State champion football team inspired by patriotism

Chris DeLong, Staff Writer

2001 was a year this country won’t forget.  The worst day in United States history happened in September and from then on the U.S. was on a man hunt.  For the football team, this was part of their motivation to win the state football championship.

Motivation for the football team started in 2000 when the school lost to Centreville in the regional championship game.  Since then, the off season was fueled by that loss and eventually 9/11 added to their motivation after regrouping from that day.

“With his [Coach Bendorf’s] leadership, the kids worked real hard in the off season and were ready,” said Shawn Spear, defensive back coach from 1997-2001.

The school had 12 wins that season and one loss in their homecoming game against West Potomac.  The team was led by captains Mike Imoh, Pat O’Meara, Blake Shubart and Matt Altomare.

“We lost quite a few players from that team, but had some key returners,” Spear said.  “We had the team built around [Mike Imoh].”

Mike Imoh went on to be State Offensive Player of the Year with his performance at running back.

The team’s only loss that year came against West Potomac, which helped them recognize the importance of playing all four quarters and not taking time off during the game Spear said.

“I think that loss helped us make it to the playoffs,” Spear said.

The school went into the playoffs with eight wins and one loss.  The team went through the playoffs with a perfect record of four wins and no losses, beating Oakton in the first round before facing Centreville for the second straight year.  The team gelled together and beat Centreville in the regional championship 27-17.  Spear said the key game was against Deep Creek, the state semi-final game.

“It was a very talented team and we just came out as a team and stuck to our gameplan.  We pulled away in the second half and they were shocked we beat them,” Spear said.

The season ended with the school beating Thomas Dale in the state championship  40-7.  According to Spear, everyone got to play in the game because of the team dominating the entire time.

“I think it was like 21-0 at halftime, and in the second half we just pulled away,” Spear said.  “Everybody got to play in the game which was pretty cool.”

At the game, the crowd was going crazy, according to Frank Ruth, school photographer and retired teacher.  The crowd was always up on their feet and were constantly cheering for the school team as thousands came down from Northern Virginia to watch the game.

“This was the only team I have ever felt bad for,” Ruth said.  “It [the game] was awesome.  They [Thomas Dale] were annihilated.”

According to Ruth, the fans were shaking whatever they had and were waving towels in the air.

“It was wild all the way through.  It was crazy,” Ruth said.  “It was one live wired place.”

The football team set many state records during the championship game.  According to Ruth, the team broke around six state records in that game.

The football team in 2001 was like no other.  They overcame a tough season before and then dealt with 9/11, but persevered through it.  They were the last school team to win the state championship, but in the coming years it may change.