Lalli Still Listens to Former Coach

Chantilly Coach Mike Lalli consulted Lou Holtz before his team began the playoffs.
Chantilly Coach Mike Lalli consulted Lou Holtz before his team began the playoffs. (By Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post)
By Preston Williams And Jeff Ermann
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 14, 2006

Before this season, there had been two defining football junctures in Chantilly Coach Mike Lalli's life -- the four years the Bishop Ireton graduate spent as a walk-on at Notre Dame, and the 2004 season he spent as an assistant for a Chantilly team that went 0-10.

Those divergent experiences crossed late this season, when Lalli, with a team that included many 0-10 season survivors, wrote to his old college coach, Lou Holtz, and asked for advice on how to prepare for his first trip to the playoffs as a head coach.

Lalli read Holtz's response to the team, and also gave each player a copy of the note -- minus Holtz's e-mail address, of course.

"He's a guy that will always respond; it's a great credit to him," Lalli said. "He's coached thousands of us, but if you send him a letter or something, he'll respond pretty quickly."

Chantilly lost, 42-20, to Osbourn on Saturday in the Virginia AAA Division 6 state championship at Freedom High School in Woodbridge, but it was a season to write home -- or to your old college coach -- about.

The Chargers dashed lingering memories of the 0-10 season with a 10-4 record that included six victories over playoff teams -- Annandale, Madison, Oakton (twice), Westfield (split two games) and Varina -- as well as wins over Herndon and Robinson and others.

As far as championship teams go, Chantilly is in good shape for next season, with several standouts set to return -- starting running backs Antonio Cross and Torrian Pace; linemen Doug Boyle, Will Christopher, Brendan Murphy and Isaac Sine; receiver-defensive backs Chris Gentile and Justin Carwile; backup quarterback Austin Decker; and linebacker Mike Quigg, among others, and a strong sophomore class.

Looking to Next Year

It wasn't long after Edison's 34-25 loss to Phoebus in the Division 5 state championship game last Saturday when the Eagles started looking ahead to next year. And there was plenty of reason for optimism for Edison, which expected all along that next year would be its breakout season.

"They'll be back next year, and they'll probably win it," said Edison senior quarterback Shawn Lloyd.

The Eagles (11-3) will have a large contingent of experienced players returning next season, highlighted by junior wide receiver Ben Barber, who was unstoppable in the state championship. Barber caught eight passes for 132 yards in the first half before Phoebus began double-teaming him.

"This hurts, but we have to use it as motivation," Barber said following the loss. "I think we can do it again."

Barber caught everything thrown to him, including a few plays on which he was hit hard as the ball reached him. The speedy wideout is being recruited by several major college programs.

Still, none of that promise was enough to dull the pain of the loss, during which Edison was able to pass at will, but couldn't stop the run and made two big turnovers.

"They're hurting pretty bad," said Coach Vaughn Lewis, whose team was vying for the Northern Region's first Division 5 state crown in 16 years. "But I think they know what they accomplished."

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