The first win for a first-year varsity program shouldn't come against a team that never seems to lose. But that's exactly how it unfolded for the Avalon School on Friday night, when it snapped Maryland School for the Deaf's area-best 27-game winning streak with a 30-28 overtime victory.
When sophomore Nate Berry batted down Maryland SFD's two-point conversion attempt to secure the win, it marked a major step for the fledgling private school program.
The banner victory was particularly impressive considering Avalon is a team without a senior class and represents a school with roughly 75 students. Coach Tad Shields's previous experience involves only his son's youth league games for the past seven years.
"It was perfect timing," Shields said. "The sooner we could get it, the better. The first one always seems like it's tougher. That will do a lot for their confidence. Hopefully the kids will learn as much from victory as they did from their losses. They understand what it's like to compete at this level."
Winning, however, is not exactly a foreign concept for the third-year Bethesda school.
Avalon (1-3) rolled through its junior varsity competition last season, finishing 8-1 against a slate that included traditional powerhouses DeMatha and Georgetown Prep.
But after losing to Boys' Latin, Forestville and Pallotti by a combined margin of 110-7 to open up the season, the move to varsity proved to be an alarming, if not humbling, transition.
"It's more fast-paced now," junior running back Drew Berry said. "Last year we'd just dominate. We wouldn't have to move downfield; we'd just score on an 80-yard touchdown run. At first it was kind of tough [on varsity], now we're used to the size of the guys and what we're going against."
Seneca Is Consistent
In the week leading up to No. 12 Seneca Valley's 7-0 win over Churchill on Friday, X's and O's seemed almost secondary to the state of Screaming Eagles' psyche.
Seneca Valley (3-0) had, after all, just completed a rousing fourth-quarter comeback victory over its cross-town rival, Northwest, the week before. Then the Screaming Eagles had to turn around and redirect their attention toward avenging last season's two-point loss to a formidable Churchill team.
"That was the hardest part of all -- just trying to get those guys ready for Churchill after such an emotionally and physically draining game that almost saps you out," Seneca Valley Coach Fred Kim said. "It's kind of hard getting guys up for the game. But we had to keep working on keeping the guys disciplined and focused for the next game."
With the victory, the Screaming Eagles completed what was likely their toughest two-game stretch of the regular season, during which its defense established itself as one of the county's best, allowing only one touchdown.
Meanwhile, the offense -- though moving the ball consistently -- is Kim's biggest concern. The running back tandem of Shawn Perry and T.J. Radzilowski rolled up 289 yards on the ground against Churchill (1-2). But just as in the win over Germantown, turnovers and penalties stalled a number of potentially game-altering drives.
"Our defense and special teams have been good enough to retain field position and keep them deep, but one of these days we're going to run out of luck," Kim said. "But playing poorly on offense and still being able to pull out these close games, if we can put it all together we can really get things going."