Mystery, maybe history in Tuscarora-Broad Run showdown

WASHINGTON — Friday’s matchup between Tuscarora and Broad Run would be a big one by the records alone. The Huskies (9-0, 3-0 VA 5A-14) have answered every call this season, winning tight games and blowouts alike. The Spartans (7-2, 2-1) were rolling along until injuries slowed them up, as they’ve dropped two of their last three. But this game has more intrigue than a simple late-season rivalry with two teams jockeying for playoff positioning.

It starts with Tuscarora coach Michael Burnett. He’ll be in familiar surroundings Friday night, albeit on the opposite sideline. Burnett led Broad Run to a pair of state titles and won his final 28 games with the Spartans before joining Tuscarora as the school opened in 2011. He’s beaten his old school each of the past two years, even knocking them out of the playoffs. Now, he’s poised to win his 100th game in just 10 years as a Virginia high school coach if he can do it again in Ashburn on Friday.

“As a coach, it’s just another game — we’ve got to execute,” Burnett said Thursday, but conceded the personal ties add something to matchup. “I spent four years over there, won a lot of games over there. There are a lot of good memories for me.”

If those good memories are to continue, they’ll likely rest on the arm and legs of senior quarterback Danny Smith, whom Burnett called the “heart and soul of our football team.” Smith had passed for over 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns while racking up 500 yards on the ground as a dual-threat signal caller.

“He’s the key to our offense,” says Burnett. “He kind of makes everything work. I think he’s the best all-around player in this area.”

Another player who looked to be staking a claim to that title early in the season, and who could throw a wrench in the celebration, is Broad Run running back Meech Hembree. He’s battled both ankle and shoulder injuries lately, but reeled off consecutive weeks of 163, 253, 174, and a preposterous 336 yards on the ground before getting hurt. He’s averaging better than 11.5 yards per carry and has found the end zone on 13 of his 88 carries.

“He’s a great player, so we’ve got to be prepared for that,” says Burnett. “Just how much (he will play), we don’t know.”

Hembree has just 15 combined carries for 58 yards in Broad Run’s two losses, so it’s no stretch to say he could well be the X-factor Friday night, if he’s healthy. Either way, it should be a great night for football in Ashburn.

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