge twice each: once each in the regular season and once each in the VHSL 5A North region playoffs. With so many rivalry games on a schedule is it ever difficult to look at games from a practical point of view, instead of an emotional one?
Griffis: We have played a lot of rivalry games, but we’ve been doing that forever; we’ve always had a bunch of rivalry games on our schedule. We’ve always had Stone Bridge on our schedule, we’ve always had Briar Woods. It is kind of new for them, playing all these rivalry games, but for us its nothing new. It seems like every year in the playoffs, we face teams we’ve already played. This year was the third time we’ve played Briar Woods in the playoffs in the last four years and the second time we’ve played Stone Bridge in the last three years. Our kids are kind of used to the rivalry because we play a lot of them, and our kids get excited about it, they get excited about the opportunity to play their crosstown rivals.
Meyers: The Broad Run defense allowed just three touchdowns per game on average this season and on three different occasions allowed one or less. How did having so many experienced players at linebacker and defensive back, like All-LoCo linebacker Matt Meier and All-LoCo defensive back Chris Moore, affect what you could do on defense?
Griffis: Well, Matt and Chris were both three-year starters. They played in eight playoff game as starters: three in 2013, three in 2014 and two this year. It was nice to have that kind of experience back there. Veteran kids are going to have confidence from playing back there for a while. We could really make any mid-game adjustments, when we needed to, without having to worry because they had seen every situation.
Meyers: Your high-scoring offense – which averaged about five touchdowns per game – certainly aided your defense. When you have somebody like All-LoCo running back Meech Hembry who can make plays whenever he’s in space, how creative do you have to get in your play calls?
Griffis: You don’t have to get very creative with Meech: just give him the ball, he does a good job. The offensive line did a great job of creating seams for him this year. And whenever he got a little seam he had the ability to be explosive and make good plays that’s for sure. And the big thing is our receivers did a tremendous job blocking down field. If you look at a lot of his long touchdown runs they are because of a tremendous effort from our wide receiver positions.
Meyers: The ground game was huge for you this year thanks to Hembry and quarterback Kyle Brickerd. The read option is known to be very hard for first-year varsity starting quarterbacks, because it requires split-second decision making. Why do you think Brickerd was able to run it so effectively?
Griffis: He was a junior and a first-year starter, but this is his third year in the system. He played JV and practiced on varsity as a freshman, so this is nothing new for him. And he is a very smart kid and a great athlete, so he’s got a tremendous football IQ and is able to do a great job out there.