They were so close.
In a year when the T.C. Williams Titans struggled to overcome injuries and early setbacks before winning five out of the final six games of their schedule, the 6-4 team fell just short of a playoff run.
It would have been their first post-season appearance in two decades.
The Titans did what they needed to do, trampling South County and Robert E. Lee in their final games, but failed to pick up enough points to qualify for the post-season. In a perfect world, rivals Oakton and Langley would have laid down Friday and let T.C. saunter into the playoffs.
But Oakton and Langely won, and beating a 1-9 Lee team didnt garner enough points for the Titans. Heading into the final regular season game neck and neck with Langley, it didnt take long for head coach Dennis Randolph to do the math and figure out the 26 points T.C. grabbed for the win over Lee wouldnt match the 40 points Langley earned beating McLean.
Days later, hes still in disbelief. T.C.s practice field was barren Monday after school.
Im in a little bit of shock, I really am, he said. I couldnt say anything to the kids the other night, it was a good game. Im crushed for everybody. We did what we had to do the other night.
If he could take anything back, it would be the loss to West Potomac on October 22. Had the Titans turned the tables on the Wolverines then, Alec Grosser, Jay Whitmire and company would be preparing for the playoffs now.
Its a season with too many what-ifs to put in proper perspective. Marred by injuries, the Titans got a real, first-hand lesson in overcoming adversity. Stars Jay Whitmire and Joe Massaquoi never played together, missing the first five and last five games respectively due to on-field trauma. Deontre Sanders, Damien Benton, Jose Urrutia, Doug Murphy the list of injuries goes on and on.
When the Titans took the field against Robinson in week one, 12 starting players were recovering on the sidelines. Take 12 players out of any team, at any level, and see how they do, Randolph said.
If there is a silver lining and Randolph wont call it that next years team will boast more players with game time under than belt than expected, including break-out sophomore quarterback Alec Grosser.
Still, for the first time since 1995, the Titans walk off the field with a winning record. While the two-decade play-off dearth remains alive and well, this is only the third time in 20 years T.C. ended the season with more wins than losses.
Its not enough to take the edge off of what could have been, though.
I speak for almost everybody in the T.C. community and were all disappointed, were all a little bit shell shocked, Randolph said. The thing is you cant lose sight of the fact that the kids came back and won five out of last six games and against good football teams. Everybody is excited about the season and wanted to see some more, myself included.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Times incorrectly reported Saturday morning that the Titans made the playoffs before the points were tallied.