Members of the T.C. Williams football team shed tears as the closing seconds ticked off the clock at South County High School.
The Titans weren’t ready for their historical playoff run to end, but the Stallions’ had taken control of the game in the third quarter and left T.C. to face the painful arrival of the offseason --- and for some, the end of their football careers.
No. 8-seed South County defeated No. 9 T.C. Williams 51-27 on Nov. 15 in the opening round of the 6A North regional playoffs. The Titans came out ready to play, taking leads of 14-7 and 21-14 in the second quarter, but South County’s up-tempo offense eventually exposed T.C. Williams’ lack of depth. The Stallions outscored the Titans 37-6 in the final two-plus quarters.
“I feel bad for our seniors,” T.C. Williams head coach Dennis Randolph said. “They had a great run.”
The Titans finished the season with a 7-4 record and ended the program’s 22-year playoff drought. Prior to Friday’s contest, T.C. Williams had not played in a postseason contest since 1990.
“It was a great season,” senior lineman Jeremiah Clarke said. “We did accomplish one of our goals, which was to make it to the playoffs and break the streak of not going. … For the season, we did what we were supposed to do have a winning record.”
The Titans had come close to snapping the streak in recent seasons but failed to reach the playoffs. In 2009, T.C. needed a win against Lee in the final game of the regular season to punch its ticket to the playoffs. The Titans had won back-to-back games after starting quarterback Joe Hargrove returned from injury, but Lee jumped out to a 20-0 lead and beat the Titans 27-13.
“The winning part helps with us getting more players to come out for next season. They’re not just playing to put a jersey on. They’re playing for a chance to do something special.”
--- T.C. Williams junior quarterback Darius Holland
In 2010, T.C. posted its first winning record since 1995, winning five of its final six regular-season games to reach 6-4, but the Titans didn’t have enough power points to reach the postseason.
After a 3-7 record in 2011, the 2012 Titans won their final four regular-season games, but a 5-5 record wasn’t enough to get in.
The 2013 Titans started the regular season with a 38-2 thrashing of defending region champion Oakton and ended with a 7-3 record and a postseason berth.
“It means a lot as far as breaking the streak goes and hope for the future and generations to come after us,” junior quarterback Darius Holland said. “I wish we would have gone further. … I wish we would have performed better when it counted.”
T.C. Williams is known nationally for Disney’s “Remember the Titans,” a 2000 movie starring Denzel Washington that tells the story of the 1971 Titans overcoming racial issues to win a state championship. The last two decades of T.C. Williams football have been void of football gory, however, as the program has struggled with losing. Holland said reaching the playoffs this season can help the future of the program, starting with the 2014 season.
“The winning part helps with us getting more players to come out for next season,” Holland said. “They’re not just playing to put a jersey on. They’re playing for a chance to do something special.”
Holland, in his first season as a varsity starter, showed off his playmaking abilities against South County. He completed 9 of 21 passes for 161 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. His 77-yard scoring strike to Tyrice Henry gave the Titans a 21-14 lead with 6:11 left in the second quarter. Holland also scored twice on the ground, including a 77-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“I just hope my receivers and DBs come out next year more focused and more dedicated,” Holland said, “… and the 7-on-7 success continues.”