Thanks to senior Matt Weiler's fingertips, Lake Braddock got its hands on a victory for the first time in more than a year last night in a season-opening 14-6 home win over Chantilly.
With less than two minutes to play, Chantilly receiver Jim Holbert broke free down the middle of the field and was eyeing a 50-yard pass from quarterback Nate Worek. But the backpedaling Weiler caught up to Holbert, who had slowed down to catch the pass, and got just enough of the ball to cause the incompletion.
"Winning tonight is so big for us. This team had to learn how to win," Bruins second-year coach Jim Poythress said. "Last year, a play like that would have really taken the wind out of our sails. We would have fallen apart."
Lake Braddock hadn't won since beating West Potomac in the final game of the 2003 season. Chantilly (1-1) last week snapped a 13-game losing streak.
Weiler also intercepted a long pass at his 32-yard line on Chantilly's previous series, part of a stout defensive effort by the Bruins, especially in the second half.
"This is awesome," said Weiler, last year's starting quarterback, who this season is playing wide receiver and defensive back. "This gets our confidence going. We've been working out so hard with conditioning since last season. I think we won because we were more fit than they were. For us, we felt as fresh in the second half as we did in the first, and we controlled the line [of scrimmage]."
Teammate Danny Bryant played a key role on the defensive line, plugging gaps and getting in the backfield twice to make tackles for losses. His effort was particularly important after starting lineman Blair Haggert injured his knee in the first half and did not return.
Lake Braddock senior fullback Bobby Shin opened the scoring with an 11-yard power run through the middle with 1 minute 49 seconds left in the first half. Backfield teammate Russell Jordan carried the load (23 carries, 107 yards), helping his team control the clock throughout.
Chantilly pulled within 7-6 with 10:06 left on Worek's six-yard pass to Austin Morris on third down. The extra-point attempt was short.
Three possessions later, Lake Braddock quarterback Shane Halley connected with Matt Bialas on a 68-yard strike. Bialas was alone beyond the secondary. The defenders appeared surprised by the third-down call, having crept up to the line. It was only the second pass attempt of the half for Lake Braddock.
Both teams are fighting to regain their status as elite programs. In the 1990s, the schools combined to win about 70 percent of the time; that rate has dropped to nearly 40 percent since 2000. Lake Braddock hasn't had a winning season since 2001, and Chantilly last finished above .500 in 2002.