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TC Football Creates Excitement To Start 2009-10 Season

Titans boys basketball looking for team effort, girls searching for consistency

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Robert Carter and the T.C. Williams football team fell one win short of the playoffs in 2009. The Titans have not been to the playoffs since 1990.

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Senior Nicole Burdett, left, and junior Natalie Brown helped T.C. Williams win the Alexandria City Volleyball Tournament in October.

A pair of narrow, nail-biting victories put the T.C. Williams football team in position to secure its first playoff berth since 1990. With a chance to end a 18-year drought, it was fitting the Titans waited until the final moments of their regular season finale to make their move.

After falling behind 20-0 to Robert E. Lee on Nov. 7, T.C. Williams scored 13 straight points and had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead with less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. But the Titans’ drive stalled and their season ended with a 27-13 loss.

While T.C. Williams fell short of postseason competition, the excitement the Titans generated made the 2009 season memorable. The once-dominant program won five games for the first time since 1996 and fell one win shy of its first winning season since 1995 — the Titans’ only winning season in 19 years. Starting quarterback Joe Hargrove returned to play in the season’s final three games after suffering a fractured non-throwing (right) wrist in a preseason scrimmage.

The T.C. Williams program won state championships in 1971 and 1987, and was made famous by the 2000 Disney movie "Remember the Titans." During the 2009 season, the Titans wanted to make their own history. What they did was give hope to future Titan teams and open T.C. Williams’ 2009-10 athletic season in dramatic fashion.

<b>T.C. Williams</b>

What happened in the fall: The football team won five games, including a Sept. 17 upset of Oakton, considered one of the top teams in the Washington D.C.-metro area at the time. Oakton appeared on its way to a victory when T.C. Williams linebacker Damien Benton forced a fumble and fellow Titan Chelo Abbe picked up the loose ball and scampered 50 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. T.C. Williams added a two-point conversion and won 15-9.

Hargrove set the single-game school record for passing yards with 297 on Oct. 24 during a 38-37 victory over West Potomac. Hargrove also tied the single-game school mark for touchdown passes with four.

Benton was a defensive presence for the Titans. Cortez Taylor was a threat to score every time he touched the ball and lineman Jay Whitmire was a force on each side of the ball.

The Titans also beat Mount Vernon (33-0), Annandale (31-7) and South County (17-10).

The volleyball team finished 8-10 and lost to West Springfield, 3-0, in the opening round of the Patriot District tournament. The highlight of the Titans’ season came when they defeated Episcopal for the city championship on Oct. 10. Led by senior Miranda Branch’s 20 kills, the Titans defeated the Maroon, 3-2. Episcopal had swiped momentum from T.C. Williams, winning sets three and four after falling behind 2-0. The Maroon led 9-5 in set five when Branch took over and carried the Titans to victory.

Middle blocker Kate Whitmire emerged as a force at the net during her freshman season and should be one of T.C. Williams’ top players for years to come.

The field hockey team finished 9-10, losing in the opening round of the regional tournament. The Titans defeated West Potomac in the opening round of the Patriot District tournament.

What’s next: The boys basketball team looks to continue its Patriot District winning streak. The Titans have not lost a district game since the 2004-05 season.

The Titans dropped their 2009-10 season opener to Hayfield on Dec. 8 but rebounded with a pair of victories. The team is led by the senior duo of Ryan Yates and Billy Rowland, but head coach Julian King said he wants to establish a deep team with many contributors.

T.C. Williams returns to district play at 7:45 p.m. Jan. 8 against Lake Braddock.

The girls basketball team, which lost four of its first six games, looks to bounce back. The Titans are trying to develop consistency during their first season after the graduation of all-American Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who now plays for the University of North Carolina. Junior forward Jasmine Norman is the team’s top scorer and rebounder. Rainie Summa is the Titans’ top perimeter threat.

T.C. Williams, which dropped its first two Patriot District games, returns to district play at 7:45 p.m. Jan. 8 at Lake Braddock.

<b>Bishop Ireton</b>

What happened in the fall: The boys cross country team won the team title at the Virginia State Catholic Championship on Oct. 27 in Newport News, edging Peninsula Catholic. It was the boys’ first team state championship since 1986. Ireton junior Michael Andersen won the individual title. The Cardinals girls finished second.

"Oct. 27, 2009, was truly a historical day for the Bishop Ireton cross country team," head coach Brad Byrnes said in an e-mail. "Our performance as a team down in Newport News was a reflection of how far we’ve come as a program over the past few years. Everybody ran a great race and I’m proud to coach this talented group of student-athletes."

The football team finished 7-3, including a 19-7 win over St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes on Sept. 26. The Cardinals won four of their first five games, three of their final four and averaged 24.8 points per contest for the season.

Quarterback Michael Larrabee and running back Doug Vines were the team’s top offensive threats. Larrabee completed 67 of 128 pass attempts for 613 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed 56 times for 301 yards and three scores. Vines led the team in rush attempts (120), rushing yards (622), rushing touchdowns (7), receptions (26) and receiving touchdowns (2). He finished with 206 receiving yards.

The volleyball team finished 10-13, losing to Paul VI in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference quarterfinals. Led by 12 kills from Lauren Monroe, the Cardinals defeated St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes in the consolation match of the Alexandria City Volleyball Tournament.

The boys soccer team finished 5-14-2 under first-year coach Jon Norem, falling to O’Connell in the WCAC tournament.

What’s next: The boys basketball team, which started 4-3, looks to improve under first-year coach Neil Berkman. The Cardinals defeated Georgetown Prep (54-51), Don Bosco Cristo Rey (68-30), St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (81-66) and Glenelg Country (75-52).

The Cardinals won three WCAC games in the previous three seasons. Berkman is trying to change the culture surrounding the Ireton program, which includes winning games in its uber-competitive conference. The Cardinals lost their conference opener to national power DeMatha, 84-50, on Dec. 15, giving Ireton a glimpse of what it takes to be one of the best teams in the country.

The Cardinals travel to take on St. John’s at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8.

The hockey team looks to continue its winning ways after a 3-0 start. Robert Chastain has been solid in net for the Cardinals, while Dillon Roach is one of the team’s top scoring threats.

<b>St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes</b>

What happened in the fall: The field hockey team finished 16-5-2, losing to St. Catherine’s, 1-0, in the state semifinal on Nov. 13.

The football team started 5-1 but lost its last three games to finish 5-4. The volleyball team finished 2-13, beating Stone Ridge and Holton-Arms. The girls soccer team was 8-8-1, losing to Bullis in the ISL semifinal.

What’s next: The boys basketball team, which started the season 4-3, travels to take on Georgetown Prep at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8. Saints coach Kevin McLinton said he was looking for consistent effort from his team after a Dec. 9 loss to Bishop Ireton.

The wrestling team, which started 2-2, is led by Tyler Haley, Doc Jacobsen, Erik Romanin and Kyle Swenson.

<b>Episcopal</b>

What happened in the fall: The boys soccer team won the Virginia Independent School state championship, finishing with a 19-0-3 record. The team finished ranked No. 3 in the nation, according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. The Maroon has a 45-game undefeated streak after last season’s 23-0 record.

The football team rebounded from a 1-4 start to finish 4-5. Three of the team’s five losses were decided by seven points or less. The Maroon defeated St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes 14-12 on Oct. 31.

The boys cross country team finished second at the state meet and the girls finished third. The volleyball team finished 12-7, losing in the state tournament. The Maroon finished second in the City of Alexandria Volleyball Tournament. The field hockey team finished 12-7, losing in the state tournament. The girls soccer team finished 2-8-2.

What’s next: The boys basketball team, which won four of its first five games, looks to improve. The Maroon hosts Woodberry Forest at 5 p.m. Jan. 9. The boys squash team looks to remain undefeated (2-0) when it travels to face St. Andrew’s (DE) at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 8. The girls squash team (0-2) looks for its first win when it travels to face the Bryn Mawr School at 4 p.m. Jan. 8.