Titans, Cardinals looking to make gains in 2023

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Titans, Cardinals looking to make gains in 2023
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By Jim McGrath

Two of Alexandria’s four high school football teams began regular season play in late August, with Alexandria City High School and Bishop Ireton taking to the gridiron for away games on August 25. 

The teams met with decidedly different results, as BI routed Jackson-Reed High School 38-0, while ACHS was on the losing end of a 28-3 contest at Centerville High School. 

Both teams played again last week, with ACHS dropping its home opener in a contest against Colonial Forge on August 31, by a score of 49-13. BI also lost its second game on the road to Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in a 19-13 nailbiter. 

ACHS 

Mascot – Titans 

Region/District – 6C Patriot 

Coach: Rodney Hughey 

2022 record: 5-6 

Now in his second season as the Titans head coach, Rodney Hughey aims to take his team to the next level. After a 5-6 season in 2022, which ended with a brief playoff appearance, Hughey is focused on eight players to help his team improve. 

“[The offense] has the potential to do very well this season,” Hughey said. He pointed to the offensive line as one of the Titans’ strengths. 

Specifically, Hughey will count on Soufiane Khaldi as the anchor of the unit, a returning starter and 6’2”, 300-pound junior. Khaldi is a returning starter who his coach believes possesses Division I talent. He will be joined by two seniors, Nehemiah Goode (6’, 280 pounds) and Ryan Ringel (5’ 11”, 225 pounds) and junior James Kelly (6’ 1”, 240 pounds), all of whom Hughey views as college prospects. 

While the line is sturdy, the coach has expressed concern for the experience level at other positions. 

“We have a lack of experience at our skill positions,” Hughey added. 

The cupboard is not bare, however, for one of Virginia’s largest high schools. Hughey highlighted the team’s dedication to its off-season conditioning program as a potential harbinger of success, though the true test will come between the lines. 

“A lot of guys showed up – seniors and juniors. … We need to see these guys in battle,” Hughey said. 

Hughey had selected a quarterback before the season opening loss to Centreville, but may continue to experiment. He said he feels set at the running back position, with senior Selvin Orsorto (5’ 9”, 215 pounds) and junior Chase McKnight (5’9”, 180 pounds), two potential collegiate players with McKnight possessing the talent to play Football Championship Subdivision, which used to be known as Division I-AA. 

The Titans also have a strong pair of receivers in seniors Garrett Graf (5’9”, 185 pounds) and CJ Washington (6’, 175 pounds). 

The same eight players will be highlighted on defense, with the offensive line switching to defense, joined by Orsorto. Graf and McKnight will play linebacker, and Washington, another FCS level talent, moving to defensive back. 

The Titans’ schedule does not get easier. The team will host Forest Park, a team that 

Titans, Cardinals looking to make gains 

won five of its last six regular 2022 season games, before moving on to a tough Patriot District schedule. 

ACHS schedule 

8/25 – at Centreville L, 28-3 

8/31 – Colonial Forge L, 31-8 

9/8 – Forest Park 

9/22 – at WT Woodson 

9/29 – West Springfield 

10/6 – at South County 

10/13 – at Lake Braddock 

10/20 – West Potomac 

10/27 – Robinson 

11/3 – at Fairfax 

Bishop Ireton 

Mascot – Cardinals 

Conference – WCAC South & VISAA Div. 1 

Coach: Gary Wortham Sr. 

2022 record: 1-9 

“This is the kind of score we can get behind,” a Tweet from an Ireton fan read, after the team’s 38-0 season opener win over Jackson-Reed of D.C. 

This looks to be a breakthrough year for the Cardinals, who have suffered through a pair of 1-9 seasons, but are aiming much higher in 2023. 

“We like the way our schedule is set up,” Cardinals coach Gary Wortham said. “We needed to get some games off.” 

Competing in the WCAC South, Ireton already has to face rivals O’Connell and Paul VI, along with Archbishop Carroll, a legitimate DMV Top-20 squad, and an improving St. Mary’s Ryken. Wortham went outside of the state to find several opponents, including Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. John’s Catholic Prep, both from Maryland. St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School remains on the schedule and Annandale has been added to the docket of games. 

In preseason, Ireton held its own against defending Liberty District champion Yorktown, and topped Kellam, a mid-level VHSL Class 5 team from Virginia Beach. 

“Now we have a compatible, competable schedule,” receivers coach Chris Gilliland, himself an Ireton graduate and football alumnus, said. 

Aaron Rocke (5’ 11”, 180 pounds) opened the scoring in BI’s opening win at Jackson-Reed with a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Rocke, who plays running back and wide receiver, scored a second time as he hauled in a 23- yard scoring pass from Omar Diallo (6’, 185 pounds). 

The Ireton offense, which features the Navy triple option, will be focused on Diallo, who keeps many plays open with his legwork. The speedy QB ran for 151 yards and three touchdowns – one for 76 yards – against Jackson-Reed, while completing eight of 11 passes for 62 yards. 

“We executed great,” Diallo, who returned as the starting QB, said. “It has really worked, and we are better than last year.” 

“The triple option opens everything. We get a lot of plays in the open field,” Rocke added. 

Wortham explained the reasoning behind changing the formation, crediting his quarterback Diallo – who is beginning to attract attention from colleges – for having the speed to work different options. 

“We just wanted to add a new element to our game,” Wortham said. “(Running the option) shows off things that Omar can do as the quarterback.” 

The Cardinal group is smaller than last year, but faster all-around. They’re also young, with C/DT Matt Foley (5’11”, 235 pounds) and RB/MLB Joseph Hardy (5’8”, 205 pounds) among the few seniors. Other Cardinals to keep an eye on are lineman Cam Stanard (6’3”, 220 pounds), sophomore receiver Nick Milewski (6’3”, 185 pounds), junior G/DE Aidan Connor (6’, 220 pounds), CB/ WR Stephen Ntambwe (6’, 170 pounds), and RB Trey Jones (6’, 190 pounds). 

Ireton also has a secret weapon in junior kicker Aidan Gray. In the Yorktown scrimmage, Gray booted a 47- yard field goal that cleared the uprights with five yards to spare. 

Now it is a matter of patience and timing according to Wortham, who won the Occoquan Region Class 6B championship at his previous job at Woodbridge High. 

“Our guys just have to trust the process,” Wortham said. 

BI schedule 

8/25 – at Jackson-Reed (DC) 

W 38-0 

9/1 – at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (MD) 

L, 19-13 

9/15 – at St. Stephen’s/ St. Agnes 

9/23 – St. John’s Catholic Prep (MD) 

9/29 – at Annandale 

10/7 – at Archbishop Carroll (DC) 

10/14 – St. John Paul the Great 

10/21 – Paul VI 

10/28 – at O’Connell 

11/4 – St. Mary’s Ryken 

Next week’s Times will contain football previews for St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School and Episcopal High School, which began their seasons after ACHS and BI. 

 

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