By Jim McElhatton (Photo/Jim McElhatton)
After winning their season opener, T.C. Williams faced a big early-season test Friday night on the road against the Centreville Wildcats, one of Northern Virginia’s top football programs.
Both teams had won their previous games convincingly. Centreville handled West Potomac 51-7, while T.C. crushed perennial playoff contender Oakton in a game that raised hopes of a winning season and postseason run.
But even though both head coaches predicted a close matchup, the contest turned out to be a lopsided Centreville victory. The final score was 44-16, but at one point, the Titans were down 44-3.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” T.C. coach Dennis Randolph said as he walked off the field. “One reason we lost, though, is that we played a great, great football team.”
Another big reason: A.J. Turner.
The 5-foot, 10-inch Centreville junior was unstoppable on both sides of the ball, playing running back and defensive back. He had two interceptions in the opening quarter, though he fumbled away the first pick in a bizarre play that resulted in a big gain for the Titans.
Turner’s second interception put the Wildcats, who were up 3-0, deep in their own territory. But minutes later, Turner took a handoff from quarterback Scott Walter for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Centreville scored again on a touchdown catch by tight end David Liddle. After missing the extra point, the Wildcats led 16-0 with about eight minutes left in the second quarter.
Then, T.C. showed signs of life on offense. Opening the series around midfield after an onside kick, running back Malik Carney — who will play next year for the University of North Carolina — took the Titans into the red zone after two big carries. A quick screen pass by quarterback Darius Holland saw the team reach the 11-yard line, but they couldn’t get any closer.
A penalty and a tackle for a loss backed up the Titans, who had to settle for a 36-yard field goal attempt by Zachary Eisenhour.
After nailing a perfect kick, Eisenhour, a 5-foot, 7-inch junior, took off his helmet and paced the sidelines, yelling, “Let’s go, let’s go!” to teammates. The T.C. junior continued trying to get teammates fired up as he took the field for the kickoff.
Unfortunately for him and the Titans, Turner was on the receiving end of the kick.
Whatever momentum the Titans gained disappeared just as quickly as Turner sprinted down the field untouched for a touchdown return.
Yet again, Turner struck minutes later on a 31-yard rushing touchdown that made the score 30-3. By halftime, T.C. was down 37-3. In all, the Wildcats scored 28 points in the second quarter.
“Scores can be deceiving sometimes when you get certain momentum shifts,” Centreville coach Chris Haddock said after the game. “T.C. is a great team. They’re going to have a good year. They’ve got a great group of experienced players.”
Although the game was long ago decided, with the home team marching band playing “Another One Bites the Dust,” T.C. didn’t give up.
The Titans scored twice more on a touchdown pass to wide receiver Terry Jordan and a rushing touchdown in the closing seconds by Holland.
After the whipping, Randolph said the team has a week to figure things out before facing Langley at home September 21. But he wasn’t tamping down expectations.
“Our hope [is] we’re going to go 9-1 for the season,” Randolph said.