Through its first six games, W.T. Woodson’s football team appeared to be stuck in the red zone, close enough to see the victory and other goals it hoped to accomplish only to be repeatedly stuffed by the opposition.
Two of the Cavaliers’ losses were decided by a touchdown, while another came during a devastating fourth-quarter comeback by West Potomac.
“Just by looking at the stats, you can tell we’ve struggled to move the ball consistently,” Cavaliers wide receiver Jimmy McLaughlin said. “I think we got to a point where we were fed up with not executing and with the stupid mistakes, and realized it was time to put one complete game together.”
The frustration boiled over into determination in Friday’s 33-0 win against Annandale. After capping their opening drive with a three-yard Dean Rye touchdown run, McLaughlin ensured the rare early momentum remained in Woodson’s grasp.
Sensing the Atoms defenders were using single coverage on first and second down, the senior suggested to Coach Joe Dishun that the Cavaliers try a long pass downfield. The idea resulted in Woodson’s longest touchdown of the year, a 43-yard throw from Patrick Riley to McLaughlin.
“For the last few weeks, it’s been the red zone that’s hurt us; just getting down there and not finishing drives,” Dishun said. “Friday, we were able to capitalize and take advantage of opportunities when we had them, especially early on.”
More opportunities came off turnovers, as Woodson recovered two Annandale fumbles. And when the ball was in their possession, the Cavaliers used an array of different looks, such as the power I-formation in the red zone while spreading out the field on other occasions. Ten different players received touches on Friday, led by McLaughin’s four catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns and Riley’s 191 passing yards.
“I give a lot of credit to my quarterback because he trusts me,” McLaughlin said. “We talked beforehand about connecting a few times on things we’d seen on film during the week. Coach Dishun had talked to us before about teams not respecting our offense, so we wanted to change that.”
Woodson’s breakthrough in the win column came without one of its best players in junior wide receiver/defensive back China Moon, who was out with a concussion. Moon’s expected return this week will be a welcome addition as the Cavaliers take on No. 19 South County on Friday. The task of taking on a Stallions squad that averages 49 points per game will be daunting, but with their first victory in hand, the Cavaliers hope it can set the foundation for more success in the season’s final three weeks.
“We’ve come so close in so many weeks and had a few small plays bounced our way, we might be 4-3 rather than 1-6 right now,” McLaughlin said. “The theme for us has been finishing. I thought once we could break that seal with a win, more good things could come, so that’s what we’re working for now.”