Herndon tramples McLean in demoralizing Homecoming game loss

Hornets run over Highlanders in brutal loss

Senior Max Geduldig leads the Highlanders onto the field before the game.

Final score: 49-7, Herndon

Royal robes flowed and crowns glistened up and down the bleachers at McLean’s Basil Harless stadium. Rose thorns and golden sashes were stashed at the corner of the track, waiting to be awarded to the winners of the homecoming court recognitions. The bright red student section was nearly full, chomping at the bit for the game to get underway—and there was still 45 minutes before the captains of McLean and the Herndon Hornets would meet at midfield. It was homecoming weekend, and the energy was palpable.

“It’s a time for us to get into the McLean spirit and really get into the football game,” junior John Budwick said. “[The homecoming game] is a lot different. A lot more people come, and it [gets] crazy. It’s probably the best game of the year [to attend].”

A major storyline of the game was at the quarterback position. Sophomore Ethan Ball, the starting quarterback through the first seven games of the season, was inactive due to a neck injury. Starting for the Highlanders would instead be senior Charlie Samburg, a captain of the team and a favorite among the students.

“It’s great to see Charlie out there, getting the opportunity on [homecoming] night,” senior Owen Hacker said. “He’s always been a great teammate, and I hope he shines under the lights.”

McLean was looking for their first winning streak of the season, hoping to follow up on the 41-7 destruction that occurred against the hapless Wakefield Warriors two weeks prior. Herndon, a team which typically has had poor luck in football, had a 5-2 record but was coming off of a 21-14 loss to South Lakes.

“We want to come out there and play hard from the get-go,” Herndon defensive line coach Baha Ahmed said. “It’s just another business trip for us. Anytime we travel, we’re always focused on us and what we have to do as far as execution [goes]. We don’t really worry too much about all of the other stuff that’s outside the actual [game] on the field.”

Herndon won the coin toss and elected to defer. McLean looked to pass early on, and Samburg’s trademark elusiveness helped the Highlanders earn an early first down. The drive was quickly stifled, with a big sack by Herndon’s Liam Willson leading to a punt. It didn’t take long for the Hornets powerful rushing offense to sting, with Willson taking a second down pitch play to the house to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.

McLean didn’t let the quick score demoralize them, responding quickly with a 37-yard pitch play of their own to senior Max Geduldig. On the very next play, a blown coverage in Herndon’s secondary led to senior wide receiver Quinn Sullivan being left wide open, and Samburg was able to connect with his teammate for a 43-yard touchdown pass, knotting the game up at 7-7.

Herndon’s formula was simple—give the ball to Willson. The multi-sport star—Willson was a key member of the Herndon baseball team which knocked off the Highlanders in the regional semifinals game en route to the school’s first state championship game appearance, earning a scholarship to play at Wake Forest for his efforts—was able to use his impressive stature to barrel across the goal line for the second touchdown, putting the Hornets up 14-7.

McLean returned to the run game on their third possession, but their efforts were not enough to move the chains, and Herndon regained possession after a failed 4th-and-short conversion attempt. Two plays later, Willson leapt over the dogpile of linemen for his third touchdown of the game, making the score 21-7.

McLean was able to move the ball upfield with the help of a quality reception from junior Vaughn McCollough. The drive came to an end when Sullivan was unable to pull in a catch amidst very physical defense from Herndon. The student section exploded into a chorus of boos, but the referees were not swayed, and Herndon retook possession. A touchdown rush by Willson was brought back when an illegal shift penalty was called against Herndon, keeping the score at 21-7 when the first quarter came to an end.

Willson found the endzone for a fourth time with another dive into the endzone, and McLean’s deficit was extended to 21 as the scoreboard read 28-7.

McLean mounted their largest drive of the game, mixing up run plays and pass plays to bring the ball well into Herndon territory. The momentum of the drive was stunted when Willson was able to get into McLean’s backfield, taking Samburg down for a sack. McLean was unable to convert on the ensuing downs, and the score stayed where it was as Herndon’s offense entered the game again. Willson found his way through McLean’s defense for a 60-yard touchdown rush, putting Herndon up 35-7.

Herndon’s defense struck again, recovering a fumble at McLean’s 30-yard line. Not long after, quarterback Johnny Callow threw his first pass of the game—a touchdown to junior Juver Sorto to extend their lead to 42-7, the score as the game went into halftime.

After McLean’s homecoming court nominees had been honored, Herndon received the kickoff and began the second half, which would be played under a running clock as McLean trailed by 35. Although they didn’t score on that drive, they found themselves with the ball again after a misplayed snap was fumbled by McLean. Soon after, the Hornets scored their seventh touchdown of the game to increase their lead. Another interception from the Highlanders sealed the deal, ending the contest with a score of 49-7.

For the second straight year, McLean lost by 42 points on their homecoming night.

McLean will look to follow up the loss with a more positive result at their next game, an away game against the Washington-Liberty which will be their penultimate matchup of the season before they take on the Langley Saxons at home on Nov. 4.