Northeast Times

Washington rides Schlegel’s foot into title game

  • Kicking it: Sophomore soccer player Chris Schlegel had never kicked a football before this season. Three field goals and 24 extra points later, he’s an integral part of a GW team vying for a Public League title. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

  • Kicking it: Sophomore soccer player Chris Schlegel had never kicked a football before this season. Three field goals and 24 extra points later, he’s an integral part of a GW team vying for a Public League title. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

To say that Chris Schle­gel is a per­fec­tion­ist might be put­ting it mildly.

In Sat­urday af­ter­noon’s Pub­lic League AAAA semi­final at Charles Mar­tin Me­mori­al Sta­di­um, George Wash­ing­ton sur­vived a nerve-wrack­ing 17-13 vic­tory over a thor­oughly dis­ap­poin­ted North­east.

The GW sopho­more con­duc­ted what ap­peared to be an ex­cel­lent game. He kicked a ca­reer-long 37-yard field goal and two ex­tra points, and when com­puted, his con­tri­bu­tion lit­er­ally made the dif­fer­ence between a win and a loss. Take away one kick that bounced out of bounds, he also did a com­mend­able job on his kick­offs and punts.

His re­sponse?

“My team­mates picked me up dur­ing the game,” he said. “They gave me con­fid­ence when I was los­ing mine.”

Huh?

Turns out that on both of his ex­tra-point kicks, Schle­gel “al­most” missed them, par­tic­u­larly his second boot — a line drive that barely cleared the cross­bar.

To the cas­u­al ob­serv­er, that might not mean much. But to a kick­er, it means everything.

“Kick­ing is all about be­liev­ing in your­self,” Schle­gel said. “You have to be­lieve that when your time comes up to make a kick, there is noth­ing in your mind ex­cept know­ing that you are go­ing to be suc­cess­ful.”

Be­ing able to im­part such “kick­ing wis­dom” would sug­gest that Schle­gel has been de­fin­ing his craft for many years. But pri­or to this Septem­ber, Schle­gel had nev­er kicked a foot­ball.

A soc­cer play­er, Schle­gel figured that Wash­ing­ton would need a kick­er this year with the gradu­ation of former stal­wart Jake Wright, so he quickly prac­ticed to prove that he could do it, and then asked for a try­out.

A com­pos­ite three field goals and 24 ex­tra points later, Schle­gel was sud­denly a ma­jor con­trib­ut­or to his team’s abil­ity to reach this Sat­urday’s Pub­lic League AAAA cham­pi­on­ship, where it will meet de­fend­ing cham­pi­on Frank­ford for the third straight sea­son (4 p.m., North­east High).

It will mark the third straight sea­son in which the two Pub­lic League ti­tans meet for the title. Frank­ford won last year, GW the year be­fore.

For the Eagles to de­throne the Pi­on­eers, Schle­gel ac­know­ledged that his strong right leg might be the dif­fer­ence between a year-long vic­tory cel­eb­ra­tion or a year-long case of the “What ifs.”

Among those who be­lieve in his abil­ity is seni­or Rasheed Black.

“Num­ber 32 is a big factor on this team,” Black said, re­fer­ring to Schle­gel’s jer­sey num­ber. “He’s got a great leg. We have all the con­fid­ence in the world in Chris.”

Like Schle­gel, Black was also among GW’s key per­formers.

Trail­ing 3-0 on seni­or Tyler Gorm­ley’s 26-yard field goal mid­way through the second quarter, the Eagles (5-4 over­all) were hav­ing a tough time gen­er­at­ing any con­sist­ent of­fense. After North­east (4-6) missed a field goal with 1:45 re­main­ing in the half, the Eagles took over on their own 20-yard line.

Wak­ing up from their two-quarter slum­ber, GW marched 61 yards on eight plays. Black was in­volved in four of them, catch­ing passes of 10, 18 and 6 yards from seni­or quar­ter­back Cedric Wright and in­du­cing a pass in­ter­fer­ence pen­alty. With zero seconds on the clock, Schle­gel jogged onto the field and calmly nailed a 37-yarder through the up­rights to tie the game.

If the first half provided horse and buggy ex­cite­ment, the second half was more like a drag race.

With 7:48 re­main­ing in the third quarter, seni­or Nat­wan Curtis re­turned a punt 62 yards for a touch­down. But be­fore North­east’s play­ers and ju­bil­ant fans could even fin­ish cel­eb­rat­ing, GW seni­or Has­san Brock­man answered by re­turn­ing the en­su­ing kick­off 77 yards for a score.

Un­daun­ted, North­east calmly re­lied on its run­ning game, namely ju­ni­or Asa Man­ley (17 car­ries, 86 yards). Aided mostly by his jaunt of 48 yards, North­east re­gained the lead on a 32-yard field goal by Gorm­ley.

With 34 seconds left in the third, the Eagles took pos­ses­sion on their own 23 and pro­ceeded to em­bark on a 17-play, 77-yard scor­ing drive. Mak­ing the epic hike par­tic­u­larly mem­or­able was that it in­volved a run­ning-in­to-the-kick­er pen­alty to turn a fourth-and-four in­to a first down, and a 15-yard com­ple­tion from Wright to Black on a third and 12.

However, the coup de grace oc­curred when GW faced a fourth and two at the 18. With the game — and sea­son — lit­er­ally on the line, Ak­inyeli “Ken” Ever­age (14 car­ries, 81 yards) took a han­doff, fol­lowed his block­er to the left, and raced 18 yards for the first con­ven­tion­al touch­down of the con­test.

Then came Schle­gel’s only mis­take, an out-of-bounds kick­off with 3:18 on the clock that gave North­east a first down at its own 35. From there, Vik­ings quar­ter­back Johnath­an Diaz summoned the ghost of Harry Houd­ini. Over the next three minutes, he was bril­liant, mak­ing plays out of seem­ingly noth­ing — none more im­press­ive than a 20-yard scramble on a fourth and 19.

Even his lone mis­take — an in­ter­cep­tion by Brock­man — didn’t end the game be­cause Brock­man re­turned the theft 40 yards to the North­east 25 but fumbled the ball.

Diaz once again im­it­ated Su­per­man. He was able to march the Vik­ings all the way to the GW 33 be­fore his fi­nal heave was em­phat­ic­ally slapped down by seni­or Carlito Wright at the 5-yard line.

Game over.

Phew. ••

You can reach at jknebels@gmail.com.

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