Briar Woods Makes Almost-Perfect Run to 2nd State Football Title



State Champs Briar Woods’ road to a second Group AA Division 4 Football Championship wasn’t without its bumps.

The 2011 season started with a 14-0 loss to Broad Run. That defeat provided a needed catalyst for the Falcons. 

Following the loss, Coach Charlie Pierce gathered every member of the football program, including the freshman team, around the rock where the team meets before practice. Pierce had a question and a message for the players and coaches.

“We’re going to find out what kind of character we have… How will you respond? ...

“Yes, this was upsetting. This is our rival. We beat them two times the year before. They beat us this year. They played better than we did. We didn’t execute. We’re going to go back to work on Monday and find out what kind of character we have.”

Turns out the Falcons had plenty of character.

“The game was a blessing in disguise…You never want to lose, but that was a positive,” said Pierce. “We had to re-evaluate individuals as a coaching staff and the team had to re-evaluate itself to find out who they were.”

Pierce said the coaching staff re-tooled its approach after the opening loss. There were too many two-way players and some non-starters had to step up.

Somebody who stepped up beginning with the second half of the Broad Run game was junior running back Cory Colder, who ended up leading the Falcons with 1,525 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns. Pierce said the coaching staff always thought Colder had a ton of potential, but had only seen flashes of that potential until the season opener.

 “It wasn’t until the second half of Broad Run that I said ‘This is the guy.’ He started from that point forward and had a great year.”

Finding a primary rusher wasn’t the only thing that happened in the wake of the opening loss.

After team meals on Friday, it’s tradition at Briar Woods that the players and coaches retire to Pierce’s biology classroom for a final pre-game run-through. After the first game, Pierce decided this would be a players-only meeting with the seniors presenting the final preparations to their teammates.

“We’ve done our job during the week. I want you guys to do it.

“They had their own little meeting.”

When the coaching staff came in to watch film on Saturday, it found the players had game goals written on the board. “They were there for a reason too.”

Pierce said he also stopped comparisons to the 2010 state champions after the opening game. The coaches and players realized they were putting too much pressure on themselves with comparisons to the past.  

“These kids had expectations that were on their back all year long, bull’s-eye on their backs all year long. For them to respond like they did week-in, week-out…”

Pierce said not every opponent was as competitive as Briar Woods and it took time for the Falcons to get rolling. He added the Falcons used such games as a learning experience. “Do we want to play at that level or do play at the level we’re supposed to play at all the time?” After the third or fourth week, Pierce said the players attained consistency and maintained their focus.

After the opening loss, the Falcons tore off 14 straight wins, beating Christiansburg 28-26 in the state finals.

Quarterback Trace McSorley, only a sophomore, won his second state title. McSorley passed for 2,059 yards with 23 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. He also rushed for 288 yards and 10 touchdowns.  

“He’s got over 4,000 (career) yards passing as a sophomore,” said Pierce. “He has a chance…to break some state records as a senior.”

The Falcons’ best player was senior Alex Carter, who was recently named the Gatorade Virginia Football Player of the Year. Carter was Briar Woods’ second-leading receiver (35 catches, 466 yards and three touchdowns), second-leading rusher (469 yards, five touchdowns), led the team in kick-return yardage (32.5 yards per kick, two touchdowns) and led the team in interceptions (five, one of which he took back for a score).   

“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime (player),” said Pierce. “It’s going to be rare to experience anything like that again… The thing that makes it doubly nice for us is that he’s a great kid, a great student…He’s got the whole package…He’s something special.”

Pierce said center Brian McKelvey, a first-year starter, was the team’s unsung hero. Pierce said McKelvey quarterbacked the offensive line; telling his teammates their assignments as defenses switched formations. “As far as communication goes, it’s the best line I’ve ever had. They talk among themselves all the time and get themselves going.”

Defense was the most consistent phase of the Falcons’ game this year, said Pierce. The Falcons gave up only 47 points during the first 10 games and an average of eight points a game for the year.

A saying from Alabama coach is a mantra Pierce repeats to his players over and over. “Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard.”

“We’ve got some talented guys here and we’ve always pushed those guys to work hard,” said Pierce. “I’ve seen teams that are talented get beat at times because they weren’t hard workers.”

Pierce also wants his players to have the will to win.

“The will to win overcomes a lot of things…When we come out on the field the expectation is that we’re going to win. It’s not going to be given to us. The hard work and preparation are going to be the key things. If everybody does their job, we’re going to continue to succeed.” 

The members of the championship Briar Woods football team are:


·        Jeremy Bailey

·        Justin Baker

·        Neil Barron

·        Mike Barta

·        Dillon Blevins

·        Connor Bottcher

·        Brandon Brown

·        Ian Brunell

·        Mac Canan

·        Riley Canan

·        Alex Carter

·        Connor Cashman

·        Justin Chappell

·        David Clements

·        Stephen Cobbs

·        Jared Coker

·        Cory Colder

·        Todd Craig

·        Pete Daniels

·        Ty Davis

·        Chris Derrickson

·        Tushar Dhindsa

·        Chris Dorsey

·        Ryan Flaherty

·        Hunter Ford

·        Brandon Fryer

·        Robert Garcia

·        Darryll Gadsden

·        Trei Germany

·        John Goodwyn

·        Chris Harold

·        Jamal Hill

·        B.J. Hinson

·        Jon Hirsch

·        Melvin Holland 

·        Farris Ismati

·        Brandon Ivey

·        Josh Jacob

·        T.K. Johansen

·        Sam Karl

·        Yves Kouame

·        Mitch Krisfalusi

·        Nick LaFrankie

·        Chris Larco

·        Erik Leith

·        Mark Leith

·        J.T. Logan

·        Anthony Martinez

·        Brian McKelvey

·        Chris McMillian

·        Trace McSorley

·        Jack Mercil

·        Nick Merletti

·        Tristan Miller

·        Aaron Nuby

·        Kevin Owens

·        Brandon Preznuk

·        Devin Ramos

·        Blake Ratliff

·        Joe Rizzardi

·        Matt Rolin

·        Jonathan Rosa

·        Brady Scott

·        Cam Serigne

·        Cody Shook

·        Zach Sload

·        Chase Stanga

·        Erik Thysse

·        Ryan Tracy

·        Matt Wolcott

Head Coach

·        Charlie Pierce


Assistant Coaches

·        Joey Babick

·        Chris Brown

·        Jared Develli

·        Travis Huff

·        Zach Polk