By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Four of the state’s best high school football teams, a group with a combined record of 53-2, will play Saturday at Scott Stadium. If you think that pleases UVa coach Mike London, you’re correct.
“It’s a billboard for us,” London said Friday morning. “This is the type of talent we’re trying to attract to turn this thing around.”
For the second straight year, the Virginia High School League’s state football finals for Group AAA will be held in Charlottesville. (Those championship games were played in Blacksburg, at Lane Stadium, in 2008). Group AAA comprises the VHSL’s largest schools.
At 12:07 p.m., Stone Bridge (14-0) will meet Phoebus (14-0) in the Division 5 final. At 4:07 p.m., Battlefield (12-2) will take on Hermitage (13-0) for the Division 6 title.
Phoebus, ranked No. 7 nationally by USA Today, is loaded with college prospects, as are the other Group AAA finalists. That such talent will spend much of Saturday in Charlottesville, London believes, can only help his program.
“The more you can get people on Grounds, the better,” London said from the D.C. area, where he was wrapping up a recruiting trip.
“I’ve been traveling all over, and I’ve been asking parents and kids what some of the things are that attracted them to Virginia, and they all say the school is beautiful.”
Since taking over at Virginia in December 2009, London has tried to make his program more accessible to fans, players and high school coaches from across the state. Given UVa’s central location in the Commonwealth, London said, it makes sense for the Group AAA finals to be played in Charlottesville.
“Everything just fits,” London said.
Growing up in Tidewater, London attended Tabb High before transferring to Bethel for his senior year. At Tabb, he was part of football teams that played in regional playoffs, London said, but “nothing like Scott Stadium.”
London was hired in time to attend last year’s Group AAA finals as Virginia’s coach. He and his assistants will be back at the stadium Saturday.
“Obviously for selfish reasons, it gives you an opportunity to once again look at some of the hot talent [from around the state],” London said. “I would encourage any UVa fan that loves football, that loves good high school competition, to come out.”
Several prospects will be at Virginia this weekend on official visits, and some high school standouts who play for teams other than the Group AAA finalists are coming on unofficial visits.
Under NCAA rules, the contact permitted between UVa coaches and prospects is “kind of tricky,” London said. “We can take the official-visit guys to the games, and we can talk to guys who come watch the games on their own, because they’re on Grounds.”
Virginia’s staff, however, can’t talk to anyone who’s playing in one of the Group AAA finals until that player’s game is finished and he’s been released by his coach.
Tickets, which are required for fans 7 and older, are $10 apiece. All seating is general admission in the stadium’s lower level. A ticket is good for both games.
The charge for parking in lots around Scott Stadium and off Alderman Road is $5. Cars that park at the Central Grounds Garage must pay hourly rates.