Ashburn, Va. — The Stone Bridge High School football team is no stranger to their shot at glory. Since 2005, the Bulldogs have played in nine VHSL State championship games, winning just a single state title in 2007. As is their goal every year, Stone Bridge plans to return to the VHSL 5A State championship game this season.
“We played in 9 of the last 15 state championships, so that’s where we want to get, and we want to get there in a position where we can win this time,” longtime Stone Bridge head coach Mickey Thompson said. “The challenge is making the kids understand we have to keep getting better, keep working on things that will put us in a better position in that final game.”
With their eye on the ultimate prize, Stone Bridge faced what will probably be their biggest hurdle of the regular season when they traveled to Briar Woods High School on March 5 in Ashburn. The Falcons are also no stranger to state championship games, winning three consecutive VHSL AA-Division 4 State titles in 2010, 2011, and 2012 before falling in the VHSL 5A State championship game in 2013, and despite not appearing in a state championship game since 2013, the Falcons are once again on the rise.
In their spring 2021 matchup, Stone Bridge used a score late in the first quarter and another one early in the second quarter to take the lead and steal the momentum from Briar Woods, as the Bulldogs fended off the Falcons, 56-29.
“We thought we could get some big plays here and there, but they got some big stops on us, too,” Thompson said. “Actually, they were only a play or two from turning the corner on us.”
One of those potential corner-turning plays came late in the third quarter after the Falcons scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 35-22. Briar Woods senior kicker Riley Callaghan lifted a beautiful onside kick to the Stone Bridge 40-yard line which was caught in the air by Briar Woods junior defensive back David Hundley which looked to set the Falcons up with the ball in Stone Bridge territory down just two scores. However, after a meeting by the officials, a flag was thrown, and Briar Woods was called for kick-catch interference as the kickoff never touched the ground.
NFHS Rule 6, Section 1, Article 6
…Any kicking team player may recover a free kick if it has both touched the ground and goes beyond the plane of the receiving team’s free-kick line…
After being awarded the ball, Stone Bridge marched down field and junior running back Eli Mason carried in his second of four rushing touchdowns of the night to increase the Bulldogs’ lead to 42-22.
“The line blocked great. It was all my team; it wasn’t me,” Mason said. “It’s great to have all our weapons, but it all starts up front with our offensive line.”
That offensive line helped the Bulldogs amass more than 550 yards of total offense, including rushing for more than 300 yards on 47 carries. However, it was Stone Bridge’s passing game in the first half that helped open up the rushing opportunities for the Bulldogs in the third and fourth quarters.
“I thought [Briar Woods] did a great job stopping our interior run early,” Thompson said. “I thought we threw the ball pretty well tonight, and when we got moving and started establishing the edge that kind of opened things up for us.”
While Stone Bridge continued to pile on the offense, Briar Woods did everything they could to stick around as a pair of Christian Greene touchdown passes pulled the Falcons within two scores late in the third and again early in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve always been proud of these guys for their fight no matter what the score is—win, lose, or draw—they’re always going to fight,” Briar Woods head coach Daniel Bruton said. “We’re on the hump. We know we can be in a heavyweight bout and go toe-to-toe, but we still have work to do.”
Both Briar Woods (1-1) and Stone Bridge (2-0) will continue to battle through the Potomac District, searching for their shot at another state title, while adapting to playing spring football due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We always have to make adjustments; that’s just part of life,” Mason said. “We’re just going to keep making adjustments and keep pushing.”
|1Q||9:45||Stone Bridge||Billy Wiles 28-yard TD run (Marshall Mattison 2PT)||8-0|
|1Q||8:25||Briar Woods||Christian Greene 1-yard TD run (Riley Callaghan PAT)||8-7|
|1Q||5:58||Briar Woods||Christian Greene to Evan Rutkowski 35-yard TD pass (Riley Callaghan PAT)||8-14|
|1Q||0:05||Stone Bridge||Billy Wiles to Marshhall Mattison 22-yard TD pass (Dylan Dastejerdi PAT)||15-14|
|2Q||11:25||Stone Bridge||Jeremiah Covington-Griggs 4-yard TD run (Dylan Dastejerdi PAT)||22-14|
|2Q||9:19||Stone Bridge||Eli Mason 11-yard TD run (2PT failed)||28-14|
|2Q||5:19||Stone Bridge||Billy Wiles to Marshhall Mattison 23-yard TD pass (Dylan Dastejerdi PAT)||35-14|
|3Q||2:04||Briar Woods||Christian Greene to Reagan Russell 8-yard TD pass (Greene to Evan Rutkowski 2PT)||35-22|
|3Q||0:46||Stone Bridge||Eli Mason 13-yard TD run (Dylan Dastejerdi PAT)||42-22|
|4Q||9:49||Briar Woods||Christian Greene to Evan Rutkowski 23-yard TD pass (Riley Callaghan PAT)||42-29|
|4Q||4:15||Stone Bridge||Eli Mason 21-yard TD run (Dylan Dastejerdi PAT)||49-29|
|4Q||0:44||Stone Bridge||Eli Mason 8-yard TD run (Dylan Dastejerdi PAT)||56-29|