Leesburg, Va. — Loudoun County High School senior quarterback Nick Barts has his team off to a historic start. For the first time in more than two decades, the Raiders’ football team has started its season 5-0, and the play of Barts is a big reason why.

“That’s just crazy. It’s crazy that it’s been two decades since we started 5-0,” Barts said. “Things are just clicking now, and we’re just moving forward.”

After shutting out Freedom, 48-0, on September 12 to improve to 4-0, Loudoun County got back to work in a battle of previously unbeaten teams. In a game against then 4-0 Riverside High School on September 21, Barts threw for nearly 200 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Raiders past the Rams, 28-0, in front of a crowd of more than 3,000 in Leesburg.

“Right now, it’s all just coming together and clicking,” Barts said. “It’s a great thing to see when we’re out on the field.”

As time wound down in the first quarter, Barts connected on his first touchdown pass of the game to senior receiver Derek McCandless, who made a leaping catch over the Riverside secondary to put the Raiders on the board.

Then, less than three minutes into the second quarter, Barts found junior receiver Joseph Groves for his first touchdown reception of the night.

With a two-score lead, the Loudoun County defense settled in, putting consistent pressure on Riverside senior quarter Trevor Jackson.

“Our defensive line is amazing. Coach Rayburn is a great D-line coach. They just execute, execute, execute,” said McCandless, who plays both ways for the Raiders. “And our backers communicate so well.”

With four minutes left in the first half, McCandless made his second big play of the night, intercepting a pass from Jackson and returning it nearly 40 yards down to the Riverside 4-yard line.

Just a couple plays later, Barts once again found Groves for a touchdown, as Loudoun County took the momentum and a 21-0 lead into halftime.

“We have talent at every single position,” Barts said. “That talent makes it really easy for me to get them the ball.”

Riverside got the engines rolling a little in the second half, but couldn’t convert on a couple big drives.

The Rams had their first real scoring opportunity with about eight minutes left in the game when senior kicker Gavin Stone lined up for a 30-yard field goal attempt.

Groves, however, had other plans, as he broke free of the Riverside front and blocked Stone’s attempt, to preserve the Raiders’ shut out.

“When they get us a shutout, it’s easy for us,” Barts said. “They played rock solid defense and didn’t let Riverside get many first downs, so all we had to do was put up points.”

Loudoun County (5-0) gets a much-deserved bye in Week 6 before resuming Dulles District play against longtime rival Loudoun Valley (0-3) on October 5.

Riverside (4-1) will look to bounce back following their first loss of the season in a home game against Dominion (3-2) on September 28.

Mike Ferrara captured 100+ photos at the game