T.C. Williams playmaker Cortez Taylor shed tears of disappointment as he stood on the field at Parker-Gray Stadium. The senior said the Titans were tense during his final game in a T.C. uniform.
A few yards away, quarterback Joe Hargrove said the Titans took their opponent lightly, leading to a poor performance. Two fourth-quarter touchdown passes made the senior think T.C. Williams would overcome it.
Outside the locker room, head coach Dennis Randolph said he was shocked. The Titans had won consecutive games entering their season finale. How could this happen?
Many thoughts and emotions flowed before, during and after Saturday’s showdown against Robert E. Lee. With a chance to secure the program’s first playoff berth since 1990, hope and excitement surrounded T.C. Williams. But in the end, a fourth-quarter rally fell short of compensating for three quarters of struggle, and the Titans were left with despair and disbelief.
Robert E. Lee defeated T.C. Williams 27-13 on Saturday, knocking the Titans out of the playoff picture. A victory would have given T.C. Williams its first winning season since 1995. Instead, the Titans had to settle for a feat they accomplished with a victory over South County the previous week — the program’s first season of at least five wins since 1996.
"I’m really at a loss for words," Randolph said. "This is really disappointing. I never thought for a minute we were going to lose to them because our kids were playing really well. I think we’re all a little bit shocked."
T.C. Williams’ playoff drought extended to 19 seasons.
"Everyone just wanted it really, really badly," senior right guard Luke Dorris said. "We all could imagine how it felt."
THE TITANS FELL behind 20-0 and didn’t score until the fourth quarter. Hargrove connected with receiver Will Rossi for a pair of touchdown passes in the final 10 minutes, pulling the T.C. Williams within seven, but it wasn’t enough. The Lancers stopped the Titans’ potential game-tying drive with less than four minutes remaining and countered with the contest’s final touchdown.
"We could have had it. We could have pulled it out," Hargrove said. "[After] back-to-back touchdowns, I thought we had it."
Hargrove completed 10 of 33 passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice in the first half. The second interception came early in the second quarter, when Lee’s Walter Yavorski returned a tipped pass 70 yards for a touchdown and a 6-0 Lancers lead.
Lee (7-3) padded its lead in the final minute of the first half, when quarterback Greg Lopez connected with Aaron Jackson for a 43-yard touchdown and a 13-0 advantage. Lee then took a 20-0 lead on a 21-yard touchdown run by Jazmier Williams on the first play of the fourth quarter.
That’s when the T.C. Williams offense started to click. On the ensuing possession, Hargrove connected with Rossi for a 23-yard gain on fourth-and-three, and later found Rossi for a 25-yard touchdown. Two possessions later, Hargrove threw a 16-yard scoring strike to Rossi on fourth-and-10.
Rossi caught five passes for 68 yards.
Hargrove missed the season’s first seven games with a fractured right, non-throwing wrist. The senior made his first varsity start Oct. 24 against West Potomac, during which he set the single-game school record for passing yards (297) and tied the single-game touchdown mark (4). But while Hargrove showed he was a playmaker, Randolph said his quarterback’s time away from the game caught up with him.
"We made some mistakes on offense [where] we should have converted some things and we didn’t do it," the coach said. "We wouldn’t have been here without Joe. He got us here winning those two games. But his inexperience [showed]. He needs to get some valuable experience. The kid played three varsity football games and he did a great job."
Williams led Lee with 119 rushing yards on 21 carries. Idreis Augustus rushed 19 times for 117 yards and one touchdown.
THE TITANS will have some talent returning next season. Defensively, the Titans will return lineman Jay Whitmire, linebackers Damien Benton and Tevin Isley and safety Israel Richardson. On offense, Rossi and receiver Bennie Jenkins will return, along with the lineman Whitmire. Doug Murphy will enter 2010 with the most varsity experience at quarterback.
While T.C. Williams fell short of the playoffs, the Titans will look to build on what they did accomplish.
"[A] 5-5 (record) is mediocre," Randolph said. "But here, the kids have to get to the point where they can believe that they can get here every year. That’s the key."