Like many high school football teams, Episcopal adopted a motto this season, one it hoped would motivate it to avenge a runner-up finish to Bullis in last year’s Interstate Athletic Conference standings.
As the Maroon heads toward its chance at redemption in what is effectively the Interstate Athletic Conference title game Friday night at Bullis, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team whose mantra dictates the necessity of its late-season mission so completely.
Episcopal’s motto is “cause over self,” and in a clash with the star-studded Bulldogs, the defending IAC champions, the Maroon will need its parts to sum to a formidable whole.
Bullis (7-1, 3-0 IAC) hasn’t lost to an IAC team since 2012, and enters Friday night’s game coming off a 41-14 win over Landon, a team with a resume and talent to suggest it could challenge the Bulldogs. The Football Bowl Subdivision recruits that pepper their roster are familiar by now: quarterback prodigy Dwayne Haskins Jr., explosive runner Devonte Williams, defensive end-turned-dangerous tight end Jonathan Holland, defense back Patrick Johnson II, and others.
“It’s hard to prepare for a team like that because you try to take away one player, you know they have a quarterback who will find the other weapons the have,” Episcopal Coach Panos Voulgaris admitted. “We’ll just try to contain what they do, but at the same time, we know that no one’s really contained that team in our league for the last three years.”
But Episcopal (6-1, 4-0 IAC), which set its cruise control just below the radar as it knocked off all IAC comers so far, has its share of playmakers, too. From speedy outside threat Brian Chase to emerging freshman quarterback Seth Agwunobi and running back Eric Smith, the Maroon have weapons and a hulking offensive line to protect them. Episcopal’s defense has allowed just 11 points per game, holding IAC competition to similar scoring total’s as Bullis.
Yet the rest of the IAC hasn’t been able to handle the Bulldogs, in part because the individual talent has meshed into cohesion through seven straight wins since a season-opening loss. As the offensive stars have continued to produce consistently — the Bulldogs have punted twice in the past three games combined — the Bullis defense has rounded into form.
“I think our defensive backs and our linebackers have become a strength toward the end of a season,” said linebacker and wide receiver Cameron Brown. “At the beginning of the season, it was just our DBs, but I think the rest of our defense has picked it up and the defense as a whole has gotten a lot stronger.”
Bullis plays Georgetown Prep in its season finale next weekend, while Episcopal has completed its conference schedule. As a result, the battle of as-yet conference unbeatens will most likely determine the conference champion, as the IAC does not have a postseason title game.