The Washington-Lee Generals are headed back to the playoffs. It took a defensive stop, a three-minute drill comeback, a gusty, impulsive call from the sideline and a broken play to get there. It took five skin-of-their-teeth wins. And in the end it took a 14-10 victory at home against rival Yorktown.
“It was unbelievable effort and an unbelievable game,” Washington-Lee Coach Josh Shapiro said.
With 34 seconds to play, Shapiro dialed up a slant route in the end zone to star wide receiver Quinn Parks. He was open. Senior quarterback Ricardo Mestre looked to throw, then pulled his arm back. Then Mestre hit junior tailback Larry Carpenter just past the goal line. Touchdown, ballgame, playoffs, euphoria in Arlington.
The Generals held a 7-3 lead going into the fourth quarter and maintained that advantage when Aaron Sydnor knocked a pass away from Yorktown’s Stevie Picot that would have given the Patriots the lead.
Two plays later, after a penalty on fourth down, Sydnor defended Davis Patterson to keep another score off the board.
“We stood toe to toe with them,” Shapiro said.
The Generals took the ball back and punted. Yorktown responded with a 35-yard Hail Mary touchdown for a 10-7 lead with 3:20 to play.
No matter the opponent, Washington-Lee has thrown the ball this season almost fearlessly. That’s what happens when you have a senior quarterback like Mestre, such a football geek that after he was sidelined with a knee injury his junior year, he took over some of the offensive coordinator responsibilities.
It was in his hands Shapiro placed the Generals’ comeback hopes. Mestre had already throw two interceptions on the night. Before the last drive, he’d only completed three passes.
But that’s Washington-Lee’s offense.
“That’s senior leadership,” Shapiro said.
He told Mestre to come out slinging to start the drive.
“We knew we had to step up,” Carpenter said of the offense’s supporting cast.
The Generals marched to the Patriots 11-yard line only to be stopped on third and long. Shapiro sent out the field goal unit to tie the game on a 28-yard kick.
Then Yorktown, eager for a block, plastered the holder: a penalty marked off half the distance to the goal line if Shapiro accepted. He did, and it took the points off the board with 53 seconds to play.
“If we didn’t score in three plays,” Shapiro said, “we were going to kick it again.”
They did score as Mestre found his favorite target to send the Generals to the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
Students stormed the field after the clock struck zero. Players doused Shapiro in grape Gatorade.
They get to play for at least one more week.