Washington comes up short again in rout

  • Not this time: Washington lineman Zaire Hollerway fought hard in the trenches, but the Eagles still fell to Frankford in the Public League title game, 30-3. MICHELLE ALTON / FOR THE TIMES

  • Not this time: Washington linemen Shane McFadden fought hard in the trenches, but the Eagles still fell to Frankford in the Public League title game, 30-3. MICHELLE ALTON / FOR THE TIMES

As he knelt down with his team­mates listen­ing to his head coach’s fleet­ing words of en­cour­age­ment, George Wash­ing­ton High School seni­or Shane Mc­Fad­den struggled to main­tain his emo­tions.

Minutes earli­er, his Eagles had lost, 30-3, to ar­chrival Frank­ford in Sat­urday’s Pub­lic League Di­vi­sion AAAA cham­pi­on­ship at North­east High School’s Charlie Mar­tin Me­mori­al Sta­di­um. It was the type of game that left even the most ob­ject­ive GW fan be­wildered be­cause, in truth, everything had gone wrong.

As the left tackle ex­ited the mo­tiv­a­tion­al speech by Ron Co­hen, he ap­peared stunned.

“I don’t know what to say,” Mc­Fad­den said. “I really don’t have any words.”

This was a game that hung by the bal­ance at 8-3 al­most through three quar­ters be­fore Frank­ford took total con­trol with three touch­downs on suc­cess­ive drives in a span of 11 minutes, 25 seconds.

But throughout the con­test, it nev­er had a feel that GW would find a way to make a key play. It was as though it was just a mat­ter of time be­fore Frank­ford, which had also de­feated the Eagles in the reg­u­lar sea­son and last fall’s fi­nal, sealed the deal.

“It was so frus­trat­ing,” Mc­Fad­den said. “Just wait­ing to do something and we just didn’t get it done. When it was 16-3, I still thought we were OK. Then when they scored that long touch­down (a 68-yard jaunt by seni­or Dami­on Samuels with ex­actly 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter), I wondered to my­self, ‘I’m not sure we’re go­ing to get this done.’ ”

Two-way seni­or line­man Zaire Holler­way echoed Mc­Fad­den’s sen­ti­ments.

“There comes a time when you have to take ad­vant­age of your op­por­tun­it­ies, and we didn’t,” Holler­way said. “It’s dis­ap­point­ing, but that’s part of life. You have to learn how to deal with ad­versity, and that’s where we all are now.”

After Frank­ford had fin­ished cel­eb­rat­ing, Holler­way and standout Pi­on­eer seni­or Kadar Jones em­braced each oth­er near mid­field. The two line­men looked ab­so­lutely spent. They both donned scuff­marks on their uni­forms and dents in their hel­mets.

That the op­pon­ents rel­ished shar­ing a spe­cial mo­ment defined what high school ath­let­ics is sup­posed to be all about, es­pe­cially for these two rivals with a long­stand­ing his­tory of mu­tu­al re­spect for one an­oth­er.

“A lot of us know a lot of them,” Holler­way said. “They played a great game. They were bet­ter. That’s noth­ing to be ashamed of.

“Next week, I’ll be on the side­line root­ing for them to beat (St. Joseph’s Prep in the Dis­trict 12 cham­pi­on­ship, 4 p.m. Sat­urday at North­east High). If we couldn’t be there to win it for the Pub­lic League, maybe they can do the job.”

Mc­Fad­den con­curred.

“It’s funny how you go out and knock each oth­er around for four quar­ters but then shake hands at the end,” he said. “That’s one of the cool things about foot­ball.”

Mc­Fad­den, who said he “very much ap­pre­ci­ated it” when Co­hen told his dis­pir­ited troops that he was “very proud” of them in the post-game huddle, re­called also be­ing teary-eyed after last sea­son’s de­feat.

However, there was a key dif­fer­ence. Last year, Mc­Fad­den had suffered a con­cus­sion a third of the way in­to the sea­son that de­prived him of hav­ing a chance to suit up for the 2012 mar­quee event.

This time, at least, Mc­Fad­den was able to con­trib­ute.

“It’s both easi­er and harder this time around,” Mc­Fad­den said. “When you don’t play, you think about ways you could have helped. When you do play for the whole game, you still think about ways you could have helped by do­ing things dif­fer­ently.

“But that’s not real­ity. We really did give it everything we had, but it wasn’t enough. I think that is what hurts the most. We worked so hard all year – in the weight room, in prac­tice, in the games. And in the end, it wasn’t enough.” ••

You can reach at jknebels@gmail.com.

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