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Stone Bridge rolls past Loudoun Valley in season opener

Starting the 2017 season a week later than most teams, the Stone Bridge Bulldogs did not waste any time in making their presence felt Sept. 1 versus the Loudoun Valley Vikings.

Junior Ajani Gillis returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and the host Bulldogs never looked back in a 38-7 victory at F.H. Furr Field in Ashburn.

Following the early deficit, the Vikings (0-2) held their own against the Class 5A powerhouse Bulldogs (1-0) in the first half. Deploying a ball-control power-rushing attack, Loudoun Valley was able to eat up more than 16 minutes in time of possession, while Stone Bridge was held to less than eight.

Despite the large disparity, Stone Bridge took a 17-0 lead into halftime. "I thought they did a good job on offense occupying the ball and the clock," Stone Bridge head coach Mickey Thompson praised. "You have to give them credit."

Behind the leadership and strength of senior offensive lineman Noah Crawford, junior quarterback Mason Tatum settled down early and showed why he was chosen to quarterback a Bulldog team with state-title aspirations.

"I was really nervous because this was my first varsity start, but after the first couple of drives my line settled me down," reflected Tatum. "We just executed tonight."

Tatum displayed his big-play ability by connecting with standout receiver Tyrese Johnson on a 40-yard touchdown pass putting the Bulldogs up 14-0 in the first quarter. A 37-yard touchdown pass from Tatum to Daniel Thompson in the fourth quarter sealed the win.

"He’s got great talent," Mickey Thompson said of Tatum, who also rushed for 52 yards. "He’s growing up with the offense."

Stone Bridge kept the momentum in the second half by forcing a quick three-and-out on defense. Offensivley, Nick Mell, a transfer running back, heated up for the Bulldogs. Mell rushed for 76 yards on just eight carries, scoring both of his touchdowns in the second half.

"I was feeling very good," Mell said with a big smile. "I have a great line and I feel very confident behind them. I think the future is going up and up and up."

Stone Bridge also shined on special teams. Along with Gillis' kickoff return for a score, junior Hayden Baron connected on a 40-yard field goal and converted all five of his extra-point attempts.

Senior running back Rock Swartz was a workhorse for the Vikings, consistently moving the ball three and four yards at a time. Despite his efforts, Loudoun Valley was held off the scoreboard until senior Henry Hill returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown with just three seconds remaining.

The Vikings are facing a brutal schedule to open the 2017 season, having lost at home to West Virginia powerhouse Martinsburg last week. Loudoun Valley will have a bye week before heading to Stephens City on Sept. 15 to play Sherando (2-0).

Next up for Stone Bridge is a road game Sept. 8 versus Class 6A Lake Braddock. "The one thing that we need to be able to do is throw the football," Thompson said looking forward. "There are a lot of positives and I’m going to stay positive on it."

Stone Bridge 38, Loudoun Valley 7

-First Quarter
SB: Gillis 98 kickoff return (Baron kick) 11:45
SB: Tatum 40 pass to Johnson (Baron kick) 4:11

-Second Quarter
SB: Baron 40 field goal, 0:01

-Third Quarter
SB: Mell 10 run (Baron kick) 7:33

-Fourth Quarter
SB: Mell 4 run (Baron kick) 11:13
SB: Tatum 37 pass to Thompson (Baron kick) 9:00
LV: Hill 28 interception return (Van Zandt kick) 0:03

Offensive leaders

-Passing: SB-Tatum (11 of 17 for 189 yards, 2 TD); LV-Gaffney (2 of 2 for 43 yards), Weist (1 of 6 for 11 yards, INT)

-Rushing: SB – Mell (8-76-2), Tatum (5-52), Best (5-17); LV-Swartz (24-70), Weist (12-22), Huerbin (2-7)

-Receiving: SB-Thompson (4-93-1), Johnson (5-87-1), Williams (1-10); LV-Winnett (2-43), Kallivokas (1-11)


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