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The Highlander

The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

McLean falls to Washington-Liberty 21-7 on homecoming night

Bad weather and strong opposition force McLean’s second loss of the season
Quarterback Ethan Ball and running back Kaelan Ferris line up in the backfield. Ferris was once again a big piece of McLean’s offense throughout the course of the game.

The dreariness of a rainy October evening was not enough to deter the Highlanders or their fans on the night of the homecoming football game against the Washington-Liberty Generals. Both teams came into the game tied for the lead of the Liberty District, with each touting a 6-1 record. Knowing a loss would likely put them out of contention for the district title, the intensity of the game was as great as it had been all season. McLean was looking to regain their footing after a disheartening 31-28 loss to the Herndon Hornets in the week prior.
“Their biggest strength is their passing game,” senior linebacker Easton Johnson said. “We’ve schemed up a good defense for it, so we should be able to shut it down.”
The game marked a bittersweet moment for many of the players, as McLean seniors were defending their home turf for the final time in the regular season.
“It’s definitely an emotional thing. It [really] hits home,” Johnson said. “It’s very emotional, but we [have to] take pride in it.”
The elements made an impact early, as dropped passes and bobbled snaps were abundant on both team’s first drives, which each went three-and-out. Head coach Joe Cockerham, the team’s offensive play-caller, quickly adapted to the conditions and began pounding the ball with downhill runs to running back Kaelan Ferris, who gashed the middle of the field for a first down. However, an offensive holding penalty and ineffective passing plays abruptly halted the first promising possession of the game.
Seeing the success of McLean’s run game, the Generals quickly followed suit, moving into Highlander territory with junior running back Anthony Louis. It looked as though the Highlanders defense had forced a punt, but the Generals ran a successful fake to gain the first down. The very next play was a 26-yard passing touchdown to junior Zachary Meehan, but a blocked extra point meant the score would only reach 6-0.
Neither team could muster any offense. Ferris was not gaining much traction, often slipping on the turf, and future Washington-Liberty possessions made the touchdown seem like a fluke. The biggest offensive gains came by way of pass interference penalties such as the one near the end of the first half that put the Highlanders around the 50 yard line. Yet, there was not enough time to get the offense in position for a field goal, and 6-0 remained on the scoreboard as the half came to a close.
McLean came out of the gate in the second half with a greater willingness to air out the football, as quarterback Ethan Ball continually looked down the field for receivers such as sophomores Aidan Reid and Malcolm Andrews. The plan was only marginally more successful, and the drive ended in a punt once more. The following drive from the Generals was a well-rounded one, with a blend of different plays bringing the visiting team to the goal line. Once again, it was Meehan pulling in a touchdown catch, and a 2-point conversion changed the scoreboard to 14-0.
The next McLean drive was their best yet, as they stuck with the passing game to make it into the red zone. A misread by Ball was turned into an interception for Washington-Liberty, and the possession was for naught. A big return on the interception set the Generals up in a good spot, and a 4th down touchdown carry for Louis advanced the score 21-0.
Hope seemed all but lost after the Highlanders failed to convert on the 4th down following the touchdown. However, the pass rush finally got to Washington-Liberty quarterback Johnathan Bojwani, forcing a fumble which was recovered by junior Will Lewey inside the 25-yard line. On the next play, Ball threw a beautiful pass to senior Vaughn McCullough for McLean’s first score of the night, narrowing the deficit to 21-7 as six minutes remained in the game.
With the clock not in their favor, McLean attempted an onside kick but could not recover it before the Generals. Meanwhile, aware that time was their friend, Washington-Liberty was ecstatic to let precious seconds drip off the clock, running the play clock down to its last tick before running the ball. The offense watched helplessly from the sideline, but there was simply nothing to be done, and the Highlanders lost 21-7 for their second straight loss. The clear reason for the loss was a lack of consistent offensive momentum. The Highlanders will take on the Wakefield Warriors in an away game next week before going up against the Langley Saxons.
“We didn’t get it going until late [in the game], and we just weren’t in a rhythm,” Reid said. “We can take this as motivation. These seniors, they love the game and they love our team, and we are going to come back dangerous.”

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