Historic football season ends with first round exit

Junior quarterback Charlie Blessing sets up the offense on the line of scrimmage. Blessing was successful both running and throwing the ball in the first half.

The football team’s season concluded with a loss to Gaithersburg in the first round of the playoffs. The Wildcats had a perfect record at home during the regular season, but were bested 44-28 at home against the Trojans to begin the postseason.

WJ led the first three quarters of the game. After the Trojans went three and out to start the first quarter, freshman running back Dylan Byrd found the endzone. The Gaithersburg offense still couldn’t get points on the board early in the game, however junior quarterback Charlie Blessing had the chance to sync up with junior wide receiver Nick Zayas for another touchdown. Both WJ touchdowns were followed by good extra points by senior kicker Kevin Lukash.

Gaithersburg’s three star recruit, junior running back Gideon Ituka scored two touchdowns in the second quarter. The first touchdown was followed by a two-point conversion and the second was followed by a missed two-point conversion. Senior running back Kiran Sen responded to the two Gaithersburg touchdowns by scoring an 80-yard kickoff return. The Wildcats were able to hold their 21-14 lead going into the second half because of an interception by Zayas late in the second quarter.

WJ put points on the board for the last time this season when Blessing scored a rushing touchdown. Along with all of the other kicks he attempted in this game, Lukash made the extra point after the touchdown.

Gaithersburg responded by scoring another touchdown of their own late in the third quarter but was unable to get a two-point conversion.

“We needed to be more disciplined. We got ahead of ourselves as the season went on and it got in the way of our focus. We have to be able to still practice and play hard, even if we are doing well,” sophomore defensive lineman Jonny Fisher said.

Senior wide receiver Christion Wright prepares for the ball to snap. Wright and the offense scored a total of 28 points in the first three quarters, but failed to put any points on the board in the fourth. (Photo by Jona Jancewicz)

To begin the last quarter of the game, Gaithersburg scored another touchdown and a two-point conversion. When the WJ offense got the ball back, Blessing fumbled the ball which allowed Ituka to find the endzone again.

“I could definitely feel the momentum shift. It was ten minutes that we let them get the best of us,” junior wide receiver Nick Zampardi said.

The WJ offense failed to convert on an important fourth down with 6:12 left to play. Towards the end of the fourth quarter, the Gaithersburg side of the stands became louder than the WJ student section and started chanting, ‘this is our house’. All of the momentum the Trojans gained allowed them to extend their lead and score another touchdown and two-point conversion.

This loss definitely showed us the importance of keeping ourselves in the game and never underestimating our opponent because that’s definitely what held us back,

— junior linebacker Dylan Minnick

Although their season came to an end earlier than they had hoped, the Wildcats ended this season with a 7-3 record; one of the best records in program history.

“I am really looking forward to next year because it is my senior season. We also have a lot of great players coming up from JV so I am really excited to see what our team can do,” Zampardi said.