A lot of pinned-up frustration was released during one sizzling, breakthrough night of football for the McLean Highlanders last Friday night as the winless program of 2008 got 2009 started off in grand fashion with a long-awaited 44-14 win over visiting Washington-Lee.
The season-opening win was much relief for a McLean team that was 0-10 last year. It was the first victory for the Highlanders since a week eight triumph over Jefferson High in 2007. That year’s McLean team finished 2-8 with wins over Stuart and the Colonials.
Friday’s win was the first experienced under head coach Jim Patrick, who is beginning his second season at the helm of the team.
“They were excited, obviously,” said Patrick, of his team’s overflow of joy in the moments following the win over the Generals. “They worked so hard for that. They went through a year [in 2008] with people telling them they weren’t any good – they wouldn’t believe that.”
Riley Beiro, McLean’s standout running back who missed the second half of last season with knee injury problems, experienced a career night as he rushed for 293 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. Beiro took advantage of a stronger, better offensive line in front of him that opened up large holes throughout the game.
Coach Patrick and his staff have elected to play Beiro exclusively on offense this season, as opposed to his two-way role a year ago when he saw time at both safety and linebacker positions on defense along with his offensive duties. That could change over the course of the season, but currently the plan is for Beiro’s on-field action to be limited to offense. That, said Patrick, will keep the star Highlander fresh all game long and, hopefully, healthy throughout the season.
McLean quarterback Will Hecht tossed a couple of touchdown passes, along with two interceptions, in the win over W-L. For the night, he completed seven of his 12 passes for 83 yards. Receiver John Fremermen caught touchdown passes from 34 and 25 yards.
Defensively, McLean forced five turnovers. Senior Bobby Ludwick forced a couple of those turnovers and was named the Highlanders’ defensive MVP in the game.
Coach Patrick was thrilled with his team’s win, but indicated the victory does not necessarily mean the Highlanders have arrived.
“I think its wait-and-see, but we’ve made great strides as a team,” said the coach.
MCLEAN will travel to Herndon this Friday night to take on a Hornets’ team that soundly defeated a young Jefferson team last week, 61-6. Herndon, under coach Joe Sheaffer, is coming off a 2008 season in which it qualified for the Div. 6 Northern Region playoffs. The team is led by quarterback Zack Ozycz, who is in his third varsity year at signal caller. The 6-foot-4 inch, 205-pound Ozycz has gotten better each season and had a terrific training camp.
“He throws the ball real well and is the leader on the football team,” said Sheaffer.”He’s getting better and throwing better every year. He’s a capable passer and runner.”
Other key returning Herndon players this season include safety/running back Devon Thompson, a Second Team All-Concorde District selection last year at safety; tailback/linebacker Austin Moore; receiver Nick Impellizzeri, a Second Team All-District selection last year; running back/defensive back Randell Anane, a First Team All-District defensive back in ‘08; and running back/linebacker Sam Groter.
Last year was a breakthrough season of sorts for Herndon because it qualified for the region playoffs for the first time in five years. The team’s biggest win of the year came in a 29-28 homecoming triumph over Westfield late in the season. That victory improved Herndon to 6-2. But the Hornets lost their next three games, including a playoff setback to the same Westfield team it had beaten in the regular season. Sheaffer was disappointed the 2008 Hornets did not play better over the final few weeks of the season. He said the team lost its game preparation focus after the win over the Bulldogs and never recaptured the same magic thereafter.
Certainly, Herndon will present McLean with a big test this week.
Following the meeting against Herndon, McLean will return home on Thursday, Sept. 17 for a game against Wakefield.
Langley, coming off a lopsided week one home loss to Lake Braddock last week, will host Chantilly this Friday night. The Chargers, under coach Mike Lalli, lost a close opener game at South County, 23-21. Following its game with the Chargers, Langley will travel to Madison on Sept. 17 for its Liberty District opener.