0
Votes

Highlanders Determined to Turn Around Football Fortunes

Patrick’s squad opens new season this Thursday at W-L.

A day following last year’s season-ending 42-7 loss at cross-town rival Langley, the McLean High football team gathered for a final team meeting. Following such a demoralizing loss that capped a winless season for the Highlanders, head coach Bruce Patrick, who was completing his first season at the helm of the struggling program, was uncertain what his players’ overall mindset would be for the day-after gathering.

All things considered, the Highlanders’ mentality was not bad. The players, while disappointed, frustrated and perhaps embarrassed by the team’s record, also expressed a determination to get better. Patrick was particularly impressed that everyone attended the Saturday meeting and, from that moment, had confidence about the program’s future.

“Going 0-10 is not what any [coach] would want to be in their first year,” said Patrick. “[Going winless] had the potential to be demoralizing and to be a program killer. But there was a 100 percent showing at the meeting and we talked about the season.”

The Highlanders talked about the season’s lack of success and the reasons behind it. The overwhelming sentiment afterwards was that better preparation by the returning players would be the key to improvement.

“We had to have a major commitment level,” said Patrick.

And, over the ensuing spring and summer, Patrick said his team worked extremely hard in both its offseason weight room and running programs. McLean coaches, players and fans are hoping all the dedication and hard work will pay off with a handful of wins in the 2009 season.

“The kids worked hard [in the offseason] and enjoyed it, even though it was one of the hardest things they ever did,” said Patrick. “They really responded. Kids will work hard if you demand it.”

The Highlanders open up the new season this Thursday night in Arlington against non-district opponent Washington-Lee.

“They are really excited,” said Patrick, son of legendary and former Mount Vernon High football coach Bruce Patrick, who is the special teams’ coach on his son’s staff. “They’re in better shape. They’re excited to get the monkey off their back [of not having won in over a year]. They are well aware they haven’t won a game since 2007.”

ONE OF MCLEAN’S closest games last year came in an early season, 21-14, loss to visiting Washington-Lee. The Highlanders are hoping to turn the tables on the Generals in the season opener between the two teams this week.

“That would be a great feeling,” said Patrick, of a potential win. “It will be an exciting game.”

The Highlanders will be led by such players as returning starting quarterback Will Hecht, who started all 10 games at the position last year, and game-breaker threat Riley Beiro, McLean’s top skill position player who missed the final half of last season as a result of stress fracture injuries to both ankles.

“I think we have to control the football and not turn it over,” said Patrick, on keys for his team when it clashes with W-L. “I think we will be a good running team. The other thing is we need to control their [team] speed a little bit.”

One of the important factors to McLean winning some games this season will be keeping Beiro healthy for the season. One of his best games last year came in a season-opening home loss to Annandale in which Beiro rushed for two touchdowns and also scored on a kickoff return. Despite playing in just half his team’s games in ‘08, Beiro earned Second Team All-Liberty District honors.

“The kid is a player,” said Patrick, of his versatile standout who averaged eight yards per carry in 2008. “If we can keep him healthy, I think our chances will be better this year. This year he will be our primary ball carrier.”

Hecht, the team’s tall, 6-foot-3 inch signal caller, had his ups and downs at the position last year. But with a year’s varsity experience behind him, he is an improved player.

“Will has the tools,” said Patrick. “We’re looking for consistency. He had a lot of [pass rush] pressure on him [in ‘08] and several dropped balls. His statistics didn’t look great.”

This preseason, Hecht played exceptionally well when he threw for 200-plus yards against non-Northern Region opponent C.D. Hylton of Woodbridge.

“He has the potential to be one heck of a quarterback,” said the coach. “He’s got such good arm strength.”

One of Hecht’s key throwing targets will be senior tightend Jonathan Freeman, a solid receiver and blocker who caught six balls for 104 yards against Hylton.

“He’s a big target and he has soft hands,” said Patrick, of the 6-3 receiver.

Other key players and leaders on this year’s McLean team include senior lineman (center, defensive tackle) Anthony Maestri, junior cornerback Chase Mills, who had four interceptions and earned Second Team All-District accolades last year, and senior linebacker Bobby Ludwick.

A day following last year’s season-ending 42-7 loss at cross-town rival Langley, the McLean High football team gathered for a final team meeting. Following such a demoralizing loss that capped a winless season for the Highlanders, head coach Bruce Patrick, who was completing his first season at the helm of the struggling program, was uncertain what his players’ overall mindset would be for the day-after gathering.

All things considered, the Highlanders’ mentality was not bad. The players, while disappointed, frustrated and perhaps embarrassed by the team’s record, also expressed a determination to get better. Patrick was particularly impressed that everyone attended the Saturday meeting and, from that moment, had confidence about the program’s future.

“Going 0-10 is not what any [coach] would want to be in their first year,” said Patrick. “[Going winless] had the potential to be demoralizing and to be a program killer. But there was a 100 percent showing at the meeting and we talked about the season.”

The Highlanders talked about the season’s lack of success and the reasons behind it. The overwhelming sentiment afterwards was that better preparation by the returning players would be the key to improvement.

“We had to have a major commitment level,” said Patrick.

And, over the ensuing spring and summer, Patrick said his team worked extremely hard in both its offseason weight room and running programs. McLean coaches, players and fans are hoping all the dedication and hard work will pay off with a handful of wins in the 2009 season.

“The kids worked hard [in the offseason] and enjoyed it, even though it was one of the hardest things they ever did,” said Patrick. “They really responded. Kids will work hard if you demand it.”

The Highlanders open up the new season this Thursday night in Arlington against non-district opponent Washington-Lee.

“They are really excited,” said Patrick, son of legendary and former Mount Vernon High football coach Bruce Patrick, who is the special teams’ coach on his son’s staff. “They’re in better shape. They’re excited to get the monkey off their back [of not having won in over a year]. They are well aware they haven’t won a game since 2007.”

ONE OF MCLEAN’S closest games last year came in an early season, 21-14, loss to visiting Washington-Lee. The Highlanders are hoping to turn the tables on the Generals in the season opener between the two teams this week.

“That would be a great feeling,” said Patrick, of a potential win. “It will be an exciting game.”

The Highlanders will be led by such players as returning starting quarterback Will Hecht, who started all 10 games at the position last year, and game-breaker threat Riley Beiro, McLean’s top skill position player who missed the final half of last season as a result of stress fracture injuries to both ankles.

“I think we have to control the football and not turn it over,” said Patrick, on keys for his team when it clashes with W-L. “I think we will be a good running team. The other thing is we need to control their [team] speed a little bit.”

One of the important factors to McLean winning some games this season will be keeping Beiro healthy for the season. One of his best games last year came in a season-opening home loss to Annandale in which Beiro rushed for two touchdowns and also scored on a kickoff return. Despite playing in just half his team’s games in ‘08, Beiro earned Second Team All-Liberty District honors.

“The kid is a player,” said Patrick, of his versatile standout who averaged eight yards per carry in 2008. “If we can keep him healthy, I think our chances will be better this year. This year he will be our primary ball carrier.”

Hecht, the team’s tall, 6-foot-3 inch signal caller, had his ups and downs at the position last year. But with a year’s varsity experience behind him, he is an improved player.

“Will has the tools,” said Patrick. “We’re looking for consistency. He had a lot of [pass rush] pressure on him [in ‘08] and several dropped balls. His statistics didn’t look great.”

This preseason, Hecht played exceptionally well when he threw for 200-plus yards against non-Northern Region opponent C.D. Hylton of Woodbridge.

“He has the potential to be one heck of a quarterback,” said the coach. “He’s got such good arm strength.”

One of Hecht’s key throwing targets will be senior tightend Jonathan Freeman, a solid receiver and blocker who caught six balls for 104 yards against Hylton.

“He’s a big target and he has soft hands,” said Patrick, of the 6-3 receiver.

Other key players and leaders on this year’s McLean team include senior lineman (center, defensive tackle) Anthony Maestri, junior cornerback Chase Mills, who had four interceptions and earned Second Team All-District accolades last year, and senior linebacker Bobby Ludwick.