Highlanders rout Warriors in first football win of the season

McLean snaps losing streak in dominant fashion over Wakefield

Senior Charlie Jackson leads the Highlander student section, dressed appropriately for the Pink Out theme.

McLean wins, 41-7

The McLean Highlanders met the Wakefield Warriors at McLean’s home stadium with the goal of capturing their first victory of the season. The Warriors, fresh off of a cataclysmic 65-0 defeat at the hands of the Herndon Hornets, were also looking to put a win in the record books for the first time in the season.

“We’re going to hit them hard and give them all we got,” senior lineman Areeb Jackson said. “We worked a lot harder in practice [this week] and we focused a lot more [on being] ready to win.”

Wakefield’s horrific start to the season—they were outscored 315-40 throughout their first six games—was a beacon of hope for Highlander fans hoping to watch their team taste victory for the first time since a 2021 win over the Washington-Liberty Generals on senior night. Wakefield, on top of experiencing the aforementioned thumping from Herndon, also suffered an 81-7 defeat to the Centreville Wildcats in September. Despite that, the approach to this game from McLean’s players was no different.

“We just have to focus on what we’re going to do,” Jackson said. “We’re going to go play football and give it [our] all. That’s all we can do.”

The bright pink of McLean’s student section stood out brilliantly against the overcast evening skies as the captains met at midfield to determine how the game would begin.

After receiving the opening kick, McLean kept it on the ground as they had done all season, using junior Jahi Jemison to convert on third down and three yards to go. On the next play, the Highlanders went with an empty backfield, and quarterback Ethan Ball calmly threw a strike to senior Quinn Sullivan on a crossing route. Sullivan turned on the burners, making his way into the endzone untouched and lighting the student section aflame with cheers as the Highlanders took a 7-0 lead. Soon after, an excellent kickoff by Sullivan and a poor rushing attack by Wakefield led to McLean receiving the ball off of a punt on their own 49 yard-line.

McLean’s offense looked very in-tune, as wideouts Vaughn McCullough and Max Geduldig hauled in passes from Ball for large gains over the middle of the field early in the drive. Penalties and incompletions stifled the offensive progress, and kicker Nathan Bender’s 42-yard field goal attempt just missed to hold the score at 7-0. Despite the miss, McLean quickly found themselves with the ball after a fumble by the Warriors was recovered by McLean. It didn’t take long for McLean to capitalize on the gaffe, as Jemison took a carry 24 yards to the house, making it a 14-0 game.

Wakefield kept their offensive approach the same, yet saw no success from either their rushing or passing units. Wakefield’s punter, Josh Bronfield, was their most effective player by a safe margin, and he booted away another one to give McLean the ball back. The offensive ineptitude of the Warriors was a polar opposite of McLean’s offensive dominance, and the Highlanders capped off another strong drive with a carry by Ball for a touchdown to increase the lead to 21-0. Wakefield, reeling from their defense being picked apart with ease by Coach Joe Cockerham’s team, fell back to punt after yet another three-and-out. Bronfield’s success could not be sustained, and his next punt was blocked by McLean and returned by senior Daniel Benitez nearly to the red zone. On the next play, Sullivan caught his second touchdown of the game. Just like that, McLean was up four touchdowns. 28-0.

McLean was scoring touchdowns faster than the fans could keep up. Another misplayed punt by Wakefield ended up in the hands of the Highlanders, and Jemison took a rush for yet another McLean touchdown to make the score 35-0.

According to the Virginia High School League, any football game in which one team has a deficit of 35 or more in the second half, the game clock runs at all times, disregarding incomplete passes or carries out-of-bounds. These situations generally occur at the very end of lopsided games, right when the clock was about to strike zero anyway, but rarely early in varsity matchups. McLean’s dominance of Wakefield had allowed them to reach that lead with several minutes remaining in the first half, and they carried that unprecedented lead into halftime, with the first half ending by way of a monster sack from Max Geduldig.

After receiving the opening kickoff of the half, Wakefield was able to move with improved efficiency, using a number of carries out of the shotgun formation to bring the ball into McLean territory. However, a fumble on third down and a penalty on fourth gave the ball right back to the Highlanders. Wakefield simply looked defeated as they tried to defend against McLean’s attack, seemingly more interested in the game ending than in stopping the run. The effects of the constantly-running clock were being displayed, as the entirety of the third quarter was taken up by merely two total possessions. McLean quarterback Charlie Samburg threw a beautiful pass to senior Elijah Rakowski for the team’s sixth touchdown of the game, and the score held at 41-0 when the extra point attempt was botched.

Wakefield followed the touchdown drive by mounting their best offensive drive of the game. In an ironic way, McLean’s extreme offensive proficiency was actually a detriment to their own defense, as the unit found themselves back on the field so quickly after each touchdown that they were getting tired. The Warriors were able to keep themselves from being shut out when their running back powered through the trenches to make the game 41-7.

Fatigue on both sides set in fully, and the score stayed deadlocked at 41-7 until the game ended and McLean fans swarmed the field, celebrating their first win of the 2022 season.

“We’ve been working really hard all year and to finally see all of that hard work pay off in front of our home crowd was awesome,” McCullough said. “It was awesome to celebrate on the field when everyone rushed.”

The Highlanders will take a week off for their bye week and will be back to face Herndon at home on October 21 for the homecoming football game.