Although there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, Washington-Lee succeeded in raining on Stuart’s parade, as the Generals trounced the Raiders 40-14 in their own homecoming game last Friday night.
The night started off in Stuart’s favor, as the winless Raiders got on the board first. A John Grayson interception at the 9:30 mark put the ball back in Raider hands and on the next play quarterback Nick Childs found junior Jeremiah Hines open deep down the right side. Hines ran the ball into the promised land at 8:08, putting the Raiders up 6-0 after the PAT attempt fell short.
The Generals answered on the ensuing possession, as quarterback Alex Wicks converted on a fourth-and-three to keep Washington-Lee alive on a drive that took over four minutes, before ending in a Julian Ramirez end zone grab. Generals kicker Ryan Harrison booted the extra point to send the Generals up 7-6 with just over four minutes in the opening quarter.
Stuart was unable to penetrate the defense, going three and out to give Washington-Lee possession, as the first quarter clock began to wind down. The Generals offense made quick work this time, as Wicks followed up a pair of consecutive passes with an eight-yard scramble to put the Generals in the red zone. Running back Brian Harris found an open lane up the middle, taking the ball in for a score with 44 seconds to play in the first.
Stuart caught a break in the second quarter when a General interception was negated due to a defensive holding penalty, and Grayson ran the ball 14 yards to put the Raiders deep in General territory. A nine-yard touchdown throw to junior John Wolfe followed by Grayson running in the two-point conversion evened the score at 14 apiece with 7:49 left in the half.
The two touchdowns matched the Raiders offensive high for the season and electrified the crowd, as the game looked to be within Stuart’s reach.
“That’s right — Stuart football isn’t a joke anymore!” a Raider player yelled from the sideline, pumping his fists in tune with the band.
But the Generals weren’t about to let Stuart take their homecoming game handily, answering the score with a stellar kickoff return by Mustapha Jammeh to start the drive on Stuart’s 39. Wide receiver Antonio Bethea found the end zone less than thirty seconds later, putting the Generals on top before the Raiders’ celebratory cannon had time to cool.
Unfortunately, Stuart had seen all the offensive firepower they were going to get, punting on the remainder of their possessions in the half, while allowing Wicks to connect to tight end Tony Astudillo on a five-yarder that put the Generals up 13.
“I don’t think it was necessarily a momentum change as much as it was a series of mental breakdowns by us,” said Stuart Assistant Coach Greg Dombrowski.
The breaks continued to go in the Generals’ favor, and as the halftime clock continued wind down, so did Stuart’s fans, filing out of the stadium as Wicks threw a second touchdown pass to Bethea, giving the Generals a 33-14 cushion at the game’s midway marker.
The junior quarterback completed 17 passes for a total of 304 yards and four touchdowns for the Generals, who went on to win 40-14.
On the other side of the ball, Childs struggled to connect to his receivers as he was under constant pressure from the Generals defense. Despite showcasing early munitions, the Raiders offense was unable to muster any yardage throughout the second half, held to a dismal -11 yards, in a game brimming with miscues and dashed hopes.
“As a team we need to put four quarters together. All season long we have failed to have a complete game,” said Dombrowski.
The early scores showed the Raiders as a team capable of generating offense, but the Generals constant countering, exposed Stuart’s all-to-familiar feelings of loss and despair, something the coaches struggle to fix.
“At this point there is not much we need to change as far as the X’s and O’s go. We need to change the attitude of our kids and our community,” said Dombrowski.
“Our hope is that with continued success (small victories) we can build them up to an expectation of winning.”
Stuart hopes to exceed their expectations and put together a complete effort when they play in front of their home crowd again this Friday night versus Mt. Vernon at 7:30 p.m.