In his pregame speech before Jefferson High's recent football game against Yorktown, Colonials football coach Tim O'Reilly said he made sure to emphasize the importance of the Virginia AAA National District matchup by making eye contact with each player.
When he got to quarterback Matt Wong, he said he held his gaze a little longer and nodded his head. Wong looked back just as intently and nodded back. The implicit message was that Wong, of all Jefferson's players, especially needed to have a good game.
Wong delivered -- as he has done all season for the Colonials. The 5-foot-11 junior ran or threw the ball on 69 of Jefferson's 72 plays, rushing for 196 yards and four touchdowns on 45 carries and completing 14 of 24 passes for 196 yards as the Colonials won, 28-14.
"We knew that this was a big game, so we practiced hard during that week," Wong said. "We knew we had to take our play to the next level, so we really worked hard.
"As the quarterback, I wanted to make sure that I did the right thing to help our team."
Wong's play throughout the fall has lifted Jefferson to a 7-1 record after a 35-0 victory over Washington-Lee on Friday. Wong rushed for three touchdowns and passed for two more in the win.
The Colonials entered that game tied for the lead in the National District and have a bead on a AAA Northern Region Division 5 playoff berth. Wong leads the Northern Region -- and is fifth in the Washington area -- in passing, completing 82 of 145 passes for 1,396 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Wong also can improvise on the run, which is a good skill to have when plays don't go right, O'Reilly said. He has run for 535 yards and 10 touchdowns on 141 carries this season.
After playing freshman football two years ago and serving as the Colonials' backup quarterback last fall, Wong has proven more than capable of running O'Reilly's no-huddle, pro-set offense. It's a complicated scheme for many high schoolers.
"There's no question that it is not easy," O'Reilly said. "You really have to study the playbook and understand what is expected to happen. These are smart kids at Jefferson [a magnet school], and they know what I expect. They work hard, and Matt is one of the hardest workers on the team that I have."
That work ethic helps off the field, too. Wong's classes include calculus, physics, advanced placement chemistry and U.S. history. It makes for a challenging workload, he says, but he enjoys it.
"People often ask me how do I balance football and the class work of this school," Wong said. "I tell them that time management is the key. There are times that I do not get home until 7 at night because of practice. I have to do my school work, so I get right to it.
"The key is to manage your time. If you can do that, you can do anything."
Wong's off-field focus right now is getting Jefferson to the playoffs -- the Colonials haven't been to the postseason since the late 1980s.
"We are going to keep working hard in order to get to states, and we want to win it all," Wong said. "It won't be easy, but if we just continue to work as a team and everybody does what they are supposed to, we can do well."