Brentsville tackles tradition


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Most of the time, Brentsville’s offense is about as straightforward as it gets: Line up, run the ball, gain yards and then do it again. From what Tigers coach Dean Reedy has seen, that’s what Central-Lunenburg seems to do too: Line up like they’re about to mash it down the defense’s throat.

But then they snap the ball, and things quickly change.

“They start out in double-tight with a full-house backfield,” said Reedy. “But then they explode all over the field.”

Trying to contain that explosion will be Brentsville’s challenge, when the Tigers (8-2) host the 7-3 Chargers in the first round of the Group A, Division 2, Region B playoffs tonight.

Besides what seems to be a challenging offense, Central is also blessed with depth: senior running back Peejay White leads the team with 67 carries, but five other players have at least 31 carries; fellow senior Rontavious Smith leads the Chargers with 447 yards rushing.

White, Smith and four other running backs bring in the plays from the sideline; the Chargers’ two junior fullbacks, Tremaine Fowlkes and Taurean Hayes, rotate themselves in and out of the game.

The style may seem a bit unusual, but Chargers coach Chip Chappell knows what he’s doing. Central’s tradition would make many schools envious: In Chappell’s 27 years as head coach, the Chargers have won four state titles — the most recent in 1992 — and this year marks the 25th straight year the Chargers have made a postseason appearance.

“Coach Chappell, he’s got a big reputation in the state. He’s had a tremendous showing and numerous state titles,” Reedy said of Central. “That tradition helps those kids. His seniors have been in the playoffs the previous three years, so they know what to expect.

“These [Brentsville] kids haven’t had that. I look at it as a minor steppingstone. When you take three weeks off and play three games in seven days, a playoff game is just another day at work.”

Brentsville counters with an impressive offense of its own. It might not be as complex as Central’s, but it has proven successful: fullback Wes Basham and quarterback Sam Huff have rushed for a combined 1,473 yards — the second-best tandem in the area behind only Gar-Field’s Elihu Smith and Rasheed McClaude.

“They’ve got several backs that can run the ball. [Basham] is big, and he runs with a lot of power,” said Chappell. “Their blocking back [Jacob Orr] lines up behind the guard and does a lot of trapping and leads a lot of the plays.

“The quarterback [Huff] is the key to their offense. He runs more than the running backs, or as much as they do. I think he’s a good, strong runner. They can throw, but they’re a lot like us.”

Defensively, Central returned nine starters from last year — a unit long on experience if not on size. Defensive tackle Brandon Reed is the biggest player on the defense, but that’s not saying a whole lot. Reed weighs in at 5-10, 215 pounds.

On quality teams, speed often makes up for a lack of size, as is the case with Central.

“They’re very, very quick,” said Reedy. “We may have the size, but they’ve got us in what the real killer is — speed and quickness.”

“One of our advantages is speed, I think we’ve got a slight speed advantage,” said Chappell. “We’ve got to utilize our speed and not make mistakes. I think mistakes will be costly. They do a good job of holding onto the ball — they make a lot of turnovers, but they don’t give up a lot.”

Central lost a pair of games early in the season to Park View-South Hill and William Campbell, the team that Brentsville rival Manassas Park plays this weekend. Since then, the Chargers lost only once more, to eventual James River District champion Buckingham. One of their wins was a 28-7 decision over Madison County, a team that Brentsville also beat by a 20-14 score.

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