The game already had been decided, but none of the Battlefield defensive linemen seemed to notice. In the final minute of their Virginia Class 6 Region B championship game win over Freedom (Woodbridge), they burst through the offensive line with as much energy as they had shown in the game’s early moments.
A group of them met at the quarterback, as they had several times that afternoon, and eventually the ball came loose. Junior Abraham Al-Khalili scooped it up and sprinted 20 yards into the end zone. A trio of joyous teammates trailed close behind him.
The scoop-and-score was the exclamation point to a statement win from the Bobcats. With near-perfect defense, Battlefield beat the Eagles, 24-7, on Saturday in Haymarket.
“Football is a war of attrition, and we had been working at it all game,” senior defensive lineman Wesley Williams said. “That strip sack, that started in the first quarter. You just work away at it and are sometimes rewarded.”
This Battlefield team, led by first-year coach Greg Hatfield, is the first in program history to start a season 13-0 and the second to win a region title. The Bobcats will travel to Virginia Beach-area power Oscar Smith next weekend for the Class 6 semifinal.
“We talk about life containing ‘got to’ things and ‘get to’ things,” Hatfield said. “When you get to practice the week of Thanksgiving, that’s a ‘get to’ thing. So we prepared hard this week because we were just excited for this opportunity.”
To book their trip south, the Bobcats first had to prove they were the best team in their own backyard. Despite the undefeated regular season, Battlefield had yet to face Freedom, often seen as the team to beat in these parts. Since 2017, the Eagles (10-3) had gone 38-4 against Prince William County opponents.
Coming into Saturday, Freedom’s offense averaged 52 points per game. Battlefield’s defense had allowed 11 points per game. The question was which Prince William County power would assert its style and set the tone for the afternoon. The answer became increasingly clear as a quiet first half progressed, and Battlefield took a 7-0 lead into the break.
“You watch their film and you get nightmares,” Hatfield said of the Eagles’ offense. “But my group is getting better every week, and even today we got better as the game went on.”
Since 2014, Freedom had been held to seven points just once before. The Eagles’ lone touchdown came in the third quarter and knotted the score at 7. That tie was broken early in the fourth quarter by Bobcats quarterback Isaiah Walters. After piecing together one of the game’s best drives, Walters kept it himself at the goal line and burst through a mass of bodies into the black-and-purple end zone. He celebrated with the confidence of a quarterback who knew he was backed by one of the state’s best defenses.
“Even with our record, we still feel we’ve been doubted week after week,” Walters said. “People didn’t respect us, saying we play easy competition. But I’ll always put my money on this group of guys. We’re out there putting our bodies on the line, playing with something to prove.”