Elijah Rucker knelt next to Fonnae Webb in the end zone, the standout Mount Vernon lineman consoling his heartbroken quarterback.
Defensive back Sammy Boateng, realizing he would no longer don the Majors’ maroon and grey, expressed anguish that his high school career was over.
Head coach Monty Fritts, who in four years transformed Mount Vernon into a perennial playoff team, said he was proud of his players, but acknowledged “it was a tough way to lose.”
For the Mount Vernon football team, 2019 included a 10-game win streak, the program’s first playoff victory since 2008 and first district title since 1998. On Friday night the Majors added “overtime thriller in the region semifinals” to the scrapbook, but this time, Mount Vernon came out on the wrong end of what will likely be a lasting memory.
With the Majors needing a touchdown to tie and an extra point to win, Webb’s third-down pass in overtime was intercepted in the end zone by Lake Braddock’s Austin Rawlins, giving the Bruins a 30-24 victory in the Region C semifinals at Mount Vernon High School.
The Majors, who earned the No. 2 seed in the region, finished one of the more successful seasons in program history with a 10-2 record.
“I just played my last high school football game,” said Boateng, a unanimous first-team All-Gunston District selection. “I’ve been with this program for four years and it’s going to hurt – I know it’s going to hurt. … I just wish I would have made more plays, would have cherished it more, because now it’s all over and I’ll never, ever play high school football ever in my life again.”
Mount Vernon outplayed Lake Braddock early in the game, taking a 17-3 lead when running back Jordyn Reid took a direct snap and scored a 4-yard touchdown with 9:51 remaining in the second quarter.
But Lake Braddock would come roaring back with three rushing touchdowns from running back Joe Murray, the last of which – a 53-yarder – gave the Bruins a 24-17 advantage with 9:34 left in the third quarter.
After being held scoreless for more than 30 minutes, Mount Vernon drove the field and tied the game following a controversial touchdown on the final play of regulation.
With 9 seconds remaining and the ball on the Lake Braddock 3-yard line, Reid took a direct snap and ran outside to his right. Lake Braddock’s Rawlins appeared to stop Reid short of the goal line. On the way to the ground, Reid fumbled the ball into the end zone and Mount Vernon receiver Kyle Clark recovered.
Officials awarded the Majors a touchdown, and kicker Sam Renzi’s ensuing point sent the game into overtime.
After the game, Reid said he purposely fumbled the ball.
“I could have gave up on that last play,” Reid said, “but I thought to myself, if I fumble, I know my receiver is right here and he can fall on it, and I fumbled it on purpose so he can fall on it in the end zone.”
Lake Braddock was on offense to start overtime and quarterback Billy Edwards scored on a 10-yard run on first down. The ensuing point after was no good, however, leaving the door open for the Majors.
But after a 2-yard run, a false start penalty, and a run for no gain, Mount Vernon faced third and goal at the 13 when Webb looked to his left, and then rolled to his right before throwing the game-ending interception.
Mount Vernon turned the ball over four times on Friday. Lake Braddock did not commit a turnover.
“I could have made one more pass,” Webb said, “got an extra yard, blocked an extra person … it’s my fault.”
Rucker told the quarterback it wasn’t his fault.
“I was just telling him, it’s OK, man,” Rucker said. “You’re still my brother … . Keep your head up.”
Fritts said he was proud of the way the Majors battled through tough times.
“I think a few years ago, that adversity starts happening, we get our doors blown out,” he said. “I think there was a chance there at the start of the second half, [the Bruins] got a big touchdown run, it was 24-17, we were a little worried.
We fought back, stayed in the game, scored on the last play. I was so proud of them.
“You just can’t turn the ball over.”
What is the key to building a program that keeps fighting when things aren’t going its way?
“Trying to teach kids how to act properly with adversity,” Fritts said. “Early, we taught a lot of lessons about, hey, look, this is one bad thing and we turned it into 12 bad things. We’ve got to stop the bleeding. We did that tonight. We were bleeding bad and we were able to stop it and fight back in.
“[The Bruins] missed the extra point (in overtime). If you had told me right there (that is what the situation would be), I thought we’d won the game. I thought we were going to score, kick the extra point, win the game. It didn’t happen and that’s just how it goes sometimes. It really sucks, it’s a tough way to lose.”
Webb completed 15 of 30 pass attempts for 166 yards and was intercepted twice. He also carried 13 times for 83 yards.
Nick Poreda, the Majors’ projected starting quarterback next season, completed 1 of 5 attempts and was intercepted once. The one completion was a 71-yard touchdown pass to Reid on the Majors’ first play from scrimmage.
Reid carried 15 times for 73 yards and a touchdown. He also had five receptions for 102 yards and a score.
Jaedyn Perry had three receptions for 76 yards for Mount Vernon, Clark totaled five receptions for 38 yards and Daniel Danso added two catches for 13 yards.
“We changed the mentality at Mount Vernon,” Rucker said. “We went on a 10-game win streak, we won our first playoff game [since 2008]. We were one game short of our goal. I’m sure they’re going to come back next year. Nick Poreda is going to take over this school and do what he does.”
Mount Vernon will graduate several talented seniors, including first-team all-district standouts Reid, Webb, Rucker, Boateng, Clark, Renzi, defensive end Anthony Mejia, and defensive back Jaiden Harris. The Majors will also lose second teamers Danso, Eshawn Hudson (center), Simon Amoako (offensive line), Darius Jones (linebacker), and honorable mention defensive end Hakim Sanfo.
Fritts praised Hudson after Friday’s game.
“A kid like Eshawn Hudson, he doesn’t get a lot of credit,” Fritts said. “He plays center for us; he played some defensive line for us early in his career. Just a quiet kid who always does the right thing. It is kids like that that change the program. Jordyn and Elijah deserve all the credit they get, but it’s kids like that that are willing to let other kids get shouted out, do their job every day and put us in a position to do what we do.”
First-team All-District performers slated to return are junior linebacker Robert Overbey (Defensive Player of the Year), junior linebacker Bradley Chei, and junior defensive back Bradford Chei. Second-teamers Aboraa Kwarteng (receiver) and David Kwarkye (linebacker) are also slated to return.
“This is the best team I’ve played for in all four years of my high school (career),” said Webb, who attended Dunbar High School and McKinley Technology High School in Washington, D.C. before moving to Mount Vernon for his junior season. “They have the best coaches, the best rapport, they have some of the best athletes and overall good people.
“It doesn’t get any better than Mount Vernon.”
Jon Roetman is a freelance writer who started covering high school sports in Northern Virginia in 2009. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.