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.”
“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.” ••