-- It was a good two-hour drive to the wooded countryside of Westmoreland County on Saturday, more than enough time for the Manassas Park Cougars to discuss what lay ahead -- namely, opportunity and legacy. Take advantage of the first, and the second would take care of itself.
But when they finally arrived at Washington & Lee High School, the Cougars seemed to be suffering a mean case of bus-lag, appearing listless and falling behind early.
"It's a long bus ride and our first day game, but those are all excuses," Coach Jeff Lloyd said.
Fortunately for Manassas Park, such excuses logged far less mileage than did the yellow school buses the Cougars rode in on. They awoke to score 27 unanswered points, rolling past the Eagles, 27-6, to advance to their second consecutive Virginia A Division 2 championship game.
Senior quarterback Jay Terrell ran for two touchdowns, passed for another and intercepted a pass as defending champion Manassas Park (13-0) won its 27th consecutive game and 39th in its past 40.
The streak appeared in danger when Washington & Lee (11-2) scored on a 36-yard touchdown pass on its first possession and Manassas Park's offense whimpered through its first four.
But the Cougars burst from their doldrums with less than two minutes left in the first half when Terrell scored on a two-yard run, intercepted a pass and then hit junior Anthony Williams for a 25-yard touchdown.
Within a span of 59 seconds, the Cougars had seized control of the game, and they would never come close to giving it back.
"They had one luck play and took the lead, and after that one play, we shut them down the whole game," said Terrell, who rushed 20 times for 108 yards and moved within one win of matching his cousin, All-Met Zach Terrell, who quarterbacked Manassas Park to the championship a year ago.
Meantime, the Manassas Park defense didn't allow Washington & Lee inside its 46-yard line in the final three quarters. Bull Run District defensive player of the year Bucky Griffith had 12 tackles, and senior Todd Smoot returned an interception 56 yards for a touchdown 25 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Washington & Lee was without sophomore running back Marquese Gray (2,100 yards rushing, 31 touchdowns), who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left leg a week ago.