Lindell Stone of Woodberry Forest (Photo: Andy Hilton/recruit757)
Episcopal and Woodberry Forest meet for the 116th time
by Jim McGrath, recruitNoVA
Episcopal (8-0)at Woodberry Forest (8-1), Saturday 2 PM
It is known simply as the “Game.”
For those involved, it needs no other name.
As the legend goes, on the second Saturday in November each year, the Tigers of Woodberry Forest play their chief rival, the Maroon of Episcopal. While it would seem odd for two schools that are separated by roughly 90 miles (WFS is off Rte. 15 in Orange, while Episcopal is located on North Quaker Lane in Alexandria) to develop a natural rivalry, there was a time when there weren’t too many schools in between the two. How far back?
Try 1901. Indeed, this will be the 116th meeting between the two schools, making it the oldest continuous high school football matchup in the South. And with the rivalry comes all of the pomp and circumstance – much like the Army-Navy game, but without the military presence and at the high school level. On Friday, the Woodberry Forest alumni will gather in Orange County for various activities, including a Captain’s Club dinner and bonfire.
On the other side, Episcopal designates the weekend as “Spirit Weekend,” and invites its distinguished alums, which include Sen. John McCain, back to campus for it own array of activities.
This year, an added bonus will be that the two schools have arguably the best private school football teams in Virginia. However, since neither squad participates in the VISAA playoff system, there is no official way to quantify this claim. Suffice it to say, the Tigers are 8-1, while the Maroon are undefeated at 8-0, and ranked 6th in the Washington Post Top-20 rankings.
Even those who have participated for some time remain enamored by the event.
“This will be my 12th,” said Woodberry Forest coach Clint Alexander. His team doesn’t break out any trick plays for the one game, as Alexander prefers sticking to the basics.
“The team that usually wins this game does it by doing what they do well, and not letting the other team do their best plays.” He adds that one will understand how truly special the game is simply by coming out to watch.
In 2016, Episcopal has been successful with ball handling and defense. Through eight games, the Maroon have allowed only 72 points (9.0 per game), and only St. Albans cracked 17 in a 56-18 defeat. The defense is spearheaded by safety Jonathan Sutherland, a six-foot, 196-pound enforcer at safety. Sutherland has already verbally committed to Penn State.
Episcopal’s strength comes from its ability to run the ball. Leading the attack is Perris Jones. Jones (5’8”, 175, Manassas, VA), who transferred from nearby Bishop Ireton, has been a welcome addition to the Maroon offense. Running behind a strong offensive line, which includes seniors Jalen Byrd, Hampton Brennon, Chris Fournier, Grant Neagli, and juniors Ricky Miezan, Thomas Kreger, Jones has rushed for 1,136 yards on 150 carries with 13 touchdowns. In a mid-season two game span, the St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes and Bullis games, Jones rang up a whopping 515 yards with five scores.
This will be Jones’ first Woodberry game, and the junior is raring for action.
“Going into my first (WF – EHS) football game I am very excited. As far as the history and meaning of the game go, I have not embraced the entirety of it yet, simply because I have not experienced it.”
However, Jones is familiar with the opponent.
He adds, “I know they are a great team and I am looking forward to playing a fun game. I will go into this game and have gone in to this game’s preparation the same way that I have approached every game.”
Quarterback Seth Agwunobi throws the ball enough to keep defenses honest (49-89, 664 yards, six TD’s), but is also fleet of foot, and has amassed 450 rushing yards on 56 carries, with eight scores.
Sergio Portobanco leads the Maroon receiving corps with 14 catches for 205 yards and three TD’s.
The Tigers are more explosive on offense, which was on display in their only loss, to Pinecrest (N.C.) In that game, which ended up 47-43, quarterback Lindell Stone completed 28 of 48 passes for 480 yards and four touchdowns. Woodberry receivers Dequecee Carter and Khalid Thomas combined for seven receptions for 187 yards and a touchdown. Terrell Jana added a receiving touchdown for the Tigers.
There is added incentive for Woodberry, as Alexander will be leaving his post after this season. Alexander has been with the Tigers since 2005 and compiled an 81-31-1 record heading into Saturday’s game. His teams won eight Prep League titles, including the last three in a row.
Three of Alexander’s former players have continued with their careers to play in the NFL – Ed Reynolds (Eagles), C.J. Prosise (Seahawks), and Kendall Gaskins (49ers). At the collegiate level, linebacker Greer Martini currently starts at Notre Dame, while left tackle Clark Yarbrough is playing in his first season at Stanford.
According to the Woodberry Forest website, there are two ways to listen or watch Saturday’s game. They are:
LISTEN LIVE to The Game on http://portal.stretchinternet.com/wfs/#
WATCH The Game LIVE on http://www.ustream.tv/channel/woodberry-forest-live
– Jim McGrath