By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
The T.C. Williams football team’s campaign in the Virginia High School League playoffs is over, after a 26-0 defeat at West Potomac last Friday in the first round of the 6A North bracket.
T.C. entered the tournament with the No. 10 seed after a 5-5 record in the regular season, and came up against
the No. 7 Wolverines, whom the Titans defeated 22-21 earlier in this year on a last-gasp touchdown and two-point conversion.
It did not take long for the home team to put the defeat behind it.
From T.C.’s 37-yard line, senior West Potomac quarterback Mark Ellis threw a pass to tight end Zach Monson, who reached the end zone after finding some running room down the middle. On their first drive of the game and with 9:40 remaining in the first quarter, the completion helped the hosts to an early 7-0 lead.
The Wolverines could have extended their lead later in the first quarter but for a bizarre sequence of plays. From T.C.’s three-yard line, Ellis fumbled the snap and saw the ball recovered by the Titans, who then fumbled it back to West Potomac just two plays later.
With the ball back in their possession and on the Titans’ one-yard line, the Wolverines appeared set to rack up more points but lost control of the football again and saw it re- covered by T.C., which finally managed to move the ball out of its own red zone and away from danger.
Titans head coach James Longerbeam said that pas- sage of play was the result of a number of factors.
“I think one, the weather, because the ball was cold,” he said. “The wind was blowing a little bit. And I think it was just nerves and that kind of thing, on both sides.”
On the subsequent drive, the Titans moved the ball to the 45-yard line, but were forced to punt after a stellar stop by the West Potomac defense. But the punt was blocked and picked up by West Potomac’s Da’Jon Bellfield, who took advantage of a good bounce and ran in for a touchdown to give the hosts some breathing room.
The score was 13-0 at halftime, and things got worse in the third quarter as second- string West Potomac quarterback Tanner Jones hit Khalil Williams-Diggins and Brandon Lisenby for touchdowns after Ellis left the game with a head injury. That would complete the scoring for West Potomac, which travels to No. 2 Madison on Friday.
But T.C. had plenty of chances to get back into the game, led once again by a strong running game. Early in the second half, the Titans were at West Potomac’s 11-yard line, but fumbled and handed the ball back to the
And later in the fourth quarter, with the game all but finished, the Titans reached the Wolverines’ five-yard line on fourth down but again were stymied by the hosts’ goal line defense and turned the ball over on downs.
“We had self-inflicted wounds,” Longerbeam said. “We did some stuff to hurt ourselves. But at the end of the day, our kids played hard all the way to the end, which is what we asked them to do.”
Tyrese Randall led the Ti- tans’ offense with 73 rushing yards on eight carries, while Jaren Hillian added 57 yards on the ground on 12 carries. Quarterback Diondre Charlton went 7-12 for 48 yards through the air.
For West Potomac, Jones threw nine completions for 144 yards and had 55 rushing yards on five attempts.
The defeat marks the end of T.C.’s football season, but the team’s second playoff berth in 26 years represents a marked change from the past two years, when the program went 2-8 each season. Longerbeam said he has a lot to be thankful for after his first season in charge.
“I think these kids changed it — I think they changed the perception of T.C. Williams,” he said. “It went from a program that maybe we weren’t so proud of, to now where the kids are doing the right things, they’re competing hard, we got to the playoffs for the second time in 26 years. I think this group of kids put forth a lot of effort to change the perceptions, so we can move forward.”
And while the disappointment of a playoff loss was clear among the Titans’ coaches, players and supporters, Longerbeam said his players could hold their heads high, even as they trudged off the field and into the offseason.
“Make sure you finish it the right way,” he said, recounting his message to the players at the end of the game. “It only takes about 15 seconds for people to forget all the good things you did.
“Finish it right. I understand you’re upset and that kind of thing, but at the end of the day you still have to finish it the right way.”