In so many ways, the Park View High football team’s season-opening showing last Friday night was typical of the emotional roller coaster fans expect to see in the first week of prep school action. The home team Patriots, in their down-to-the-wire, 24-21, non-district loss to visiting Sherando (Stephens City), showcased plenty of good things that could indicate a big season ahead. On the other hand, the Patriots made too many mishaps to prevent what could have been a truly riveting victory for a highly successful program that stumbled to an uncharacteristic 3-7 record last year.
“It’s a really tough loss,” summed up Park View senior two-way lineman Robert Hayes, who contributed a sack and all-around stellar play during his team’s disappointing defeat, which became official when Sherando junior kicker Justin Haines’ 43-yard field goal barely cleared the crossbar on the game’s final play.
Once the game-winning kick was made, a particularly impressive boot considering the field was wet and muddy due to rain earlier that evening, the victorious Warriors celebrated with joy as their large, traveling fandom roared their appreciation from the stadium’s visiting side bleachers. The Park View players, meanwhile, were naturally stunned and the home crowd hushed as the reality of the defeat set in.
It was a game in which Park View, which got touchdowns from each of its three units – offense, defense and special teams – could have won had it protected the football better offensively. But five turnovers were, in the end, too much for the Patriots to overcome.
“The turnovers are absolutely unacceptable,” said veteran Park View head coach Andy Hill, whose team will hit the road the next three weeks against non-district foes Millbrook (Winchester) and Liberty, along with Dulles District and defending state AA champion rival Broad Run, before returning home again on Oct. 2 for a contest against district opponent Loudoun County.
THE SLOPPY FIELD conditions certainly played a factor in a game which saw both teams combine for nine turnovers. Park View’s offense was limited to 157 total yards (84 rushing) as Sherando’s stingy defense limited the Patriots to just five first downs on the night. Even so, Park View, behind a first quarter punt return of 66 yards for a score by Tommy Sedeski and a second quarter, 55-yard interception runback by Michael Devaney, took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
However, Sherando struck for two long offensive scoring strikes in the third quarter – a 32-yard run by running back Roger Smith and a 50-yard passing play between quarterback Corey Rice and receiver Dalton Boyd – to take a 21-14 lead into the final quarter.
Park View, following the touchdown that gave the Warriors their 21-14 lead, answered quickly by moving 58 yards on three plays on its ensuing possession, the game-tying score coming when senior QB Brandon Lee and all-purpose skill position standout Sedeski combined for a touchdown on a shuttle pass play in which Sedeski, after catching the short range pass, bolted towards the right side of the field before diving towards the hash mark and barely over the end zone for the score which, following the point after kick by Kevin Flamenco, made it 21-all early in the final quarter.
“The play opened up perfectly,” said Sedeski , of the touchdown. “Brandon Lee read it perfectly and shuttled me the ball.”
But late in the game, Sherando’s Boyd came up with one of the biggest plays of the night when, from his defensive backfield position, he intercepted a long pass from QB Lee before making a long return. Sherando netted 15 more yards on the return as a result of a Park View penalty. As a result of the long interception return and penalty, Sherando was set up at the Park View 25 yard line with just nine seconds left to play. The Warriors attempted one pass play, an incompletion, before sending in its field goal unit.
Haines, the Warriors’ kicker, had missed a 35-yard field goal earlier in the game. But, with the game on the line in the waning seconds, he nailed his second attempt of the night as the scoreboard clock’s final seconds ticked away.
Ever since a season-ending loss to Broad Run last year, the Patriots have looked forward to the 2009 season and erasing the memory of the losing ’08 season. Park View, ever since learning it would open this fall campaign against a Sherando program that eliminated it from the region playoffs two years ago, especially looked forward to a season-opening meeting with the Warriors. In the end, Park View gave the Warriors all they could handle before falling short.
“We’ve been preparing for this game since last November,” said Sedeski, who finished the night with two touchdowns. “We knew we had them scheduled for week one. To see it end [on a game-winning kick] is tough.”
Smith, Sherando’s go-to running back, rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries. Park View’s defense was focused on stopping Smith and often held him to short gains. But the 6-foot, 175-pound halfback had seven carries in which he gained 10 or more yards.
“He’s a big play back,” said Hill. “I’d give their offensive line credit and the coach who was calling the plays credit.”
For Park View, QB Lee (six completions for 73 yards, 1 TD, 3 interceptions) struggled at times, but played better in the second half. One of the game’s best plays occurred when he threw a beautiful ball down the left side of the field to Sedeski for 38 yards late in the third quarter, setting up the Patriots’ lone offensive touchdown two plays later.
“I think Brandon is one of the best athletes in the district,” said Hill. “He is our quarterback.”