Mount Vernon, Hayfield face tough opponents, cold weather as playoffs begin

Jordyn Reid running the ball

Sophomore running back Jordyn Reid and Mount Vernon will play at Woodbridge tonight. (Benjamin Machado image)

The 2017 football season has had its share of great games — and virtually all of them were played in unseasonably warm weather.

Tonight’s first-round playoff games for Hayfield and Mount Vernon will be quite different. With temperatures expected to dip into the low 30s this evening, the playoffs have an extra obstacle for teams to overcome.

“To win in the playoffs you’re going to have to play in cold weather, bad weather,” said Mount Vernon coach Monty Fritts, who’s led the Majors to back-to-back playoff appearances in his two years at the helm. “Whichever team can handle that adversity the best will win.”

Weather aside, both Hayfield and Mount Vernon have their work cut out for them. Hayfield (8-2), a four seed, faces fifth-seed Hylton (7-3) at home at 7. The matchup will feature two of the best offensive players in the state, with Hayfield’s Brian Cobbs, a Maryland commit, facing off against Hylton’s Ricky Slade Jr., a Penn State commit. 

The Bulldogs are about as good as five seed can get, with their three losses coming by a combined 12 points. One of those losses was a six-point defeat at the hands of unbeaten Freedom High School, and another loss came in overtime.

Hayfield will lean heavily on Cobbs, a receiver who stepped in at quarterback the last three games of the season and led the Hawks to the Gunston District title. During that span Cobbs threw for 11 touchdowns and ran for three more. 

Mount Vernon, a seven seed, travels to Prince William County to take on another powerhouse team in Woodbridge (9-1) at 7. Fritts said the Vikings’ big and physical defense, which boasts one of the top linebackers in the nation in sophomore Antoine Sampah, has stood out on film.

Another interesting challenge presented by playing at Woodbridge? It’s the first time Mount Vernon has played on natural grass all season. 

“We’re curious to see how the field is,” Fritts said, noting the heavy rains earlier this week could be a factor. “It’s been something the guys have been talking about this week.”

Mount Vernon will be without one of their biggest weapons against Woodbridge. Senior slot back Darrien Newton, the Majors’ leading receiver, suffered a dislocated shoulder last week against West Potomac.

“That’s a big game-changer for us, because he’s so good,” Fritts said.

It’s possible that Newton could return if the Majors advance, but in the meantime they’ll need to lean on other stars, including wide receiver Kofi Kwarteng, who Fritts says has been the Majors most valuable player the past two weeks.