Feeling like old times back in QB role of his youth, senior Vashon McCants accounts for all three TDs as Titans stifle Eagles.
Final score –
Dominion Titans (4-2) 7 7 0 6 = 20
Freedom Eagles (2-3) 0 0 0 0 = 0
1 / 3:42 – Dominion TD (Vashon McCants 27-yd run; Ramon Blas kick)
2 / 0:16 – Dominion TD (Vashon McCants 6-yd pass to Trevor Karlan, Ramon Blas kick)
4 / 1:12 – Dominion TD (Vashon McCants 25-yd pass to Trevor Karlan, kick blocked by Garrett Dunn-Ford)
Rock Ridge High School, Brambleton, Va. (September 30, 2016) — Not much about this game was typical, so don’t read too much into it, but in this week’s Viva Loudoun TopTicket Of The Week, the Titans of Dominion High School topped the Eagles of Freedom High School by a 20-0 score that could just as easily have been almost anything else.
Now, Dominion did earn victory in dominant fashion. The Titans outpaced the Eagles 268 to 94 in offensive yardage as raindrops persistently drizzled down on the neutral artificial-surface venue. But, Freedom had chances to dent Dominion’s lead, fizzling on one and squandering the other.
So it fell to Dominion quarterback Vashon McCants to make the difference and break open the game – which is precisely what the difference-making, game-breaking senior did.
McCants ran for one TD before throwing for two more – both of those scoring chucks taking place in the waning moments of the two halves.
McCants began the season in his customary running back position before relocating behind center. For him, the move to the pivot takes him back to when he ran around Loudoun’s youth fields, playing quarterback.
“I love the quarterback position,” McCants said. “I played QB prior to coming to high school, so I already had the mindset to prepare to succeed.”
Saving his arm for later, it was McCants’ legs which first got the Titans on the scoreboard. With their second possession of the first quarter, Billie Walker busted off a couple consecutive first-down runs, sandwiching McCants’ improvised scramble for another first.
On a 2nd-&-short from the 27, McCants kept it and zoomed to room enough for the first. The Eagle defenders bottled him up but didn’t bring him down, and McCants wrestled away from the human mass. Set free, he sprinted the remaining yards down the sideline to paydirt.
In the second quarter, Freedom fought back. Robert Doherty pursued and tackled Alex Wertz for a fourth-down hold, and the Eagle offense proceeded to matriculate the ball methodically down the field as big wideout Robert Mayo and featured back Brett Dineen got involved.
At midfield the drive stalled and the Eagles gave it back. An exchange of punts followed. With under two minutes in the half, Dominion hit two straight 10-yard plays and accepted a 15-yard Freedom penalty. From the red zone, McCants rolled right, looking for his favorite target. He found him, and junior wide receiver Trevor Karlan corraled it in the back of the end zone, doubling the Titans’ lead going into the locker rooms for some dry towels.
Dominion was back at it with the open of the second half. With good field position after a short punt, McCants was turned loose again and zigzagged his way toward the pylon in the corner of the end zone. As he reached it, a couple Freedom defenders reached him. The ball fell from McCants’ grasp; it careened through a piece of the end zone and out of bounds for a touchdown-killing touchback.
Ostensibly the home team, the Eagles benefited from a strong, full-throated student section all night. Down by two scores, they looked to benefit from McCants’ unintended largess – but shot themselves in the wing instead.
Amid runs of his own, junior quarterback Jack FitzGerald found Mayo and Zyan Collins for sizable pass gains and the Eagles landed at the Titans’ 22. But Freedom miscommunicated on a pitch play, with one guy zigging instead of zagging, and the resulting fumble was recovered by Dominion’s Walker.
Another punt exchange later, the Titans had the ball, the lead and just the fourth quarter to melt away. They kept it for over seven of the final stanza’s 12 minutes, aided by Karlan’s nice snag in double-coverage and McCants’ nimble scramble to locate Walker with a first-down pass.
Dominion didn’t score, however, and Freedom got it back in a must-score scenario. FitzGerald connected with Aiden Doherty to convert a 4th-&-10, but a series of incomplete passes ended the possession and seemingly sealed the game in the Titans’ favor – though evidently the Titans themselves didn’t feel so secure.
They quickly took it from their own 29 to Freedom’s 25. Facing a 4th-&-10, McCants took the shotgun snap and reared back to pass. Karlan had a step on his defender that he wasn’t giving up. McCants let it fly, and Karlan ran under it with an over-the-shoulder grab for six points that really, really sealed the game.
“The line was blocking well, Vashon was making really good reads and getting the ball around to everyone,” Karlan said. “Everything clicked today.”
Dominion head coach Karl Buckwalter was pleased with his team’s defensive effort in recording its first shutout of the fall after blanking two foes a year ago. Senior linebacker Kyle Smith led with six tackles, while Walker contributed five, including three for loss, one of them a sack. Joel Campos registered 1.5 sacks.
“We were in some tough situations and our kids rose to the occasion,” the veteran coach assessed. “But we got a lot of undisciplined penalties that we need to clean up, or it’s going to come back to haunt us.”
Freedom was led by Robert Doherty’s nine tackles, 2.5 for loss. Jake Carney got to McCants once for a sack.
“We had our best week of practice in probably a month coming into this one,” said Freedom head coach Sean Curry. “I think our defense showed that, and I think at times our offense showed that when we were able to move the ball.
“The challenge for us is not shooting ourselves in the foot,” he went on. “We’ve stopped ourselves more than opposing defenses have.”
The Eagles now find themselves tasked with halting a three-game loss streak, while the Titans own their first two-game win streak of the campaign. Karlan believes Dominion can use the decisive triumph as a foundation for the season’s second half.
“I think we’re gonna take this win and run with it,” Karlan said. “The rest of the season, we’re going to come out strong.”
His quarterback concurred.
“Our team chemistry is just…” McCants snapped his fingers several times to finish the sentence. “We just need to keep it going.”
(Megaprops to Legit Stats for statistical corroboration on this particular TopTicket edition.)
Dominion stats –
Rushing: Vashon McCants 16-61, 1 TD; Alex Wertz 9-47; Billie Walker 9-46; Isaiah Webster 1-7; Kyle Kivinski 1-3
Passing: Vashon McCants 9 of 16 for 104, 2 TDs
Receiving: Trevor Karlan 5-81, 2 TDs; Kevin Betts 1-8; Billie Walker 1-7; George Richardson 1-5; Jayson Robinson 1-3
Freedom stats –
Rushing: Brett Dineen 8-19; Robert Mayo 8-8; Jack FitzGerald 18-(-13)
Passing: Jack FitzGerald 8 of 18 for 80
Receiving: Aidan Doherty 4-20; Zyan Collins 2-30; Robert Mayo 2-30
Other scores –
Loudoun County 47, Park View 27
Stone Bridge 48, West Springfield 12
Tuscarora 31, Herndon 21
Briar Woods 49, R. E. Lee 20
Champe 42, Skyline 0
Madison County 33, Riverside 27
Millbrook 61, Rock Ridge 12 (Thur.)
Off week for: Potomac Falls, Broad Run, Woodgrove, Loudoun Valley, Heritage
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications