South Lakes High School
|South Lakes High School||52|
By Chris Colston
ARLINGTON, Va.—Yorktown High School’s Greenbriar Stadium is a cozy place, with the home grandstand set hard against 27th Street North, the homes across the street within shouting distance, all of it canopied by mature, leafy trees. Friday night the neighborhood was abuzz with anticipation; that day’s Washington Post called Yorktown’s 7-1 football team “one of the season’s biggest surprises,” as the Patriots hosted South Lakes for the District 2 (Liberty) title. The Seahawks entered the game ranked No. 13 in the Washington Post Top 25, and this was coach Bruce Hanson’s chance to see if his team was for real.
The Patriots’ hope ramped up even more when Seahawks star running back Albert “Bert” Mensah didn’t take the field. Although he dressed out in full uniform, he stayed on the sideline with an ankle injury.
That was the good news for Yorktown. The bad news was that it allowed more opportunities for senior running back Spencer Alston. All he did Friday was pile up 187 yards rushing and four touchdowns, and 44 yards receiving for another score. That’s five touchdowns and 231 total yards.
In the first half.
He finished the game with 255 yards rushing, 69 yards receiving, and six touchdowns, leading South Lakes to a decisive 52-14 victory—the Seahawks’ best all-around performance of the year.
“Yorktown is a good football team,” South Lakes coach Trey Taylor said. “(Before tonight) their only loss was to Lake Braddock. I was concerned that we wouldn’t have Bert, but our kids were amazing. Nobody hung their head or worried about it. They took a ‘next-man-up’ mentality and it was great. I told them I was as proud of them tonight as any team I’ve coached.”
That morning, Alston knew he would have to step up with Mensah out, and he was prepared. “We did a lot of film study, breaking down their defense, and the offensive line did a great job of kicking out, and I was able to read the holes,” Alston said. “When I got in the open field, I was able to make plays.”
Inexplicably, you won’t find Alston’s name on most rankings of the top 20—or even 50—players in Virginia, even though RecruitNoVA.com has him as a leading candidate for its Player of the Year. And despite his workable size (5-9, 190) and breakaway speed, he has yet to receive a Power Five football offer. Maybe it’s because instead of going to football camps and getting his name out there, he plays lacrosse in the spring and summer. He’s good enough in that sport to have earned an offer from Ohio State; but with his field vision, shifty hips, and sure hands, football might be his best sport.
He’s a strong defender, too. Alston also had a key interception late in the first quarter, picking off quarterback Grant Wilson’s pass on the dead run at the Yorktown 48 and returning it to the 2-yard line. Alston carried scored on the next play.
“I was back 10 yards and the receiver broke his route at about seven yards,” Alston said. “I read the quarterback’s eyes and broke on it.”
“He’s a force on both sides of the ball,” coach Taylor said. “He’s amazing.”
After Yorktown scored twice in the first half on trick plays, South Lakes began dropping seven men into coverage, and shut the Patriots down the rest of the way. Yorktown senior wide receiver Tanner Wall had accounted for 1,354 all-purpose yards in eight previous games—an average of 169.3 per game. He still had a strong outing—109 total yards and a score—but it was well under his average.
“That’s something we worked on against Lake Braddock last year, and Hayfield,” coach Taylor said. “We said, ‘What can we do against teams with empty backfield?’ That’s how (Yorktown) scored their points, in the passing game. Their No. 11 (Wall) got all the press in the Post and he’s a really good wide receiver. He had the one touchdown, but other than that our kids did a really good job.”
Seahawks senior quarterback Devin Miles had his usual strong game, completing 10 of 13 passes for 93 yards and a score, and adding 68 yards on nine carries. Sophomore Andy Akuetteh carried 10 times for 65 yards and scored a touchdown, while seniors Noah Seneca and Eddie Mohler each caught two passes. On defense, junior Sage Beuchert-Irvine led the way with six tackles, followed by senior Chris Logan (four tackles) and sophomore Cris Smith (three tackles). Senior Spencer Coppage added two sacks, while Seneca had one.
“We got pressure with just three linemen up front,” Coach Taylor said. “If you can do that, you can make plays.”
While the loss had to be disappointing for Yorktown, the Patriots shouldn’t feel too down. They’ve still got a solid record (7-2), their stadium is still beautiful—and the concession stand with the art deco sign serves a good $4 barbecue sandwich.
As for the 8-1 Seahawks, they now turn their attention to hosting rival Herndon to close out their regular-season. Game time at Patricia A. Bergan Stadium is 7 p.m.