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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

Hornets sting Highlanders into submission

Highlanders lose to the Herndon Hornets in frigid first-round playoff game
Junior+cornerback+Jahi+Jemison+and+senior+edge+rusher+Matt+Olson+lead+the+charge+in+attempting+to+shed+the+oncoming+mass+of+the+Hornet%E2%80%99s+blockers.+Herndons+rushing+game+was+very+effective+against+Mclean%2C+throwing+the+ball+fewer+than+ten+times+throughout+the+entirety+of+the+game.+%28Photo+by+Kavi+Shah%29
Kavi Shah
Junior cornerback Jahi Jemison and senior edge rusher Matt Olson lead the charge in attempting to shed the oncoming mass of the Hornet’s blockers. Herndon’s rushing game was very effective against Mclean, throwing the ball fewer than ten times throughout the entirety of the game. (Photo by Kavi Shah)

Waves upon waves of red marked an impressively loud McLean crowd as the 8-2 McLeanHighlanders took on Herndon High School’s Hornets, with a 7-3 record, on Friday night. Coming off a heartbreakingly close loss 28 days ago, the Highlanders were looking forward to the rematch.
“It’s going to be a fun night,” Head Coach Joe Cockerham said. “We have some things answered that they gave us trouble with last time, and it’s going to be a good game.”
On the first drive of the game, senior inside linebacker Easton Johnson forced a fumble inside the Hornets’ 25, giving the Highlanders great field position. After a few stalled plays, a heroic rush from junior quarterback Ethan Ball kept the drive alive on a 3rd and long, and he finished it with a short pass to junior wide receiver Sebastian Carmenates.
However, the Hornets’ potent running game, charged by senior Brady Calderwood and a frustratingly effective triple option, drove them down the field without pause. But the Highlander defense stayed strong and level, waiting for their chance. Then it came. Gaps in the hornet Offensive line ley Junior defensive tackle Will Lewey and senior cornerback Jahi Jemison make massive tackles for loss, forcing the Hornets to a last ditch fourth down throw that came harrowingly close to being caught. The Highlanders got the ball back inside their own thirty yard line, but that unfortunately led to a three and out.
With the ball at the 50 yard line, the Hornets looked to make the most of it. Using the option play, screen passes, and inside runs to Calderwood, the Hornets were marching down the field relentlessly. But yet again, the interior defense of the Highlanders came in clutch, with senior Easton Johnston’s massive hit and recovery causing the second lost fumble by Herndon of the game.
But again, the Mclean offense stalled, leaving junior kicker Nathan Bender to yet again punt the ball away, this time to the 45 yard line. A conversion on a 4th and 5 off an option play marked the tone of the drive, and the Hornets scored in quick succession to make it 7-7.
As the clock ticked past 5 minutes, the Highlander offense faced mounting pressure to put points on the board. However yet again the offense was stifled, and a tip drill pick got the Hornets the ball inside the 30. After a few option pitch plays later, the ball was in the endzone, and after a forgettable drive from the Highlanders, the Hornets ended the first half with a 14-7 lead.
The second half began with an explosive 85 yard strike to senior running back Kaelan Ferris, resulting in the Highlanders’ first points since their first drive of the game.
But the Hornets responded viciously, with their simple yet effective game plan and playbook leading to a 15 yard touchdown to make it 21-14 with just under 7 minutes left in the third quarter.
Rather than being demoralized, the Highlanders came out strong on offense, getting first downs fluidly for the first time since their first drive of the game. Unfortunately , the refs decided to make their appearance noted with a missed pass interference call on a third and 4 that left the Highlander crowd outraged, and the momentum firmly with Herndon.
Even with that momentum, the sturdy Highlander defense forced a punt, giving the offense another chance. This time around, 4 massive penalties led to an impressive high point catch by sophomore Aidan Reid for a touchdown in the far corner of the endzone. With the game now tied, the offense came off the field fired up.
The McLean defense came out strong, forcing a 3rd and 14. But a last ditch throw was caught on the left sideline in one improbable twisting motion. The shellshocked Highlander defense was then beaten into submission by a series of runs, resulting in a touchdown from the Hornets to put them up 28-21 with 8:06 to go.
A series later, the Highlander defense and crucial penalties on the Hornet offense led to a punt on a 4th and 18, giving the Highlanders one last chance to score.
After a punt and 3 plays, the Highlander offense was faced with a 4th and 3 for the game. Ferris ran his route, cutting towards the McLean sideline, with a yard of separation between him and the closest defender. Then Ball, who struggled with accuracy all night, flew the ball over Ferris’s head, and just like that, the game was over.
“We played our best, but sometimes our best isn’t good enough,” said junior free safety Thomas Terminella. “I would feel confident in saying that every one of our players gave it their all, we just couldn’t do more.”
With this loss, the Highlanders are officially knocked out of the playoffs in a disappointing ending to an impressive season, while Herndon will move on to face Madison next Friday.

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