19 and counting
: A game-by-game look at Briar Woods' postseason winning streak.
Potomac Falls, 57-0
Mountain View, 49-7
Broad Run, 37-34 (2 OT)
North Stafford, 27-25
Loudoun County, 31-0
Park View, 49-21
Loudoun County, 29-19
Orange County, 53-7
Broad Run, 24-21
After scoring on an improbable Hail Mary with the clock at zero, North Stafford was just three yards away from a two-point conversion that would send the 5A Northern region championship game against Briar Woods into overtime.
However, the Falcons took head coach Charlie Pierce's pregame speech to heart, and stopped star running back Von Purvis cold in his tracks.
"We're resilient, our guys never quit," Pierce explained. "In the locker room before the game, I told them Vince Lombardi said there's about 75 plays that are going to happen in a game. You don't know which one is going to be most important, so you have to play every one of them like it decides the game. That last play right there was the 75th, we made the stop, and that was the play that turned out to count the most."
A strong push from the defensive line and technically sound gap-filling by the linebackers on that last snap of the game turned out to be the difference for Briar Woods in a 27-25 victory Dec. 7 at John Champe High School in Aldie.
The win advances Briar Woods (13-1) into the state championship game for a fourth consecutive season, a task that seemed impossible if you were to predict it four years ago.
The Falcons - winners of 19 straight playoff games - have claimed the last three 4A state crowns and are attempting to continue that streak in their first season at 5A.
"I was just telling the guys it puts us in some rare air," Pierce added. "Regardless of our classification, all we've done is play where we're at. When you have guys that have been through the rigors and know how to win late in the year, it helps a lot."
One of those key players, Trace McSorley, put himself in some rare company by advancing to the title game in each of his four seasons as the varsity signal-caller. Although he threw an uncharacteristic four interceptions, McSorley finished 19 of 30 for 290 yards, including touchdown strikes to three different receivers. He also rushed for a team-high 46 yards.
"It's huge, it's almost surreal," McSorley said regarding advancing to his fourth consecutive state championship. "Coming in my freshman year, I never thought it could be like this."
The Vanderbilt commit almost didn't get his last chance at glory, as Briar Woods nearly saw a 27-13 lead with 1:42 left completely evaporate. After a 1-yard score by Joey Slye on fourth and goal to make it 27-19, Tristan Carter recovered an onside kick to all but seal the deal.
But McSorley was tackled for almost a 20-yard loss while trying to run out the clock on fourth down, giving the Wolverines one last shot from the Falcon 40 with two seconds left. The ensuing Hail Mary attempt by Jalen Sarratt was tipped in the air by a Briar Woods defender, and Guy Keith caught it on the run for a touchdown. That set up the two-point conversion that would decide the game.
"It probably should have been over, but things happen," linebacker Chris Larco said. "There was no time left, but we had one play to finish it. Everybody played exactly how they had to play it, everyone filled the holes really well, and fortunately we made the play to win."
The group effort to stop the standout Purvis (73 yards on 25 carries after he had 250 in a 19-7 win over Briar Woods in September) sent the Falcon sideline into a frenzy for the second week in a row.
"It's crazy, I'm speechless," Larco added. "I don't even really know how to feel, because [advancing to four straight championships] doesn't happen. It's awesome."
North Stafford had taken an early 6-0 lead thanks to a 92-yard fumble return from Tyler Bailey, but Briar Woods took a lead they would not relinquish on a 56-yard touchdown catch by Mark Birmingham in the second quarter. Brandon Polk followed with a 55-yard scoring catch to make it 14-6 at half, and Tristan Carter caught a pretty 14-yard touchdown pass to give the Falcons a seemingly commanding lead at 21-6.
But in the fourth quarter, McSorley threw his final pick deep in Wolverine territory, and Andre Hamilton caught an 83-yard touchdown the first play thereafter to give North Stafford hope. Briar Woods then went on a clock-killing drive that finished with a Jordan Hinson 1-yard run with 4:32 left to make the score 27-13. However, that only set up the crazy series of events to finish the contest.
The Falcons will travel to Scott Stadium at the University of Virginia to play L.C. Bird (14-0) in the state final Dec. 14 at 12:07 p.m.
While McSorley is extremely pleased with the way his magical high school career has been pieced together, there's still one last final goal to capture. Briar Woods is one win away from becoming only the third team in Virginia High School League history to win four consecutive state titles.
"It's surreal," McSorley said. "Not many people can say they've gone to four state championships. So it's a blessing, it's an honor, but I'm ready to get to work this week to get that fourth ring."
Briar Woods 27, North Stafford 25
1: NS Bailey 92 yard fumble return (kick failed) 1:51
2: BW McSorley 56 yard pass to Birmingham (LaFrankie kick) 6:08
2: BW McSorley 55 yard pass to Polk (LaFrankie kick) 3:28
3: BW McSorley 14 yard pass to Carter (LaFrankie kick) 7:41
4: NS Sarratt 83 yard pass to Hamilton (Slye kick) 11:33
4: BW Hinson 1 yard run (kick failed) 4:32
4: NS Slye 1 yard run (kick failed) 1:41
4: NS Sarratt 41 yard pass to Keith (conversion failed) 0:00
-Passing yards: BW 290; NS 196
-Rushing yards: BW 117; NS 62
-First downs: BW 21; NS 10
-Penalties: BW 7-61; NS 9-82
-Passing: NS - Sarratt (7 of 15 for 199 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT); BW - McSorley (19 of 30 for 290 yards, 3 TD, 4 Int.)
-Rushing: NS - Purvis (25-73); BW - McSorley (11-46), Larco (5-25), Polk (2-15), Miller (2-14)
-Receiving: NS - Hamilton (2-94-1), Myers (2-45); BW - Holland Jr. (8-97), Carter (4-44-1), Polk (3-73-1), Birmingham (2-59-1)
-Tackles: NS - Thomas (13), Horton (7); BW - Larco (10), Capozzoli (10)
-Interceptions: NS - Bailey (2), Carter (1), Kennedy (1), BW - Mercil (1)
-Fumble recoveries: NS - Bailey (2)
-Photos by Chuck Moore