South Lakes High School
|South Lakes High School||42|
|WT Woodson HS||7|
By Chris Colston
FAIRFAX, Va.—In the world of high school football, players come and go in relatively quick fashion. A senior might emerge out of nowhere to become a key cog—only to graduate and open an opportunity for someone else. Predicting success from year to year can be a tricky thing; but in Reston, Va., there’s reason to believe the planned community’s only high school football team is ready for another strong season.
After advancing to the Virginia 6A North Region final (state semifinals) in 2016, South Lakes High has returned enough good players to catch the eye of The Washington Post. The newspaper ranked the Seahawks No. 8 in its preseason All-Met standings DeMatha, a private school in Hyattsville, MD, was No. 1.
On a mild night that felt more like late September than late August, South Lake’s season-opening 42-7 win at W.T. Woodson did nothing to dampen those expectations. (Just to be clear, the win came over Wilbert Tucker (W.T.) Woodson High, not to be confused with Howard Dilworth (H.D.) Woodson, ranked No. 10 in the Washington Post preseason standings.) But fourth-year coach Trey Taylor believed his Seahawks have room for improvement.
“We just had a lot of mental mistakes tonight,” said Taylor, who has now won 22 of his last 27 games at South Lakes. “We made a lot of little mistakes that when we play the teams in the big games, we’re not going to be able to do those things and win. But as the game wore on I think we got better.”
Senior quarterback Devin Miles—who completed six of 12 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns—concurred. “We made mistakes early but made up for it later in the game,” he said. “We just have to make sure we don’t make those mistakes in the future. Going forward, if we just focus on details on all sides of the ball, we’ll be fine.”
The Seahawks’ duo of senior backs Spencer Alston and Albert “Bert” Mensah did their usual breathtaking business, combining for 269 total yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. (Alston also had two touchdowns taken off the board because of penalties—a 36-yard punt return and a 58-yard catch.). Known as “Thunder and Lightning”—or at least until someone works up a more creative moniker for them—they form one of the best backfields in the state. Gameday All-Access named both of them among their Top 10 Playmakers returning for 2017, with the quick and shifty Alston ranked second and the bruising Mensah eighth.
“(Alston) is primed for a huge senior season,” said Gameday All Access analyst Andy Hayes. “…He has unbelievable speed and when they get the ball to him in space, he can go the distance every play.”
Said fellow analyst David Liddle, “He is the best running back in the region since (Centreville’s) A.J. Turner, who is playing for the (University of) South Carolina.”
South Lakes also got the usual solid performances on both sides of the ball from seniors Chris Logan, Spencer Coppage, and Noah Seneca, while senior defensive back Eddie Mohler made a fantastic hustle play in the first quarter, using his speed to down senior Evan Matthes’ 64-yard punt at the Woodson two-yard line—setting up the Seahawks’ first touchdown of the season. On special teams, senior kickoff man Khalil Dover boomed a couple of balls out of the end zone, while senior placekicker Connor Madden made all six of his extra-point attempts.
But underclassmen also had key contributions. Sophomore receiver Michael Riche showed good speed and instincts, scoring twice. A pair of juniors, Izaiah Williams-Baffoe and Sage Beuchert-Irvine, made impressive varsity debuts (Williams-Bafoe making an interception), while sophomore lineman Cris Smith had a sack. Smith’s play was especially important, since the Seahawks were missing several players who started at times on the defensive line last year: seniors Jacob McCarty and Kevin Colston (undisclosed injury), plus the huge tackle David Kroll, now playing at the University of Delaware. And when McCarty suffered an undisclosed injury in pregame drills, junior Tim Brown stepped in at center. “He had five minutes notice,” Coach Taylor said, “but he had no bad snaps. I thought he did a great job.”
Although Coach Taylor likes to downplay rankings, South Lakes continues to garner statewide respect. After the win, MaxPreps ranked the Seahawks the No. 9 football team in the state among all levels—a list that includes 366 schools. They were also ranked No. 2 statewide among all 6A teams, behind only defending champion Westfield.
Next is a road game at Falls Church, which beat Theodore Roosevelt 38-0 in its opener. The Seahawks did not play the Jaguars last year when they finished 7-4. According to VHSL-Reference.com, Falls Church is ranked No. 90 in the state out of 307 schools, just behind W.T. Woodson (that website has South Lakes ranked No. 30). Game time is 7 p.m.