The McLean High football team was missing some key parts when it went up against visiting non-district opponent Wakefield last Friday night. A year ago when the Highlanders went 0-10, such a scenario would have spelled certain defeat. But such is not the case this season.
McLean, despite being without both its starting quarterback and top playmaker, handled the Warriors with relative ease, winning 28-8. The Highlanders, with the win, improved to 2-1 on the still-young season. With at least a couple more victories over the course of the schedule, McLean’s faithful will be able to call this a true turnaround season.
“I think they went into the game with a `business as usual’ [mindset] and believed they could win,” said second year McLean head coach Jim Patrick, of his team’s positive approach despite not being at full roster strength.
Will Hecht, McLean’s senior starting quarterback, and senior running back Riley Beiro, one of the top players in the Northern Region, both missed the Wakefield game due to personal issues. The two players are expected to be in the McLean line-up again this Friday night when the Highlanders open up their Liberty District schedule at 2-1 Madison.
“I don’t think our players really dwelled on the fact those two kids were out,” said Patrick, who also mentioned a few other players missed the game due to illnesses. “We told the guys the game was still going to count, win or loss, and that guys really needed to step up.”
And McLean certainly had players step up. One of those was junior Chase Mills, who played quarterback in Friday’s win. Not only was Hecht not available on Friday, but McLean’s second strong signal caller was ill and also not able to play. So Mills, who had a little background at the quarterback position from his JV playing days, was called upon to start against the Warriors.
“He managed the game and was very confident,” said Patrick, of Mills’ play behind the center. “From a leadership standpoint he did very good. He’s an athlete, he’s tough and he took the personal responsibility [of running the offense].”
Mills ran the football seven times for 35 yards and completed 1-of-6 passes for 15 yards.
Also stepping up in a big way was junior halfback Jimmy Ludwick, who received a bulk load of the ball carries in place of Beiro. It was a big night for Ludwick, who carried the ball 42 times for 196 yards and three touchdowns.
A week earlier, Ludwick, who is primarily used as a blocker out of the backfield, made two big catches in the Highlanders’ 28-21 loss at Herndon.
“I now have another guy I can give the ball to,” said Patrick, referring to Ludwick. “He’s a tough kid. Both [Mills and Ludwick] stepped up and played well. ”
Another good rushing game came from running back David Fontenot, a junior who carried the ball nine times for 75 yards.
<b>PATRICK SAID</b> his entire offensive line was intact for the Wakefield game, making things somewhat smoother for the skill position players.
McLean, which led 9-0 at halftime, received an outstanding game from place kicker Drew Hunt, who nailed field goals of 23, 34 and 20 yards.
On defense, the Highlanders totally shut Wakefield down. The Warriors’ offense totaled just 68 yards and put up no points.
Wakefield’s lone touchdown came defensively on a fumble return.
McLean should be at full strength again when it travels to Vienna on Friday night to take on the Warhawks, who have beaten McLean annually throughout this decade.
“We’re definitely excited to have them back and ready to play,” said Patrick, of having key players back in the line-up. “Madison’s obviously a very good team. They will be a good test for us to see where we are.”