Washington-Liberty spooks McLean for a Halloween loss

Washington-Liberty beats McLean in brutal football matchup

Final Score: 48-13, Washington-Liberty

The Generals’ student section was bustling with students wearing masks, costumes and gory getups. One thing was clear: it was Halloween weekend and the Generals were ready to be the Highlanders’ worst nightmare.

After a tough 49-7 loss to the Herndon Hornets on McLean’s homecoming game, the varsity football team was looking for redemption on Washington-Liberty’s senior night.

“I think they’re a good team,” said senior wide receiver Quinn Sullivan. “They have a good record, but if we play hard and do what we’re supposed to do, then we should be able to take them down.”

Taking down the Generals would easier said than done. Coming off a 4-4 record and with the help of 3 star defensive end/tackle Elijah Hughes, McLean knew that the game would be difficult. In fact, they modified practice drills to prepare for Hughes. 

“We had a player with a jersey on and he would [pretend to] be Elijah in practice,” said senior Matt Speroni, who plays on the defensive line. “He would move around…and we would change the coverages for our offensive line and plays for our defensive line according to where he would be.” 

Feeling prepared after a week of practicing to cater towards Washington-Liberty’s defense, the Highlanders were confident at kickoff. 

The Highlanders received first, however, in the first few plays there was a turnover and the Generals gained possession early on. However, with the Generals struggling to move the ball past midfield, McLean senior Joel Martin intercepted the ball and had a strong 30-yard return to put the Highlanders into a potentially excellent position. However, pass interference was called on the play, giving the ball back to the Generals. 

The Generals were ready to bite back, responding with aggressive offensive play. Right after a first down, running back Anthony Louis completed a 20 yard pass at the 35 yard line to run for a touchdown after juking out the Highlander defense. Senior kicker Anthony Ceballos-Medina drilled the extra point, bringing the Generals to an easy 7-0 lead 7 minutes into the first frame.

The Highlanders were visibly demoralized from Louis’s quick touchdown as they were unable to move the ball, immediately turning it back over to the Generals. Noticing their stagnant play, McLean coach Joe Cockerham took a time out with two minutes left in the quarter. 

The Generals, hungry for more, found themselves only three yards from the end zone. Soon enough, the Generals’ Ian Crowley scored a touchdown, and with the help from another kick by Ceballos-Medina, the Generals were comfortably leading 14-0 heading into the second quarter. 

The Highlanders were looking for a change of pace in the second quarter, so Coach Cokerham made the aggressive call to switch senior Charlie Samburg to the quarterback position. 

The Generals weren’t intimidated by this decision. On the Highlanders’ first play, the ball was ripped from Samburg’s hands, resulting in a fumble and the third turnover of the game for the stagnating highlanders’ offense. Generals’s junior Jack Nowinsky proceeded to take the ball down to the 35 yard line then scored a touchdown on the very next play.

In an attempt to salvage what was left of the half, Samburg ran 15 yards to bring McLean to the 40 yard line, and after a pass to sophomore Ben Irish, the Highlanders saw themselves at 2nd and goal with the opportunity for their first touchdown of the night. Sullivan brought the Highlanders to the end zone with a quick pass play on the 2 yard line. With the help of kicker Nathan Bender, the Highlanders cut the score to 21-7.

The Generals only upped the intensity. To close the half, they managed to score two more back to back rushing touchdowns, 41 and 25 yards by Nowinski and Hughes, respectively. The Washington-Liberty Generals were up 35-7 and the halftime whistle blew. 

After a Halloween-themed performance by the Generals’ dance team and marching band, the Generals returned to the field ready to spook the Highlanders in the second half. 

The third quarter was stagnant for both teams. Countless incomplete passes and false starts allowed little movement for the competitors, and repeated tackles by Hughes made it difficult for the Highlanders to make any advancement towards the end zone. With two minutes left in the quarter, Louis secured his second touchdown of the night with a tricky run play. 

The Highlanders marched into the fourth quarter confident to make a change to their mundane performance. Samburg, attempting to run with the ball, was tackled by Hughes, forcing the Highlanders to kick from the 50 yard line before turning the ball over to the Generals.

The Generals responded with a strong 46 yard rush by senior running back Joseph Sovula to secure their final touchdown of the night with 7 minutes left in the game. 

Samburg, determined to not give up on the game, took matters into his own hands to rush for a 20 yard touchdown and make the final score 48-13.

Next week, the Highlanders will face their rivals, the Langley Saxons, at home for their last game of the season. 

“Langley isn’t a team that should be taken lightly,” Speroni said. “While I’m confident in our abilities as a team, I think we need a very clean practice this week to prepare ourselves for the last game of the season.”