Offensive linemen are vital to a team’s success, yet often times go unnoticed when accolades are issued. Pride in others’ accomplishments is supposed to be enough for the big guys up front.
On Oct. 2, the T.C. Williams offensive line — a patchwork group shuffled weekly this season due to injuries — opened holes and cleared paths for Zaquan Summers. The junior running back amassed 201 yards on the ground, scored four touchdowns and was greeted by multiple media outlets for postgame interviews. While Summers’ performance garnered attention, taking pride in the running back’s numbers wasn’t going to cut it in terms of recognition for left tackle Jose Urritia.
Summers "said he’ll take us out to eat," Urritia said. "I’m proud of that."
Summers wasn’t thrilled when asked about the idea of buying food for 1,200 pounds worth of teammates ("You signed that $1 million contract," head coach Dennis Randolph joked). Instead, the O-line had to settle for a 52-27 victory over West Springfield and a resurrection of the Titans’ ground game.
TC rushed for 287 yards in its first four games, including 115 from Summers. Against the Spartans, the Titans nearly equaled their season output with 263 yards on the ground, and Summers nearly doubled his total. Randolph said TC took advantage of a blitzing West Springfield defense by running through vacated vertical seams. Summers broke a scoreless tie with a 9-yard touchdown run with 3:01 remaining in the second quarter and didn’t stop running until late in the second half.
"Absolutely," Randolph said when asked if success on the ground involves establishing rhythm. "That’s why sometimes it’s hard to get running. If you don’t get it on first or second down, you put yourself in a hole and it’s third-and-8 [and] you’ve got to throw the football. The more you throw the football, your rhythm doesn’t come in the running game.
"It feeds off itself."
TC entered the locker room with a 7-0 halftime lead. Summers’ success on the ground helped propel the Titans through a shootout of a second half, during which TC scored 45 points. He scored on runs of 7, 58 and 15 yards during the final 24 minutes, the last of which produced the game’s final points with 2:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"I was a little tired in the second half," said Summers, who was slowed by a hamstring injury early in the season, "but I fought through it."
Leading the way for Summers were Urritia (6 feet 3, 224 pounds), left guard Anthony Zamora (5-11, 241), center Aaron Tovsky (6-1, 202), right guard Spencer Mitchell (5-11, 247) and right tackle Eric Berger (5-10, 298).
"It builds your confidence," Urritia said, "knowing you can push somebody out of the way."
Six-foot-7, 285-pound Jay Whitmire, a Division I recruit at tackle, missed his fifth game with an ankle injury. Joe Massaquoi (6-4, 226), who had filled for Whitmire, missed the game with a knee injury.
Success on the ground also took pressure off sophomore quarterback Alec Grosser, who made his second career start. Grosser completed 13 of 21 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.
The TC defense forced seven turnovers and helped light up the scoreboard, returning a pair of interceptions for touchdowns. Senior linebacker Deontre Sanders returned a pick 25 yards for a score late in the third quarter to give the Titans a 31-7 lead. After West Springfield battled back and cut its deficit to 38-27, TC linebacker Damien Benton returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown with 3:29 remaining in the fourth.
Benton finished with a team-high 14 tackles and Tevin Isley recorded 13 tackles and a sack. Sanders totaled 10 tackles and intercepted two passes. Malik Hackett finished with seven tackles, two fumble recoveries and a sack. Emmanuel Sarpong recorded a sack and a fumble recovery. Demetry Johnson also recovered a fumble.
"We played with intensity — out there flying around and hitting," Benton said. "That’s what we weren’t doing versus Oakton and Lake Braddock."
The victory improved TC’s record to 2-3, 1-1 in the Patriot District. The Titans will host Annandale at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 9.