Ceneca Espinoza, Washington-Lee secondary step up in National District win over Falls Church

The Generals defense handled Adam Daly and the Jaguars, producing four interceptions, three coming from Ceneca Espinoza. (Video by Brandon Katz for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)
October 4, 2013

All Washington-Lee sophomore Ceneca Espinoza saw through a fogged-up helmet visor was what he thought were the laces of a recently tipped football heading his way. So just to be sure, he stuck out his hands. Sure enough, those hands found the football and held on, giving Espinoza his first career interception on a pass he’d hardly seen coming.

That pass was one of the only ones Espinoza didn’t see well Friday night, as he picked off two more Falls Churchattempts to spark his Generals — who scored on every drive following one of his interceptions — to a 21-14 win Friday night in Arlington.

“(Espinoza) played outstanding. It was really fun to watch,” said Washington-Lee quarterback Sam Appel, who displayed a relentless smile as he spoke after the homecoming win that extended the Generals’ best start to a season in decades. “I’m excited about him. I think he’s going to be good. He really stepped up this week.”

Espinoza accounted for three of the Generals’ five interceptions, which matched the number of times the Generals intercepted Jaguar passes in last season’s matchup.

“We always go against [the defensive backs] in practice, and they always find a way to pick me off,” Appel said. “You get the feeling they were going to do it in a game.”

Da'Shawn Hand and the Woodbridge Vikings cope with tragedy off the field by coming together for a win on it. (Brad Horn and Jayne Orenstein/The Washington Post)

The interceptions resulted from a defensive plan that centered on shutting down Falls Church’s dangerous outside weapons Jordan Coneys and William Mejia. The Generals (4-1, 3-0 National District) double-teamed Coneys and gave Espinoza the task of keeping Mejia in check. The plan worked, and despite a few strong catches from Coneys in traffic, the Jaguars’ passing game produced just 106 yards and one touchdown. Mejia caught two balls for 32 yards and picked up a touchdown on a nine-yard run.

“We gave [Espinoza] a job and an assignment this week, and it just showcased his athleticism,” Washington-Lee Coach Josh Shapiro said. “Put him in space and allow him to be a natural athlete, and he’s very good.”

As the defense shut down the Jaguars’ passing game, the Generals’ aerial attack proved crucial because of a relentless Falls Church (3-2, 0-2) run defense that yielded six net rushing yards. Appel completed 14 of 24 passes for two touchdowns to Will Kelsch and Noah Harrington, respectively.

Harrington’s biggest catch came with 37 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, an interception that ended the Jaguars’ potential tying drive and sealed another win for a Generals team that Shapiro said hasn’t finished with a winning record since the early 90s.

“If we stay healthy, I think we can average three picks a game,” Espinoza said. “This feels good.”

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