A depleted T.C. Williams football team appeared ready to battle Concorde District power Robinson during the opening minutes of both schools’ season opener on Sept. 2.
— The TC defense forced Robinson to punt on the game’s first possession and the Titans offense responded by moving 20 yards in three plays. Then, facing second-and-1 from its own 34-yard line, TC lost a fumble.
— The Titans defense, backed into a corner, stepped up by forcing Robinson into a third-and-15 situation. Then the defense allowed a 27-yard pass for a first down. One play later, the Rams scored a touchdown.
— Needing to answer, the TC offense took the field … and promptly lost a fumble.
The evening did not improve for the Titans, who lost 35-2 at Parker-Gray Stadium. The 33-point defeat was TC’s most lopsided since losing to Annandale by 36 in 2006. Only a Robinson punt snap through the end zone for a safety late in the fourth quarter kept the Titans from being shut out for the first time since 2005.
For the Titans, facing the Rams without Division I lineman Jay Whitmire and defensive standouts Damien Benton, Israel Richardson and Deontre Sanders was an uphill battle. Facing the Rams as a depleted team fumbling the ball away twice in its first five plays was a recipe for a blowout.
"You can’t keep giving the ball to the other team — and a good football team at that," TC head coach Dennis Randolph said. "They’re well coached, they’re tough, they’re big and they’re strong."
While the fumbles were costly, Robinson’s third-and-15 conversion was arguably the Titans’ most deflating moment. After stopping Robinson on its first possession and forcing the Rams into a third and long on their second, the TC pass rush chased Robinson quarterback Mike LoPresti to his left before the senior flipped the ball in the air. What appeared to be an act of desperation proved to be a momentum-capturing decision when the ball landed in the hands of running back Jared Velasquez, who scampered 27 yards for a first down. Robinson running back Kambulu Musokotwane scored the game’s first touchdown on the next play.
"We had a screen [pass] called and we got pressure immediately," Robinson head coach Mark Bendorf said. "Mike LoPresti wasn’t able to set his feet and he did the ol’ Brett Favre flip. We had it set up so as soon as Jared got the ball he was in space and, in space, you can see he’s pretty tough. That [play] was critical."
Robinson scored touchdowns on its next two possessions and cruised to victory.
Meanwhile, the TC offense failed to get anything going, managing 187 total yards. Senior starter Doug Murphy played into the second half at quarterback, completing 6 of 18 passes for 57 yards. Sophomore Alec Grosser entered late in the third quarter and completed 6 of 11 attempts for 79 yards.
"We had the kid back there, ready to sack him, and he flicked the ball out there like good quarterbacks do," Randolph said of LoPresti’s flip. "The job of the quarterback is to make plays. It wasn’t pretty, you don’t teach it [but it got the job done]. … You’ve got to give credit to that kid. He kept them alive and that’s what a quarterback’s got to do and that’s what we didn’t do — Alec or Doug."
The offense showed life at the end of the first half, moving from its own 42 to the Robinson 15 in less than a minute. Trailing 22-0, TC lined up for a 35-yard field goal attempt in hopes of building some halftime momentum. But the kick was blocked and returned 78 yards for a touchdown, giving the Rams a 29-0 halftime lead.
TC had seven players with at least one rush attempt. Jalani Winbush and Dealo Roberson each finished with a team-high 21 yards on the ground. Tyrell Sitton was the team’s leading receiver, catching four passes for 74 yards.
The Titans should start to get some of its missing standouts back in the next two weeks. Whitmire, a Division I prospect at offensive tackle and a starting defensive end, is hoping to return from an ankle injury for the team’s Sept. 16 game against Oakton. Richardson, a safety, has missed time with a knee injury and Sanders, a linebacker, has been out with a concussion. Benton, who has missed time due to personal reasons, said he expects to play on Sept. 11 against Mount Vernon.
"You’re talking about four guys that are captain-like guys," Randolph said. "You take that away from [a team and] it’s tough."
The Titans host Mount Vernon at 2:30 p.m. TC opens Patriot District play on Sept. 24 against Lake Braddock.