The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Both teams on the rise this year, Washington-Liberty proves further ahead of McLean

Washington-Liberty captures the Champions Cup, which goes to the winner of its matchup against McLean each year.
Washington-Liberty captures the Champions Cup, which goes to the winner of its matchup against McLean each year. (Michael Errigo/Washington Post)

For evidence of how fast the trajectory of a high school football program can change, look no further than Friday night’s game between McLean and Washington-Liberty. 

On its surface, the game was a cold November battle between .500 teams that carried potential playoff implications. But both of these programs entered the season starved for wins and find themselves in a state of transition as those victories have arrived.

Coming into the season, McLean (4-5, 1-3 Liberty District) was riding a 21-game losing streak and hadn’t put a crooked number in the win column since 2014. Washington-Liberty (5-4, 3-1) had just three victories over the past two seasons, its only win in 2018 coming in a matchup against the Highlanders.

On Friday night, the Generals reasserted their supremacy over host McLean, 42-0. They showed they were a few steps ahead in the rebuilding process, taking a 28-0 lead by halftime and cruising from there. 

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“These wins aren’t easy, and you have to savor and enjoy them,” Generals Coach Josh Shapiro said. “There has been a lot of growing here.” 

Junior Ahmad Williams had a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter and added two touchdown receptions. 

“It felt like a Madden scene,” a laughing Williams said of his pick-six. “I felt frozen up in the air. And then I just had to try to take it back.” 

Both teams have benefited from young players such as Williams turning into experienced difference-makers after being thrust into important roles early in their careers. But the futility that comes with that kind of maturation process has lasting effects.

McLean Coach John Scholla said that he has had to remind his team throughout the fall that the fun they were having playing football was normal, even expected.

“The kids have been telling me, ‘Coach, everyone’s so excited,’ and I’m like: ‘Yeah! Football is fun!’ ” Scholla said.

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Scholla and his staff knew this year’s team would have the experience and talent necessary to break the spell of misery at McLean. After the final game of last year, he thanked the seniors and then spoke to the underclassmen about the change that was sure to come.

“I told them: ‘Guys, we’re going to win games next year. The losing stuff is going to stop,’ ” Scholla said. “But how many we win will be completely up to you this offseason.’ And they’ve responded well to it. They have a taste for winning now.” 
For Washington-Liberty, a contender before things started to head south in 2017, last fall’s 1-9 campaign provided motivation to work hard this year, to make November games such as this one count for something again.

“This is my first experience playing these type of games [late in the season],” Williams said. “We’ve made the change.”