McLean varsity football falls to Statesmen

The Highlanders continue to struggle in second game of season

Highlanders dog pile on Marshall player to stop any further Statesmen progression towards the goal line.

The McLean varsity football team marched into the home of the Marshall Statesmen on a Thursday night for their second game of the season. After their 47-13 loss against the West Potomac Wolverines the previous week, McLean was looking for a solid win to even out their 0-1 record.

“One big thing we do often is look at the plays and strategies other teams run and try to prepare for them,” sophomore lineman Will Lewey said. “For example, Marshall primarily has two offensive formations: Trey and Twins. We’ve been working on playing around these formations a decent amount in practice.”

While crowds of students buzzed in their respective schools’ student sections, representatives from McLean and Marshall football teams met in the center of the field for the coin toss. Marshall won and chose to start with the kickoff.

Junior kicker for the Statesmen Ian Olson sent a kick flying across the field, nearly reaching the Highlanders’ goal line. McLean started at the ten yard line in front of a line of hungry Marshall players. The first pass from McLean quarterback Ethan Ball was intercepted by senior Marshall defender Nakia Wilson, who was a 2021 regional player of the year. Wilson was able to run the ball into the end zone, giving the Statesmen a 6-0 lead within the first two minutes of the game. Marshall opted to kick for an extra point, and Olson effortlessly sent the ball flying through the goal post, making the score a solid 7-0.

The Highlanders got another chance at offense when Olson kicked yet another ball over 50 yards across the field. However, McLean’s offense struggled against the Statesmen’s defense, barely gaining any yards after three downs. McLean punted and the ball went around 30 yards before it was fumbled and recovered by the receiving Statesmen.

Switching over to defense, the Highlanders had difficulty preventing the advancement of Marshall’s offense. The Statesmen plowed through McLean down after down, eventually within reach of the goal line. Though the Highlanders tried to tighten up their defense, Wilson was able to reach the goal line on a third down. Another kick sailed through the uprights, settling the score at 14-0 before the end of the first quarter.

This first quarter set the precedent for the rest of the game, with the Highlanders trailing farther and farther behind the Statesmen.

In the second quarter, Marshall’s offense stayed strong, advancing closer and closer to the end zone through the air and on the ground. Marshall’s senior running back Owen Lebkisher played an essential role, dodging tackles from McLean’s players on multiple occasions and gaining crucial yards.

However, as the Statesmen approached the goal line, the Highlander’s defense became more persistent. Senior defensive tackler Nate Gonzales was able to break through the pocket and tackle Marshall’s quarterback on a third down, preventing a potential touchdown. Marshall then failed a field goal attempt, turning the ball over to McLean’s offense.

Unfortunately, the offense wasn’t able to go very far against the Statesmen’s steadfast defense. After the third down left little hope for a Highlander touchdown, senior punter Jack Needham’s punt only traveled around 30 yards over the field before it was picked up by Marshall.

After narrowly being stopped before the goal line three times, the Statesmen made their third touchdown on a third down. They also made their extra point, driving the score to 21-0. Though there were some breaks on both sides, no further points were scored in the first half.

After an exhausting back and forth and back again between the football teams, Marshall made their fourth touchdown and extra point of the night halfway through the third quarter. Three minutes later, another touchdown was made by the Statesmen, putting the score at a crushing 35-0.

This was the final breaking point for the Highlanders, as they only scored late in the fourth quarter. Their offense was able to painstakingly push their way through the Statesmen’s sturdy defense, finally reaching the end zone, wrapping up the score at 35-7.

Though the McLean varsity football squad under-performed against Marshall, they hope to come back on Friday, Sept. 9th, when they will face Edison High School for their first home game of the season.