With the start of two-a-day practices drawing near, excitement and motivation are not uncommon among high school football players who love the game. For members of the Washington-Lee Generals, however, the drive to succeed has reached new levels.
W-L ended a 28-year losing streak to rival Yorktown last season with a 28-7 victory in the opening round of the regional playoffs. Senior running back Anthony Taylor carried 42 times for 255 yards and four touchdowns, and Generals fans stormed the field in a state of euphoria at Yorktown’s Greenbrier Stadium. Nine months later, the Generals are working hard during the offseason while sporting a new level of confidence.
"After that win, so many more people came in the weight room and started working harder," rising senior tight end Terrence Ellis said. "We hadn’t beaten Yorktown in 28 years and after that win we think, ‘Oh, we beat Yorktown,’ so now our mindset is we can beat anybody that we play."
Success won’t come easy for W-L, which will transition from a power running offense to a spread attack after losing Taylor to graduation. But before the team can put on shoulder pads and show what it has, the Generals have shown self-confidence and a desire to work.
"I see a morale change in a more positive direction," fifth-year head coach Josh Shapiro said. "They did something that before they felt was … not achievable. … It was an honor to beat [Yorktown]. The kids played very well. It was a big game for us, I think it has helped our morale, helped our confidence. It was kind of a celebration within the school, too. The community really embraced the win. I got a lot of letters and emails from alumni, which was really nice. …
"What we may not have in star athletes, we have collectively a great attitude and a lot of kids that are willing to go the distance and try to do what’s right for the team."
The Generals will need to find a way to compensate for the loss of Taylor, who earned National District Player of the Year honors in 2010. Rising senior athlete Gil Elie sounded confident the team will do the job.
"One of the aspects of the game we didn’t have last year was speed," Elie said. "You talk about speed: speed kills."
On Aug. 1, the Generals ran on the track and lifted in the weight room. Along with getting acclimated to the heat, offseason workouts provide an opportunity to build team camaraderie.
"It means a lot to me — the people who show up — because they’re determined to work," rising senior receiver Marcus Harrington said. "People who don’t show up, us seniors, we have to put them back in shape."
The Generals’ first chance to show their confidence on the field will come during scrimmages against Marshall (Aug. 18) and Thomas Jefferson (Aug. 25). Until then, W-L will continue to work, with last year’s victory against Yorktown as a reminder of its capabilities.
"Our team is very focused on [this] season," rising senior Roderic Gibson said. "We’re definitely ready to start hitting today, tomorrow, this week."