T.C. Williams football keeps its cool in home opener

T.C. Williams football keeps its cool in home opener

By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)

With less than 10 minutes remaining in T.C. Williams’ game against Oakton last Saturday, Titans running back Akiti Taylor found a hole in the defense and powered to a 47-yard touchdown to pad his team’s lead at 18-7.

On the next play, the Titans went for a two-point conversion and Taylor rushed into the end zone again, bringing the score to 20-7.

“I didn’t see [the touchdown] coming, but I was running my best,” Taylor said. “I had to look to the outside and
I just broke loose.”

As he returned to the sidelines and received the congratulations of his teammates, the relief was apparent as the home side finally had some breathing room against the Cougars.

T.C. saw the game out at Parker-Gray Stadium, and with the win improved its record to 1-1 overall, having lost 38-0 the previous week in its opener at Stone Bridge.

Initially, the home side started quickly, taking a 12-0 lead early in the first quarter. On their first offensive possession, having already forced Oakton to turn the ball over on downs, Titans sophomore quarterback Tavarus Brown hit senior wide receiver Raymond McGuire for a 65-yard touchdown pass.

Then, Titans defensive back Toren Stewart recovered a fumble by Cougars running back Jared Cole on the visitors’ 28-yard line. And after senior T.C. running back Jaren Hillian moved his team forward 18 yards on his first carry after the turnover, he punched the ball into the end zone from 10 yards out.

With 6:31 remaining in the quarter, the hosts were up 12- 0, having missed both extra point attempts.

“It made us really happy and excited, like ‘Oh yeah, we’ve got this game,’” said Taylor. “But at the same time, we knew we couldn’t give up because it was only the first quarter.”

It took until nearly the end of the first half for Oakton to respond. With 38 seconds left, quarterback Ahmad Shaw connected with receiver John Daido for a 49-yard touchdown pass, closing the gap to 12-7 at halftime.

And while nerves were high among the home fans and players in the second half, especially as the Cougars threatened to score again, T.C.’s defense held firm until Taylor intervened.

“The defense was tremendous,” said Titans senior linebacker Teyan Williams. “We saw the offense and how they were tired, and it was hot out there. But we’ve worked in that all summer. We knew there wasn’t anything else for us but to come out here and give 100 percent, like we did all week in practice.”

Coupled with a resilient defense against a team that defeated them 24-0 last season was a run-heavy offense, with several players seeing extended time at the running back position. Taylor picked up 104 yards on 17 carries, while Hillian ran for 64 yards on 17 carries of his own. Titans quarterback Deiondre Charlton had 27 rushing yards on 5 carries and went 4-12 with 41 yards through the air.

“We’re fortunate, we’ve got multiple backs that can run,” said T.C. head coach James Longerbeam, who celebrated his first win leading the Titans. “We’ve got more than one guy, and whoever gets in there, I thought they did a good job today.”

One troubling aspect for the hosts was the number of flags they received on both sides of the ball. Linebacker Erick Mejia’s fumble recovery for a touchdown in the first quarter was waved off by the officials, and both defenses were guilty of giving up free yardage.

With a renewed emphasis on the Titans keeping their discipline, Longerbeam said he and his players will continue to work on the practice field to eradicate penalties.

“Those happen a lot of times early in the year,” he said. “We play a bunch of young kids, and we’ll clean it up as we go. The one thing about these kids is they work hard and are resilient, and they want to fix it. We’ll get it fixed.”

The Titans next face defending Virginia High School League 6A state champions Westfield away from home on Friday, and are hopeful of continued success.

“People think winning is easy, but it’s not easy,” Longerbeam said. “Those guys that we play against, they do the same things we do, they work at it. It’s big, because we haven’t had a lot of success lately. We tell them to win six seconds at a time. We’ve got this one, now we’ll get ready for the next one.”