It was the first opening-night football victory in the four-year history of South Lakes High School, but for head coach Tom Secules the victory was bittersweet.
After South Lakes' 14-0 victory over Chantilly High, Secules -- as he does after every game -- quickly walked to mid-field to shake hands with the opposing team. But Secules' smile faded when his eyes rested on the Chantilly quarterback, whose head was bowed with his hands covering his face. Instead of shaking the quarterback's hand, Secules walked up, grabbed his shoulders and hugged him.
What else could a father do for his son?
For 16-year-old Scott Secules, the defeat had been particularly crushing: He had completed only three of 13 passes and suffered three interceptions at the hands of his father's team.
For Tom Secules, the victory was almost as difficult: "It was just hard to enjoy the win with the (South Lakes) kids because it meant a lot to Scott for him to win."
And for Beth Secules, who sat on her son's side of the bleachers instead of her usual spot among South Lakes fans, the game caused conflicting emotions. "If I root for one, I'm rooting against the other," she said. "A friend of mine told me I was lucky because either way I have a winner. I said, 'That's true, but either way I have a loser, too.' "
There were no real winners as far as the Seculeses are concerned.
"Dad said I tried too hard," said Scott, a Chantilly junior. "I had tried to avoid thinking that it was Dad's team, but I guess I couldn't do it. I think I did try too hard."
At one point the elder Secules almost forgot he was coaching the opposite side. On one play, Scott was chased out of the pocket. He scrambled toward the South Lakes sideline where he was tackled hard out of bounds -- about 10 yards from his father's feet.
Tom Secules watched as his son bounced off the ground. "Yeah, I caught myself walking toward him on that play," he admitted after the game. "I had to stop myself."
Both teams suffered opening-night jitters, committing turnovers at key points. At halftime the score was only 7-0 and Chantilly was still in the game.
In the middle of the third quarter, Scott ran for five yards and his mother's sentiments erupted. "Go Scott! Go, honey, go!" Beth Secules cheered.
Beth Secules' spirits lifted even more minutes later when Scott completed two consecutive passes for 34 yards.
But then with two minutes left in the third quarter, Scott threw his second interception of the night and Beth Secules sat glumly with her chin in her hand.
Late in the game, after South Lakes running back Ted Carpenter burst 36 yards for a touchdown, the South Lakes defense increased the pressure on the young quarterback.
"Our plan was not to give him time to throw," the elder Secules said. "We didn't want to let him pick us apart because we knew given the chance he could pick us to death."
Now, both Seculeses are looking forward to helping each other prepare for opponents.
"Now we'll swap ideas. He really contributes when he helps me watch films of other teams. He sees things that I don't. And I give him help preparing for his games too."
It's not surprising that Scott, who stands 6-2 and weighs 180 pounds, wants to play college football. He also has nearly a straight-A average. Though his father did not allow Scott to play organized football until high school, he seems determined to follow in his father's footsteps.
Tom Secules was a standout high school quarterback in Williamsport, Pa., and won a scholarship to the College of William & Mary, where he played from 1955 to 1959.
Secules was an assistant coach at Annandale High School for several years before taking the head coaching job at South Lakes when the Reston school opened in 1978. Throughout his coaching career, Scott has been Tom's biggest fan.
Now, except for the South Lakes game, Tom is Scott's biggest fan. "His participation is all his decision," Tom said. "Of course, I'm thrilled that he does play. But I'd love him and respect him just as much even if he didn't."
As for a rematch between South Lake and Chantilly next season, father, mother and son are against it. "After the game, we were all down in the dumps," said Tom. "It's tough on all parties for us to play them. I won't ask to schedule them again next year."