West Springfield safety Frank Sturek and his fellow seniors had a lot on their minds. On senior night Friday against West Potomac, they were playing what almost certainly would be their last game on their home field. They had lost two in a row, to teams with losing records, after a 5-1 start. And they likely would need to beat one of two 6-2 teams in the final weeks of the regular season to secure a playoff berth.
That’s a burden for a senior group that had seen the varsity teams go 11-19 during their high school careers with no postseason appearances.
And then, as if by magic, with one play, senior Jonathan Dunn eased that burden when he took the game’s opening carry and skirted 80 yards down the West Potomac sideline for a touchdown. Then two plays into the Spartans’ next series, senior quarterback Tyler Sutter turned a botched, bouncing snap into a 75-yard touchdown pass.
The two plays, in the first three-plus minutes of the game, kick-started a 20-point first quarter and 34-10 win in a Virginia AAA Patriot District game.
“It takes the weight off your shoulders, it really does,” said Sturek, who between the two scores came up with the first of West Springfield’s five interceptions. “Especially after us almost getting blown out these last two weeks and at our homecoming last week. You could tell that the look of urgency sort of went away, the look of despair on the faces.”
“That’s what that one run does,” West Springfield Coach J.T. Biddison said. “Now all of a sudden, the pressure’s off. We’re playing from ahead. Sometimes you need that little kick, and I’m glad we got it.”
They got two kicks. On Sutter’s pass, instead of falling on the ball or picking it up and throwing it away — as some in the home stands were encouraging him to do — he found senior Nathan Conquest alone on the right sideline and connected with him on a 75-yard catch and run for a score.
“The ball was bouncing around the 10-yard line, I thought maybe I should fall on it,” Sutter said. “But it’s senior night, might as well take a risk. Things haven’t been going our way.”
“He plays ‘X’ in lacrosse, so he’s used to doing that kind of spin,” Biddison joked. “I think he thought he was behind the net passing to up front or something.”
The Spartans (6-3, 4-2) would add another touchdown before the end of the period when Sutter capped a 55-yard scoring drive with a five-yard run, a possession sustained by twice drawing the Wolverines offside on fourth and third downs.
West Springfield sophomore Trent Brown intercepted two passes, and junior Jacob Pickell and sophomore Ryan Bursiek each picked off one, as did Sturek. Senior lineman John McAndrew recovered a fumble at the 9-yard line to thwart a Wolverines drive late in the first half.
On that play, West Potomac junior Demornay Pierson-El, one of the touchdown leaders in the Washington area, aggravated a leg injury. He did not play in the second half and had ice packs taped to the side of his left knee and his left ankle. He said he likely would go for X-rays on Saturday.
Pierson-El rushed for 100 yards in the first half and also took a screen pass 66 yards for his team’s lone touchdown. He has scored in all but one game this season.
With him on the bench in the second half, the Wolverines (6-3, 4-2) could manage only a 24-yard field goal by senior Chris Blewitt.
Dunn, slowed this season by a hip injury, finished with 178 yards on 20 carries.
“As a class, we’ve been through a couple senior nights,” Dunn said as his senior teammates lingered at midfield, enjoying their final home win. “And they haven’t been as good as this one was for us.
“I think overall we just promised ourselves that this is our last home game, we put a lot of work into this program and we weren’t going to let it go to waste.”