The play-call was “purple,” code for South Lakes to line up in a pass coverage found in just about any football team’s playbook. But for Marvin Grunshie, it meant something different.

A lead that once seemed comfortable waded into peril during Friday’s game at Hayfield after the Hawks followed up a touchdown with a recovered onside kick. The aggressive play left South Lakes on its heels just before halftime and Grunshie, a two-way starter, seeking retribution in the secondary.

“We had to move on past that play and try to make our own play on defense,” the South Lakes senior defensive back said. “Once we called ‘purple,’ I knew that I had a chance to make a play and get to the ball.”

Anticipating a pass to the left side, Grunshie jumped the route, snagged the interception and then spun into a sprint downfield that ended 70 yards later in the end zone. The touchdown swung the momentum just before halftime, effectively putting the Seahawks on track for a 35-14 win against Hayfield in a critical Virginia Conference 6 matchup in Alexandria.

A year ago, Seahawks Coach Trey Taylor would have braced for the worst in that moment. But after taking their lumps during last season’s 2-8 campaign, what the Seahawks lack in size they make up for in mentaltoughness.

“That’s the type of situation that would probably have sent us spiraling the wrong way last year,” Taylor said. “But this year’s team has learned to move past mistakes, take it one play at a time, and they realize that they have 48 minutes to take control of a game.”

Entering Friday’s contest, Taylor told his team that it may take a good chunk of those opening minutes to generate a rhythm on offense against the crafty Hawks (6-3, 5-1 in Conference 6). But by its second series, South Lakes found its way.

With Hayfield focused on slowing their interior rushing, the Seahawks (7-2, 5-1) moved the chains behind quarterback Devin Miles, who threw two of his three touchdown passes in the first quarter to Grunshie and Eric Kirlew.

“Our coaches had told us it could take some time to get going, but at the same time, they had us ready to go, so I felt like I was in my rhythm the whole game,” said Miles, who threw for 131 yards. “Everyone was focused, and with the routes the receivers ran and the blocking by the offensive line, we were able to get going.”

So did the Seahawks’ defense. After allowing a 20-yard Myles Ross touchdown on Hayfield’s opening drive and after seeing Hawks quarterback Brandon Bell sidelined by a foot injury, South Lakes clamped down, blocking a punt and holding Hayfield without a first down on its next three possessions.

Grunshie extended the unit’s resilience with his interception return, punctuating the Seahawks’ resurgence following a jarring conference loss.

“We’ve really been focused since losing a couple weeks ago to Madison,” Grunshie said. “That was our wake-up call. Our heads are totally in it now.”