South Lakes 7, W.T. Woodson 2
Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
South Lakes running back Charles Mayah scampered 15 yards up the middle for the winning touchdown with 3 minutes 33 seconds remaining as the Seahawks defeated No. 17 W.T. Woodson, 7-2, Friday in the Virginia AAA Division 5 Northern Region final before approximately 3,500 on a chilly, windswept afternoon in Fairfax.
The victory clinched a remarkable turnaround for South Lakes, which won only one game last season, and marked the Reston school's first region title since 1991. The triumph also puts the Seahawks (9-3) in the state semifinals, where they will face defending champion Phoebus (12-0) next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Darling Stadium in Hampton.
Meantime, W.T. Woodson finished its best season in school history at 9-3.
As the clock wound down late in the fourth quarter, Mayah, the Seahawks' leading rusher, was concerned his team was going to get shut out, and worse, he was not going to be able to do anything about it.
But a fortunate bounce on special teams gave him another chance. Mayah handled the ball for the first time in more than 20 minutes and made the most of his opportunity.
"After halftime, I didn't think I was going to get the ball again because their defense was keying on me," said Mayah, who finished with 68 yards on eight carries. "But then my number got called. I wanted to make sure I did something with the ball."
With the Seahawks' offense unable to score for the first 44:27, South Lakes relied on its defense. Led by defensive ends David Lansdowne and Jon Volpe, linebackers Joe Bleich and Dan Smith and safety Ola Adams, the Seahawks kept Woodson running back Joe Martin under wraps and sacked quarterback Michael Solomon four times.
Still, the game came down to a lucky break.
Trailing 2-0 midway through the fourth quarter, South Lakes was forced to punt. Lansdowne, instructed by his coaches to keep his punts low and out of the hands of Cavaliers' kick returners, booted a line drive from his 40. The ball skipped off the ground, bounced off the shin of a Woodson player and into the waiting hands of the Seahawks' Smith, who fell on the ball at the Cavaliers 27. Two plays later, Mayah, a 5-foot-8, 185-pound junior, took the ball up the middle for the decisive score.
"It was a break, but in a game as close as this one was, you have to play well to get a break," first-year South Lakes coach Joe Trabucco said. "The kids really deserved this. As soon as [the new coaching staff] got here, we began preaching winning. Anything is possible when you start believing."
In the first half, Woodson's defense, led by lineman Michael Deering (three sacks) and linebackers Sean Ragen, Matthew Morrell and Aaron Solomon, held the Seahawks to 39 total yards, blocked a punt and also pressured the South Lakes punter into taking a safety, giving the Cavaliers a 2-0 lead.
"You can't win if you can't score," Woodson Coach Mark Cox said. "It's been our problem all season. Hopefully, now that the guys have had a taste of success, maybe they'll want it more next year."