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September 1, 2013
Spartans Beat Bookers in Norfolk: Making the trek down from Ashburn to Hampton Roads, the Broad Run Spartans turned their season opening trip to Norfolk a successful one on Friday afternoon when they raced out to a 30-point lead less than twenty minutes into their tilt with Booker T. Washington, and held on to beat the Bookers by a count of 43-22.
For a program that won back-to-back Group AA Division 4 State Championships in 2008 and 2009, the Spartans clearly have their sights set on a deep postseason run this year in Class 5A, getting off to the type of start against a team from the talent-rich Tidewater area that should only build confidence.
"It was different. We tried to come out focused because Coach had been telling us all week that we needed to come out with a bang," said Broad Run senior Da'Qwan Earl, one of the key pieces on an offense that rolled up 43 points and 259 total yards in the first half. Things weren't too good in the second half, however, as they turned the ball over there times, gained only 52 yards and failed to increase their point total.
"I think we made some noise today and got people's attention. We tried to make a statement, but we've definitely got to improve though because we can't let teams come back like that. It's unacceptable."
After missing out on the playoffs last season, Broad Run felt it was imperative to taste a different brand of football and go on the road, which they did in taking on Booker T. Washington, a school that nearly 25 years ago produced an NFL player in Hall-of-Famer Bruce Smith.
Spartans Head Coach Matt Griffis sees this contest as one that they can look back on with both positives and negatives, but mainly one where they showed are capable of competing with practically anyone when they're clicking on all cylinders.
"It's good for us to see that we can hang with some teams that have some speed and size. We play teams like Stone Bridge who'll be big up front and teams like Battlefield, who historically are a good Division 6 school, that are big up front, too," Griffis said.
"I learned that our [starters] are ready to go all the time and that our younger kids have to be ready at a moment's notice because you don't know when your chance is going to occur. You've got to seize the day and make the most of your opportunity."
Quickly developing into a force on both sides of the ball, Earl describes his game as someone who plays with a lot emotion and determination.
"I think I bring a lot of heart and never quit," he said. "I won't give up on my teammates and I know they won't give up on me."
They were able to suck the Bookers' defense in and junior quarterback Brady Reitzel found Class of 2015 receiver Chuck Davis, who holds a UNC offer, on a tunnel screen that set him off to the races for a 40-yard back-breaking touchdown.
"And then I got laid out, but I still made the throw," Reitzel made sure to note. "It was fun. I should've stayed on the ground and gave an RG3 [celebration] though."
Hoping to counter the opposition's size and speed, the play worked just like they drew it up.
"They're huge up front and real aggressive. Their smallest d-lineman is bigger than our biggest o-lineman," Griffis added. "They have athletes everywhere and are bringing heat to try to overwhelm you. We knew we had to do something to slow them up and try to get our guys in space."
Reitzel has built a good rapport with his targets like Davis, Travis Fulgham, Tyriek King and others. Much of their passing game is built on timing and precision.
"They brought a lot of pressure, so I had to get the ball out of my hands real quickly. No three-step drops; just catch and throw, and a couple times I had to get out of the pocket," Reitzel pointed out. "We have a lot of guys that are in the 2015 class, we're all friends and really close. Sometimes on the weekend we run routes with each other to gain the chemistry and we hang out a lot, which only helps with that chemistry."
"Offensively in the first half, we were able to mix it up. Brady did a real good job with his reads in the option game, but also made some good throws. Receivers made the catches they had to make and our running backs Da'Qwan and Jashawn Banks did a nice job to pound the rock," Griffis remarked.
Reitzel was able to do damage with his legs and arm, improvising at times and utilizing the pump-fake. He completed five of his first seven passes and every completion on the day went for at least nine yards while he contributed 51 yards rushing on five carries.
"He's a great athlete, but he's got the brains, too," Griffis said of Reitzel. "He is a very cerebral quarterback, really understands how the offense works and understands what we want out of him. I was very pleased and when I go back and grade him out, I thought he graded out at probably 95%."
Furthermore, their offensive line played solid, kept the QB clean and the wide receivers made sure to block down field to extend plays.
The Spartans don't have that one mega recruit defensively or super stud, which means it has to be a collective effort with all 11 hats flocking to the football.
"Most of the first half and even the third quarter, the defense did a good job of bringing our pressures from different sides and our guys keeping contain, really pressuring the quarterback and not giving him much time," Griffis commented afterwards.
Senior LB Kyle Potak and senior DE Chris Coggins combined for eight tackles, four apiece. LB's Dante Chinnery and Meier added six stops, and junior DB Marcel Mingo was in on five tackles, one behind the line of scrimmage. On fourth-and-goal in the second half with the Bookers at the Broad Run one-yard line, the Spartans had their best stand of the game with Chinnery stopping the Booker T. ball carrier short of the end zone.
"We can do way better. That didn't replica our season. We had a tough schedule though, I'll say that," Reitzel said. "We'll definitely do better this year. Playing a different team that's not from up north, this gives us a measuring stick. They're all fast and it was a fun game to play, too."
Given the amount of returning talent and how explosive and sophisticated the offense can be for stretches, Broad Run is sure to give their fair share of defenses fits this year.
Brothers Brandon Gaddy (6-4, 260) and Brehon Gaddy (6-4, 300), both of whom are well-built ninth graders, each made their presence felt against one of the better 5A programs in the state, even drawing praise from Griffis afterwards.
Brandon completed 10 of 23 passes for 218 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While he was picked off twice, he showed the necessary arm strength to give the Bookers a passing attack they haven't had in a while. Meanwhile, Brehon scooped up a fumble and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown.
In short, the sibling duo had a hand in all of three BTW's touchdowns to open the 2013 campaign. There will be many more to come throughout their careers, too.
Run Spartans 43:
T. Washington Bookers 22:
Matthew Hatfield has covered football and basketball since 2004 for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail email@example.com, and don't forget to listen to him on High School Sports Talk Saturdays at 10AM on ESPN Radio 94.1 plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.