Loudoun County High School could not have envisioned a better start to its Region II Division 4 semifinal game against neighborhood rival Tuscarora Nov. 16 in Leesburg.
Seeking to atone for consecutive regular-season losses to the third-year Huskies, the Raiders scored on their first three possessions to build a 20-0 lead less than 11 minutes into play.
Tuscarora battled back valiantly to pull within a score on two occasions, but County had an answer each time on its way to a 30-21 victory.
“We were looking to come back and make a statement in the postseason against them,” Raider senior defensive back Mike Anderson said. “We came out real strong and took it to them ... It was an all-around great effort.”
Anderson intercepted two passes in the win, highlighted by an acrobatic, one-handed pick. Anderson, also a standout basketball player, replied emphatically when asked where this victory ranks overall in his varsity career.
“This is my favorite, top, head honcho varsity win. The team came together. This was a very exciting game for everyone. It’s number one.”
The win advances the Raiders to the region final for the first time since 1996. County will travel to Ashburn to play another familiar foe, Briar Woods (12-0) for the Region II Division 4 championship Nov. 23.
The two-time defending state champion Falcons eliminated the Raiders from the 2011 playoffs in the region semifinal round. In this year’s regular-season meeting, Briar Woods shut out County, 45-0.
“We have to see the mistakes that we made and try to correct them,” Raiders coach Todd Hill said. “We are going to come out and try to give it our best shot and see what happens. We are excited to be there.”
A stout defense, combined with a balanced offensive attacked sparked the Raiders’ quick start against the Huskies. County (10-2) ran the ball on six consecutive plays during its first scoring drive, which was capped by Matt Arneson’s 3-yard run.
Jake Lokey took over from there. The senior quarterback completed his first nine passing attempts for 139 yards. Lokey connected with Brad Szoka and Antonio Jackson for touchdowns in the final five minutes of the opening quarter.
“We came out hungry and had a great team effort,” Lokey said. “We just got the job done.”
The Huskies (10-2) turned to their vaunted running game to climb back in the second quarter. Nick Azzarita and Noah Reimers both scored on short touchdown runs to bring Tuscarora within 20-14. Adrien Stinger sparked the first scoring drive with a 48-yard run.
After turning the ball over on two of its previous three possessions, County was able to pad its lead with a 7-play, 50-yard scoring drive in the third quarter. Lokey scrambled to create extra time before hitting Szoka in the right corner of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal.
Tuscarora responded again on the next series. The Huskies drove 70 yards on 12 plays to slice the deficit to 27-21 early in the fourth quarter. Reimers carried the ball on the final nine plays of the drive, culminating with his 3-yard touchdown burst.
The ensuing possession proved to be one of the most important of the game. With tackles Dalton Wilson and Brian Gianelos, guards Ethan Carlyon and Trey Taylor, and center Alex Relator paving the way, the Raiders reeled more than six minutes off the game clock and pushed their lead to 30-21 on Jose Andrade’s 20-yard field goal.
“They played their hearts out,” Hill said of his offensive linemen. “They’ve been banged up all year long. They are stuck together with gum, tape. They just keep plugging along. They have just done an outstanding job for us ... I could not be any more proud of them.”
Anderson’s second interception with 1:23 left in regulation put the finishing touches on the victory.
“We were resilient,” Hill said. “We talked to them at halftime about having to keep our composure. We knew they would fight back. They are a solid football team.”
Loudoun County 30, Tuscarora 21
LC: Arneson 3 run (kick failed) 7:54
LC: Szoka 9 pass from Lokey (Andrade kick) 4:31
LC: A. Jackson 20 pass from Lokey (Andrade kick) 1:05
T: Azzarita 1 run (kick blocked) 11:32
T: Reimers 2 run (Reimers run) 4:21
LC: Szoka 4 pass from Lokey (Andrade kick) 4:05
T: Reimers 3 run (Miller kick) 10:58
LC: Andrade 20 field goal, 4:48
-Rushing: LC - Arneson (13 for 66 yards, TD), Lokey (18 for 53 yards); T - Reimers (24 for 107 yards, 2 TD), Stinger (7 for 70 yards), Azzarita (9 for 45 yards, TD)
-Passing: LC - Lokey (23 of 30 for 227 yards, 3 TD, Int.); T - Azzarita (9 of 16 for 92 yards, 3 Int.)
-Receiving: LC - Szoka (8 for 83 yards, 2 TD), A. Jackson (6 for 62 yards, TD), Graham (5 for 34 yards), S. Bell (2 for 26 yards); T - Reimers (3 for 29 yards), Fisher (3 for 24 yards), Boris (1 for 26 yards)
-Interceptions: LC - Anderson (2), Bourscheid (1); T - Davidson (1)
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