0
Votes

On Homecoming, Highlanders Win in Style

McLean overcomes 10-point deficit to remain unbeaten; next up is Stone Bridge.

The McLean High football team received Fairfax High's best shot last Friday night and still came out victorious. At game's end, it was the Highlanders - the still unbeaten Highlanders - who, despite trailing by 10 points in the second half, came out on top, 24-20, in their week eight homecoming game against their Liberty District opponent.

"It was huge with it being homecoming," said McLean senior running back Jimmy Ludwick. "There was so much excitement going into the game."

The win improved McLean's record to 8-0 - the first time the program has won its first eight games since the 1995 season when the Highlanders, then under head coach Karl Buckwalter, captured the Northern Region title and finished the season 12-1.

Homecoming is always a special occasion at McLean. But with the football team - 0-10 just two years ago - embarking on one of its best-ever seasons, the emotion level was near a fever pitch going into the Fairfax game. The Rebels, under first year head coach Kevin Simonds, had shown their potential earlier in the season by upsetting one of the Northern Region's elite programs - Robinson, 20-12. Going into Friday's contest, Fairfax had won two of its previous three games and was playing some of its best football of the season.

<b>FOR A GOOD WHILE</b> during the second half it looked as if the Rebels were going to put a damper on the Highlanders' homecoming celebration and hand the home team its first loss. The guests, leading 14-10 at halftime, had taken the second half kickoff and marched 65 yards in seven plays to extend their lead to 20-10 - the touchdown coming on a six-yard run by talented Rebels' back Marcus Bailey (21 carries, 163 yards, 2 TDs). The point-after kick missed but McLean found itself trailing 20-10.

The last time the Highlanders had trailed by as much was in a week four game at Madison when the McLean trailed 14-0 in the first quarter before rallying for a 24-22 district triumph.

On this night McLean, as good teams will do, once again rallied to win. On its first possession of the second half following the Fairfax score, the Highlanders displayed their fortitude by coming back with a touchdown drive of their own - one that covered 67 yards in eight plays. The touchdown came when backup quarterback Ryan McColgan (3 TD runs), a running back making his first start at QB as a result of an injury to starting signal caller Chase Mills, broke loose off the left side for a 21-yard touchdown option play run. On the second down play, McColgan, a junior, broke several arm tackles on his way to the end zone. Chris Rosenbaum's extra point kick brought the home team within 20-17.

Two possessions later, McLean began another drive at its own 32-yard line, still trailing by three with 7 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the game. In perhaps its most important and most impressive scoring march of the season, the Highlanders moved the ball 68 yards in 10 plays - the touchdown coming on an 11-yard QB sneak by McColgan on a third-and-two play. The quarterback, on the touchdown, appeared to be stopped for a short gain before breaking through into open field and into the left side of the end zone for the go-ahead score with just three minutes remaining. Rosenbaum's extra point kick made the score 24-20 McLean.

Fairfax would not go down easy and moved the ball from its 31 to the McLean 14 yard line in the game's final minutes. On the game's final play, Fairfax quarterback Spencer MacLeod (6 of 14, 99 yards, 1 TD) threw a pass into the left side of the end zone intended for senior Sam Bechert. McLean cornerback Connor Gilmartin was covering Bechert closely and the pass fell for an incompletion to end the game.

It was a spectacular comeback and finish for the still undefeated Highlanders.

<b>MCLEAN</b> had a terrific game running the football, led by Rafi Enriquez (23 carries, 130 yards). McColgan (56 yards rushing) and Ludwick (41) contributed to the 200-plus running yardage night for the Highlanders.

"Rafi did a great job running and Ryan stepped up [at QB] and made the right reads," said Ludwick. "We knew we could win it. We came out in the second half [on offense] and worked hard and hit our holes."

McColgan, going into the Fairfax game, had gotten brief appearances at quarterback in a couple of games. During homecoming week he worked with offensive coach Greg Sullivan during practices to get better acquainted with the position. By game day he admittedly was a nervous wreck. But it didn't show too much during the game. McColgan, on the game's opening possession, led the Highlanders on a scoring drive that concluded with a 38-yard field goal by Rosenbaum.

He threw an interception in Fairfax territory on McLean's following possession and was pretty discouraged.

"That was very disappointing," said McColgan.

But his coaches and teammates, including coach Sullivan, Ludwick, and senior receiver Bruce Beatty, encouraged him and told him to forget the mistake.

He did. On McLean's next possession, McColgan led the Highlanders 75 yards on 12 plays and scored his team's touchdown on a one-yard sneak to make it 10-0 McLean.

Fairfax, however, would score the game's next 20 points to lead 20-10 in the third quarter.

"Fairfax certainly has the ability to score quickly," said McLean head coach Jim Patrick. "We were certainly on edge."

But McColgan, behind his steady offensive line and the help of his skill position teammates, directed touchdown drives on two of McLean's final three possessions of the game and the Highlanders won.

"I felt comfortable," said McColgan, of playing the position all game. "Getting this win was so important."

Coach Patrick was proud of McColgan's showing.

"He's just a good athlete," said Patrick. "He had all the reps [at QB] all week at practice and we felt confident with him. He had played very little at quarterback - against Marshall and Jefferson. I thought he did a nice job running the offense."

Mills, the McLean starting QB who was sidelined with a foot injury, has played well all season long. He will likely be back at quarterback this week when McLean travels to Ashburn to take on district and region power Stone Bridge, also 8-0.

Even though he did not play, it was still a good night for Mills on homecoming. He watched his team win and he was also named homecoming king during halftime festivities.

With Stone Bridge looming, McLean badly needed the victory over Fairfax (4-4).

"It was an important win for our confidence," said Patrick, of coming back to defeat the Rebels. "Stone Bridge is [also] 8-0 so this should give us confidence that we can play with them."

The McLean High football team received Fairfax High's best shot last Friday night and still came out victorious. At game's end, it was the Highlanders - the still unbeaten Highlanders - who, despite trailing by 10 points in the second half, came out on top, 24-20, in their week eight homecoming game against their Liberty District opponent.

"It was huge with it being homecoming," said McLean senior running back Jimmy Ludwick. "There was so much excitement going into the game."

The win improved McLean's record to 8-0 - the first time the program has won its first eight games since the 1995 season when the Highlanders, then under head coach Karl Buckwalter, captured the Northern Region title and finished the season 12-1.

Homecoming is always a special occasion at McLean. But with the football team - 0-10 just two years ago - embarking on one of its best-ever seasons, the emotion level was near a fever pitch going into the Fairfax game. The Rebels, under first year head coach Kevin Simonds, had shown their potential earlier in the season by upsetting one of the Northern Region's elite programs - Robinson, 20-12. Going into Friday's contest, Fairfax had won two of its previous three games and was playing some of its best football of the season.

<b>FOR A GOOD WHILE</b> during the second half it looked as if the Rebels were going to put a damper on the Highlanders' homecoming celebration and hand the home team its first loss. The guests, leading 14-10 at halftime, had taken the second half kickoff and marched 65 yards in seven plays to extend their lead to 20-10 - the touchdown coming on a six-yard run by talented Rebels' back Marcus Bailey (21 carries, 163 yards, 2 TDs). The point-after kick missed but McLean found itself trailing 20-10.

The last time the Highlanders had trailed by as much was in a week four game at Madison when the McLean trailed 14-0 in the first quarter before rallying for a 24-22 district triumph.

On this night McLean, as good teams will do, once again rallied to win. On its first possession of the second half following the Fairfax score, the Highlanders displayed their fortitude by coming back with a touchdown drive of their own - one that covered 67 yards in eight plays. The touchdown came when backup quarterback Ryan McColgan (3 TD runs), a running back making his first start at QB as a result of an injury to starting signal caller Chase Mills, broke loose off the left side for a 21-yard touchdown option play run. On the second down play, McColgan, a junior, broke several arm tackles on his way to the end zone. Chris Rosenbaum's extra point kick brought the home team within 20-17.

Two possessions later, McLean began another drive at its own 32-yard line, still trailing by three with 7 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the game. In perhaps its most important and most impressive scoring march of the season, the Highlanders moved the ball 68 yards in 10 plays - the touchdown coming on an 11-yard QB sneak by McColgan on a third-and-two play. The quarterback, on the touchdown, appeared to be stopped for a short gain before breaking through into open field and into the left side of the end zone for the go-ahead score with just three minutes remaining. Rosenbaum's extra point kick made the score 24-20 McLean.

Fairfax would not go down easy and moved the ball from its 31 to the McLean 14 yard line in the game's final minutes. On the game's final play, Fairfax quarterback Spencer MacLeod (6 of 14, 99 yards, 1 TD) threw a pass into the left side of the end zone intended for senior Sam Bechert. McLean cornerback Connor Gilmartin was covering Bechert closely and the pass fell for an incompletion to end the game.

It was a spectacular comeback and finish for the still undefeated Highlanders.

<b>MCLEAN</b> had a terrific game running the football, led by Rafi Enriquez (23 carries, 130 yards). McColgan (56 yards rushing) and Ludwick (41) contributed to the 200-plus running yardage night for the Highlanders.

"Rafi did a great job running and Ryan stepped up [at QB] and made the right reads," said Ludwick. "We knew we could win it. We came out in the second half [on offense] and worked hard and hit our holes."

McColgan, going into the Fairfax game, had gotten brief appearances at quarterback in a couple of games. During homecoming week he worked with offensive coach Greg Sullivan during practices to get better acquainted with the position. By game day he admittedly was a nervous wreck. But it didn't show too much during the game. McColgan, on the game's opening possession, led the Highlanders on a scoring drive that concluded with a 38-yard field goal by Rosenbaum.

He threw an interception in Fairfax territory on McLean's following possession and was pretty discouraged.

"That was very disappointing," said McColgan.

But his coaches and teammates, including coach Sullivan, Ludwick, and senior receiver Bruce Beatty, encouraged him and told him to forget the mistake.

He did. On McLean's next possession, McColgan led the Highlanders 75 yards on 12 plays and scored his team's touchdown on a one-yard sneak to make it 10-0 McLean.

Fairfax, however, would score the game's next 20 points to lead 20-10 in the third quarter.

"Fairfax certainly has the ability to score quickly," said McLean head coach Jim Patrick. "We were certainly on edge."

But McColgan, behind his steady offensive line and the help of his skill position teammates, directed touchdown drives on two of McLean's final three possessions of the game and the Highlanders won.

"I felt comfortable," said McColgan, of playing the position all game. "Getting this win was so important."

Coach Patrick was proud of McColgan's showing.

"He's just a good athlete," said Patrick. "He had all the reps [at QB] all week at practice and we felt confident with him. He had played very little at quarterback - against Marshall and Jefferson. I thought he did a nice job running the offense."

Mills, the McLean starting QB who was sidelined with a foot injury, has played well all season long. He will likely be back at quarterback this week when McLean travels to Ashburn to take on district and region power Stone Bridge, also 8-0.

Even though he did not play, it was still a good night for Mills on homecoming. He watched his team win and he was also named homecoming king during halftime festivities.

With Stone Bridge looming, McLean badly needed the victory over Fairfax (4-4).

"It was an important win for our confidence," said Patrick, of coming back to defeat the Rebels. "Stone Bridge is [also] 8-0 so this should give us confidence that we can play with them."