Boys Varsity Football
Game Summaries & Headlines.
- Game Date
- Nov 26, 2016
- SEAHAWKS: 40
By Chris Colston
BURKE, VA.— For any teenager, confidence is a fragile thing. And so all season long, day after day, week after week, South Lakes coach Trey Taylor hammered home his point to his players: If you play your game, nobody can beat you.
If there were any doubters wearing green-and-blue before, there are none now, not after the fourth-seeded Seahawks 40-22 upset at No. 1 seed Lake Braddock Saturday. The high-powered Bruins (11-2) entered Saturday’s game as the top-ranked team in Virginia across all levels according to VHSL-reference.com (South Lakes was No. 13 overall).
“We believe we can play with anybody if we go out and do what we do,” Coach Taylor said. “That’s what I love about these guys. They don’t get intimidated by whoever it is. It’s just us going out and doing our thing.”
The Seahawks (12-1) now advance to the 6A North region finals—which serves as the state semifinals, since the winner goes on to face the 6A South champion in Hampton. They will play at defending state champion Westfield Saturday afternoon.
“It’s going to be insane,” said senior lineman David Kroll.
The headlines for South Lakes usually feature the “Thunder and Lightning” combo of junior running backs Spencer Alston and Albert Mensah. But on a perfect afternoon for football in a glorious setting—the Bruins’ stadium is surrounded by trees in their autumn glory of golds and browns hard against a residential neighborhood—the story was the Seahawks defense. They shut down University of Virginia-bound running back Lamont Atkins, holding him to just 19 yards on 10 carries.
“Coach Taylor told us all week, we’re the better team,” defensive back Kojo Kumi-Darfour said. “We just have to fill our gaps, stop the run, and force them to pass. When they started passing, they got uncomfortable, and we took advantage of that.”
Kumi-Darfour highlighted his own point. With 11:39 left in the fourth quarter, he darted in front of a pass in the right flat and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown, the first of his varsity career. That gave South Lakes a 33-7 lead, effectively sealing the outcome.
The result likely raised eyebrows across Northern Virginia. The Seahawks entered the game ranked No. 10 in The Washington Post All-Met Top 20, while Lake Braddock was No. 5. And the Bruins were coming off a 42-0 win over Hayfield, a team that had beaten South Lakes on October 28.
“We’re not surprised by any of this, but beating the No. 1 seed on the road is exciting,” senior Andrew Funaki said. “A lot of people didn’t think we could do it.”
Early on, it looked good for Lake Braddock, which scored first on a 39-yard keeper up the middle by quarterback Ty Crabb. The Bruins threated to double their lead after Ibrahim Mansaray intercepted a pass that went off Noah Seneca’s hands, taking over at the Seahawks’ 25-yard line with 7:22 left in the first quarter. But then the South Lakes defense took over.
Junior linebacker Chris Logan dropped Atkins for a six-yard loss on third down, and on fourth-and-11 Mensah and Terry Jackson combined on a sack. South Lakes then drove down the field and scored on Mensah’s three-yard run. Although Lake Braddock blocked the extra point, the defensive stop and ensuing drive turned the game’s momentum to the Seahawks. On the Bruins’ next drive, Funaki hit Crabb, who stumbled forward and was crushed by linebacker Justin May, who forced a fumble that senior Sky Lubreski returned 42 yards to the Lake Braddock 15-yard line.
Four plays later, junior quarterback Devin Miles scored on a one-yard keeper, and the Seahawks would never trail again. Logan stopped another drive, intercepting a pass with 8:28 left in the first half, setting up another score, giving them a 19-7 halftime lead. On the first drive of the second half, they drove 72 yards—highlighted by a 21-yard quick slant to Funaki on third-and-nine—to go up 26-7.
The only down note to the win was the loss of junior wide receiver/defensive back Chris Ezidinma with a broken ankle.
Back in the heat of August, Coach Taylor had pointed to this weekend with a simple goal: practice on Thanksgiving morning. It turned out to be a special, team-bonding experience, followed by a pancake breakfast. Even so, “Thunder and Lightning” moved through the food line slowly: Alston was nursing a sore back, Mensah a lower-body injury. Early in the week, Alston questioned whether he would even play Saturday. “I just pushed through it,” he said after the game. “The adrenaline got me going.” He finished with 15 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns and four catches for 36 yards. Mensah carried 16 times for 84 yards and a score.
The adrenaline will be flowing again this weekend. South Lakes now has a chance to avenge its 2015 playoff loss at Westfield (11-2), a school that went on to win the state title last year. The Bulldogs—ranked No. 2 in Virginia across all levels by VHSL-reference.com entering last week—beat James Madison 31-13 to advance to the state semifinals. Westfield features a stout defense (plus-19 in takeaways this year) and place-kicker Brian Delaney, a 2017 Under Armour All-American. It will be another challenge for the Seahawks, who enter the region final with great confidence.
“We know if we follow the game plan, we can’t be beat,” Funaki said. “Coach Taylor always has it set up perfectly for us, making our job so much easier.”