One mark of a good football team is its ability to come from behind and win.
Last Friday night, the McLean Highlanders entered their Liberty District opener at Madison High School in Vienna with a 3-0 record. The Highlanders, however, fell behind by a couple of touchdowns and looked as if they might be headed for their first loss.
But the guests rallied for an exciting 24-22 win to remain undefeated at 4-0.
“We found ourselves in a 14-0 deficit, but our players did a nice job fighting back and making key plays when it was necessary to win the game,” said third year McLean head coach Jim Patrick.
McLean, trailing 22-21, took the lead for good in the fourth quarter when sophomore kicker Chris Rosenbaum connected on a 38-yard field goal. Later, the McLean special teams came through again when junior Connor Gilmartin blocked a Madison field goal try to end the game and put the Highlanders into the win column.
“The Madison game was certainly a tough test for us,” said Patrick. “Madison played extremely well.”
It was a tough loss for the winless Warhawks (0-4), who a week earlier had lost a close 29-28 game at Langley.
Madison scored 14 first quarter points to start off fast against McLean – the touchdowns coming on short scoring runs from senior Michael Frye. But McLean answered with two touchdowns of its own in the second quarter – scoring runs from Jimmy Ludwick (1 yard out), who rushed for 68 yards on 18 carries for the night, and Ryan McColgan (2 yards out). Rosenbaum converted point-after kicks following both touchdowns and the game was deadlocked at 14 at halftime.
<b>ANOTHER LUDWICK</b> touchdown run from a yard out gave the Highlanders a 21-14 lead in the third quarter. But in the fourth quarter, Madison senior fullback CJ Kelliher crossed the goal line from a yard out before scoring on the two-point extra point play to put the Warhawks ahead 22-21.
“We had a hard time bringing down CJ Kelliher,” said Patrick, of trying to hold down the Madison bruiser throughout the game.
McLean received another good outing from senior quarterback Chase Mills, who completed four-of-nine passes for 94 yards while also gaining 53 yards on 13 carries. Catching passes for McLean were: Ludwick (1 for 29 yards); junior tightend Scott Lafoon (2 for 44); and senior wide receiver Bruce Beatty (1 for 21).
“Chase Mills and Jimmy Ludwick are playing very well for us,” said coach Patrick, of the team’s talented skill position players. “But this year it is a real team effort to produce these wins – from the offense, defense and special teams.”
McLean will receive a tough test this Friday night, Oct. 1 when the Highlanders host unbeaten South Lakes, which is also 4-0. The Seahawks, under former Park View High coach Andy Hill, are coming off a 36-9 home win over Marshall. South Lakes is outscoring its opponents 146-16 thus far.
Hill is anticipating a tough game.
“We have to step up our focus and concentration as we prepare to take on another undefeated squad in McLean this week,” said Hill, whose team trailed 9-7 late in the first half against Marshall. “If we start slow this week, we may find ourselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard.”
Madison will be at home on Friday night against Fairfax High (2-2). The Rebels are coming off a 28-21 home loss to Langley. Fairfax lost a heart-breaker to the Saxons on a night in which the host Rebels were celebrating both the school’s 75th year anniversary as well as homecoming.