By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 2, 2009
"Starting for Robinson, wearing No. 48, _____ Laiti!"
For most of the past 10 years, that blank has been filled with the names Peter (class of 2002), Patrick (2004), David (2007) and now Brian (2010), a senior linebacker who Friday night against neighborhood rival Lake Braddock will be the final Laiti to play in a homecoming game. The Laitis all have worn No. 48 -- as long as another brother wasn't already wearing it.
Brian used to hang around outside the Robinson locker room waiting for his brothers to come out. Now they wait for him, a role reversal that's "kind of weird to think about," he said.
All of the Laitis have been productive players for a Robinson program that has gone 92-25 the past 10 years. But the last Laiti, who has orally committed to Virginia Tech, has been the standout. He has led the team in tackles in each of the past two years and is on pace to make it a third.
"I remember the brothers telling me for quite a while that the younger one was going to be the best one," Robinson Coach Mark Bendorf said. "They weren't far off."
At 6 feet 3, 210 pounds, Brian Laiti (pronounced LIE-dee) is the largest of the four boys. But for years, he was the smallest, and he paid a price for it.
"They didn't teach me how to be tough, but they made me tough by bullying me," Laiti said. "They just kind of picked on me. It's just how I grew up.
"They told me to be tough when adversity hit, and when things were going bad to just keep your head up and keep going. They taught me well."
The brothers still offer advice. Early in the season, Laiti was overeager, trying to blow up plays instead of snuff them out. Patrick Laiti (and Bendorf) urged him to pause to read and react, because his strength is diagnosing plays and then stopping them. Laiti is the leader of a defense that has no seniors in the secondary and some young players on the line.
None of the Laitis are accustomed to losing to Lake Braddock. Since falling to the Bruins twice in 1999, Robinson has won the past 10 meetings by a combined 300-43 score, a one-sidedness not befitting one of the strongest rivalries in the Northern Region.
The schools are 4.4 miles apart, and their rosters are stocked with players who came up through the Braddock Road Youth Club.
Lake Braddock's only loss this season was 43-42 at W.T. Woodson, on a controversial two-point conversion. This is the first time in about 10 years that both teams entered the season with legitimate region title hopes.
As for the Laitis, Brian might have the scholarship, but his older brothers have the championships. Robinson won the Northern Region title in 2001 and 2004 and a Virginia AAA Division 6 crown in 2001. The 2000, 2002 and 2003 teams reached the region final.
Brian Laiti has played on teams that have gone 11-11 the past two years, not counting the 4-0 start this season. No Ram is more aware of the team's recent history than he is.
"Our team now is just really determined," Laiti said, "to bring the old Robinson back."
Lake Braddock (3-1) at No. 8 Robinson (4-0), 7:30 p.m.