McLean rebounds strong in nailbiter against Edison High School

Highlanders fight to last minute to secure victory in Alexandria


Punter Tyler Fontenot booms a punt from deep in his own territory.

Final score: 16-13

The McLean High varsity football team took their first road trip of the year to take on the Eagles of Thomas Edison High School for their third game of the season. The squad was once again looking to rebound after a dismal 46-14 performance against the crosstown Marshall Statesmen.
“We’ve already moved past West Potomac and Marshall,” sophomore tailback Kaelan Ferris said. “We know we can’t get those ones back so we’re just focusing on the next one.” Ferris has been one of the brightest spots for the Highlanders this season, with a 52 yard touchdown rush as well as a fumble recovery and multiple pass deflections against Marshall.
“We’ve had a great week of practice,” Ferris said. “We’re ready for whatever they throw at us tonight.”
The Eagles are another team looking for a number in the win column after being trounced by West Springfield last week, losing 56-3 to bring their record to 0-2.
McLean started their offensive attack by making Ferris the focus of the first drive. Quarterback Manoli Karageorgos didn’t even attempt a pass for several plays–his first pass was a dump-off to none other than Ferris. The drive stalled out before the Highlanders could pass midfield, and a huge punt by Tyler Fontenot took the offense off the field.
Yellow flags flew everywhere early in the game. A holding call on McLean negated a first down carry by Ferris, and the Eagles committed multiple penalties of their own on their first offensive possession, which ended in a punt after a huge sack off the blindside by defensive end Jihao Liu.
McLean’s passing offense opened up with their second drive, as Karageorgos found Quinn Sullivan and star wideout Nicholas Halteh for first down yardage. A run-heavy game plan led to Ferris finding his way into the endzone for his second touchdown of the season. McLean took the lead, 7-0.
The Eagles, with some assistance from a surplus of McLean penalties, led their offense to the opposing side of the field on a drive that resulted in a turnover-on-downs, with the Highlander defense holding the line on a big 4th down conversion attempt.
Karageorgos nearly connected with one of his favorite targets in Quinn Sullivan for a huge gain, but the ball went in and out of the receiver’s hands and McLean went three-and-out.
Edison began to gain some ground, trotting the ball into McLean’s territory as the clock was winding down on the first half. They crossed the 30-yard line before being forced to kick a field goal, a beauty of a boot which closed the Edison deficit to 4 as halftime neared.
With less than 2 minutes remaining in the first half, the Highlanders were rolling down the field, mixing up passes and runs to bring the ball well within the territory of their opponents. Coach John Scholla burned the final of his timeouts with under 90 seconds to go, hoping to rally his troops and score before the half ended. Despite the timeout, things went south as a misplayed handoff resulted in yet another fumble recovered by the opposition. The Eagles let the clock run out, and the Highlanders led at the half for the first time all season.
The second half started in utter disaster for the Highlanders, who took the field on defense after kicking off to begin the half. The Eagles quarterback and running back set up in the backfield in a shotgun formation, and the snap was misplayed so that it flew in the air, being snagged out of the air by the running back. McLean had three defenders break through during the misplay, but the ball carrier managed to break the tackle attempts and take the ball over 50 yards, being dragged down at the one. They punched the ball in on the next play, taking a 10-7 lead.

Highlander players kneel behind the bleachers at halftime to prepare for the second half.

Karageorgos showed off his arm on the next possession with a beautiful pass on a corner route to Caden Herschberg, who was taken down at the 25 after breaking off a solid gain after the catch. Despite Ferris’ best efforts, the offense could not gain a first down and were forced to settle for a field goal, which Fontenot calmly sent through the uprights. With the clock counting under 5 minutes in the third quarter, the Highlanders had tied the game at 10 points apiece.
The Eagles set aside their run game for a more pass-heavy attack towards the end of the third quarter, but to no avail. McLean’s sturdy pass rush had the opposing quarterback uneasy, throwing passes that were nearly intercepted on back to back plays before getting sacked by defensive end Rashad Amirullah in a strip sack, recovered by the offense.
A number of drops derailed the next possession for McLean, which was capped off by a huge punt by Fontenot. A big problem for the offense was the amount of rollout plays that were designed for Karageorgos to roll to his left, making it so any throws had to be on the run and across the center of the field—rarely conducive to success for a quarterback.
McLean received the ball again after another unproductive drive by Edison and looked to break the tie as they entered the final ten minutes of the ballgame. The drive would go nowhere and Fontenot gave the ball back to the Eagles.
This time, Edison made the drive count. They pounded the rock down the field, threatening to take the lead on a touchdown when a defensive pass interference had the ball spotted as a first and goal on the 9 yard line. McLean’s defense took the advice of the cheer team and held the line, keeping the Eagles from taking a seven point lead. They yielded only a field goal, now trailing 13-10 as they would only have one more offensive possession to either tie the game, take the lead, or go home with a 0-3 record.
The drive started off strong, as Scholla’s method of using Ferris for big gains was very effective. One such gain, however, was entirely negated by a holding penalty, and the Highlanders dug themselves into a deeper hole. Ferris would not be denied though, converting a fourth and short to save McLean’s chances at victory. His efforts would soon be rewarded, as Karageorgos found Halteh on a crossing route with under a minute to go in the game. It became a footrace, and beating Nicholas Halteh in a footrace is something that doesn’t happen. The small but mighty McLean student section erupted in screams of support as Halteh raced into the endzone, giving the Highlanders the lead with 48 seconds to go. Fontenot’s extra point was blocked, meaning the Eagles could potentially tie the game with a field goal. The score was 16-13.
The lead proved insurmountable, and the Highlanders took the victory in a nailbiter. The players rushed onto the field as the clock showed three zeros, enthralled to receive their first win of the season.
The win would not have occurred how it did without Halteh’s electric touchdown at the end of the fourth quarter.
“I first thought ‘I have to get in’ [to the endzone],” Halteh said, “once I got in I was hyped, hoping we could hold the lead for the rest of the game.”
The varsity squad will be back at home to face Fairfax High School on September 17. With some confidence under their belts, McLean will look to begin a win streak. They’re back on the climb, and there’s still a long way to go, but there’s nothing stopping them from scaling the mountain.