McLean triumphs on Senior Night with 30-16 victory over Washington-Liberty

In their final home game of the season, McLean used a strong defensive performance to defeat the Generals of Washington-Liberty.

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Tanner Coerr

Kicker Tyler Fontenot and holder Matthew Speroni prepare for a field goal attempt. Fontenot’s prowess at the kicker position shone through against Washington-Liberty, as he converted multiple field goals.

Final score: 30-16

As the lights surrounding Basil Harless stadium illuminated the water from a full day’s worth of rain, the McLean Highlanders ran onto the field for a bittersweet Senior Night game against the Washington-Liberty Generals. While the players were excited for their final home game of the year, many of the seniors were feeling mixed emotions as they ran onto their home field for the last time in their high school career.
“It’s sad but happy at the same time,” said Sam Snyder, a senior lineman and captain of the team. “It’s all coming to an end, but hopefully our hard work will pay off and we’ll be able to get a win.
The Highlanders, fresh off of a come-from-behind victory against the Herndon Hornets, looked to go on a winning streak against the struggling Generals team.
It was also an emotional night for the non-seniors of the squad, who were playing their last home game with their senior teammates, many of whom have become mentors for their younger counterparts.
“It’s always sad losing the guys you’ve formed such deep bonds with,” sophomore kicker Tyler Fontenot said. “It’s certainly not gonna be the same without them.”
The Generals started with the ball at their own 43-yard line after a squib kick by Fontenot. They stuck with the running game early on, with the physically imposing Herbert Sovula moving the ball inside McLean’s 25-yard line. The Generals tried to keep up the rushing attack, but linebacker Wyatt Johnson was the first senior to make his mark on Senior Night, with a powerful stop on a 3rd and 5 carry by Sovula. W-L’s field goal was good, and McLean received possession with the score being 3-0.
McLean also used the ground-and-pound method to their advantage, with junior Daniel Benitez taking his first two carries into the red zone. After a couple more runs which heeded little yardage, Fontenot booted a 25-yard field goal to tie the game at three points apiece.

Tanner Coerr

W-L survived a scare on the kickoff, as Fontenot’s squib was muffed by Sovula before being recovered by the Generals. They escaped from the same situation two plays later, with running back Mike Dertke fumbling the ball right to one of his teammates. Quarterback Manoli Karageorgos was playing both sides of the ball, lining up as a defensive back for several plays before the quarter came to a close at a 3-3 stalemate.
The second quarter started off poorly for the Highlanders, as their opponent was able to punch the ball across the plane of the goal line for a touchdown to make the score 10-3.
Running back Kaelan Ferris turned on the burners for a 48-yard run to bring McLean inside the 20-yard line. They brought the ball to the brink of the goal line, escaping a scare of their own when a Daniel Benitez fumble was recovered by the offense. After a few goal-line attempts, Karageorgos snuck into the end zone on fourth down, tying the game at 10.
The game was a game of field position, with the offensive platoons on both sides receiving the ball near midfield after almost every kickoff. Herbert Sovula was not the only Sovula doing damage for the Generals, as his brother Jojo received a perfectly executed screen pass to convert on third down well within the territory of the Highlanders. The Generals could not capitalize on the opportunity, as a fumble popped straight into the hands of Karageorgos, who was only one defender away from turning the turnover into six points going the other way.
Karageorgos followed up the defensive effort with a deep completion to junior Calvin Thinley, which was followed up with a pass in the flat to Kaelan Ferris and a slant to Nicholas Halteh. As the clock neared triple zeros, McLean scored a touchdown with a beautiful trick play that saw senior Caden Hershberg walk into the end zone untouched to give the Highlanders their first lead of the night, and the Highlanders went into halftime with the scoreboard showing 17-10.
After receiving the opening kickoff, Halteh took a screen pass 24 yards to start the drive for McLean. After a swing pass to Ferris which was brought to the two-yard line, the Generals’ defense stood strong, holding the Highlanders to a field goal and a 20-10 lead. Not long after the kickoff, the Highlanders caused a fumble and retook possession near midfield, much to the approval of the student section.
Their jubilation was short-lived, as a swing pass intended for Halteh was behind him, a backward pass ruled as a fumble and recovered by the visiting team. They quickly turned the turnover into six points through the air, but only six, as the extra point sailed to the right of the goalposts. 20-16.
After another instance of solid field position for the Highlanders, the W-L defensive line broke through, taking down Karageorgos behind the line of scrimmage on third down, leading to a Fontenot punt which rolled into the end zone for a touchback, meaning the Generals would take possession at the 20-yard line.
Junior Mateo Short, whose open-field tackling and coverage skills have been a huge part of McLean’s strong defensive unit, made a nice pass breakup on second down, part of a 3-and-out caused by the defense. McLean received the ball as the third quarter entered its final minutes.
The Highlanders were rumbling, with their strong ground game powering them inside the 30-yard line of their opponents. Karageorgos was taken down in the backfield on third down, leading to a 44-yard field goal try from Fontenot which doinked off the left upright, keeping the score at 20-16. The Generals took over inside their own 40-yard line, and the quarter ended with W-L in a 3rd and 1 situation.
Karageorgos made an outstanding play on defense as the quarter began, ripping the ball away from the intended receiver for a turnover. After the brilliant defensive play, Ferris brought the pigskin 30 yards as the momentum shifted drastically in favor of the Highlanders. Although the drive stalled out, ending in only 3 points, the energy inside the stadium was at one of the highest levels it had been at all year, even with a smaller crowd than normal due to the weather. 23-16 was the score, in favor of the Highlanders.
The ensuing drive by the Generals went nowhere–in fact, it went less than nowhere, as an illegal touching penalty brought them back 15 yards. Back-to-back near-interceptions kept the Generals from gaining any ground, and McLean head coach John Scholla’s offensive troops trotted back out onto the field with a chance to put the game on ice by making it a two-score lead.
In his final home game, McLean’s Nicholas Halteh continued his role as one of the focal points of the offense, taking swing passes and end arounds alike for solid gains, showing the elusiveness he has been displaying as a Highlander since freshman year.
Fontenot punted the ball away, giving the Generals the ball back with four minutes and a chance to tie the game up. Washington-Liberty could not make use of the possession, with Benitez making a huge interception to bring the ball well within W-L territory. It took no time at all for McLean to capitalize, as Ferris broke down the sideline for a 29-yard touchdown to extend McLean’s lead to two touchdowns. The Highlander cheerleaders counted off 30 leg kicks for every McLean point, and the crowd was roaring.
W-L looked to stay in the game as the clock ticked under three minutes, with a 3rd down and 14 situation. The play was a disaster for them, as the deep pass attempt was picked off by Karageorgos for his second turnover of the game.
McLean finished the game victorious, their second victory in a row and their first at home all season. The story of the night was the seniors, and rightfully so, as athletes like Wyatt Johnson and Will Walby left their mark on the game. Sam Snyder even got a carry as the game drew to a close. The fans stormed the field to support their seniors, who deserved every second of it.
McLean will take on the Langley Saxons in the venerated crosstown rivalry game on Nov. 5th at 7:00 P.M.