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MORE PHOTOS: In season-ending battle of unbeatens, Stone Bridge comes up perfect

Stone Bridge sophomore Jonathan Milles and team captain Jack Kosko congratulate Nick Mell following Mell’s second of three rushing touchdowns against Broad Run.—Times-Mirror/Rick Wasser
By kickoff, every available spot in the stands at F.H. Furr Field on the campus of Stone Bridge High School was spoken for, though more kept coming. The air was electric with anticipation, as though something had to give and was just about to.

Coming into their annual showdown Nov. 3, Ashburn rivals Broad Run and Stone Bridge carried unblemished 9-0 records and hopes of regular-season perfection, neighborhood bragging rights and the Potomac District championship.

Teaming a smothering defensive performance with an efficient run-dominant offense, the homestanding Bulldogs (10-0, 7-0 in-district) emerged on top of the Spartans (9-1, 6-1) with a 21-13 win in the clash known as the Battle of the ‘Burn.

“I thought we played really well on defense all night. I thought that was the difference-maker,” Stone Bridge head coach Mickey Thompson said.

Thompson, long renowned for his offensive acumen, lauded the work of defensive coordinator R.J. Windows.

“He does a tremendous job. We have a one-two punch with the two of us. We work together well. Really proud of that,” the head coach said.

On the school’s Senior Night, Thompson saw his senior-heavy defense limit the Spartans to 35 yards in the first half, then recover a fumble to begin the second.

Thompson expressed his wish to see more points from his offense in the playoff rounds to come.

“I was disappointed in the fact that we couldn’t get the ball to our playmakers,” he said. “We had to turn it into a grind game...but to be able to do that, that says something too. You like that toughness.”

Despite the slow start, Broad Run head coach Matt Griffis noted his offense’s steady improvement. The Spartans hit six plays for 10 or more yards in the second half, compared with just one 11-yard quarterback scramble in the first.

He praised his team for its tenacity while shifting his focus toward the impending playoffs.

“I’m extremely proud of our guys. We were fighting to the very end. We still had a chance with a minute and a half. Our kids never gave up,” Griffis said. “Now the real season starts tomorrow.”

The lynchpin of the Bulldog offense was junior back Nick Mell. The hard-running 215-pounder accounted for all three Stone Bridge touchdowns, then converted three straight fourth-down runs during the Bulldogs’ time-draining, game-clinching final drive.

Mell did the honors on 15 of Stone Bridge’s 23 rushes in the second half.

“I just knew I had to trust my line and trust the play, just inch it forward, inch it forward, and come out with the victory,” Mell said. “We knew the plays worked, but they come so quick to the ball. I just had to run as fast as I could.”

Mell notched the lone touchdown in a defense-dominated first half. He added another early in the third quarter, punishing the Spartans for fumbling it away on the first play of the second half.

Trailing 14-0, Broad Run found some offense in the middle of the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback Mitch Griffis broke off a field-flipping 30-yard run, then connected with senior wideout Donovan Hale to convert a fourth-and-eight.

That set up sophomore back Tim Baldwin’s tackle-breaking touchdown run from 14 yards out.

Stone Bridge’s immediate answer was a 58-yard drive entirely on the ground, ended by Mell’s touchdown dash to the left side from 10 yards away.

The Spartans made it interesting in the fourth when Kesean Dyson returned a sack-caused fumble five yards for a defensive touchdown, pulling the visitors within eight. But Mell and the Bulldogs’ offense sustained a lengthy drive that drained the remaining minutes from the clock.

Both squads now focus their attentions on the Region 5C playoffs, which both figure to begin at home versus lower-seeded opponents. The Bulldogs enter as the region’s top seed and could serve as host through the regional championship.

Senior lineman Noah Crawford expects the Bulldogs to return to the postseason level they reached a year ago, when they were the Virginia 5A state runners-up.

“We can’t give up,” Crawford said. “We just have to keep on pushing, and we’ll be in the state championship again.”

Stone Bridge 21, Broad Run 13

-First Quarter
SB: Mell 54 run (Baron kick) 3:13

-Third Quarter
SB: Mell 2 run (Baron kick) 11:37
BR: Baldwin 14 run (kick failed) 5:37
SB: Mell 10 run (Baron kick) 1:22

-Fourth Quarter
BR: Dyson 5 fumble return (Buri kick) 9:03

Offensive stat leaders

-Rushing - SB: Mell (29-175-3), Tatum (6-38), Moss (7-14), Lawyer (6-24), Johnson (3-10); BR: Baldwin (13-21-1), Griffis (11-44)

-Passing - SB: Tatum (2 of 7 for 16 yards); BR: Griffis (11 of 19 for 111 yards)

-Receiving - SB: Johnson (1-9), Thompson (1-7); BR: Turner (4-48), Busser (4-13), Hale (2-38), Drake (1-12)

Photos by Rick Wasser


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