For the first time in 38 years, the National District football title will go to Washington-Lee High School.
The Generals stormed into Yorktown Friday night and shut out the Patriots, 10-0, handing the Patriots their first district loss in four years and clinching the Generals’ first undefeated district season in almost four decades.
Washington-Lee quarterback Sam Appel scored on a quarterback sneak with 11:44 left in the game, after the Generals got a 20-yard field goal in the third quarter, and the Generals’ stout defense did the rest.
The Generals’ sideline erupted after Appel took a knee to end the game, and head coach Josh Shapiro was doused in Gatorade before his players lifted him onto their shoulders in jubilation.
“It’s overwhelming right now,” he said after the game. “We stood toe-to-toe with a giant.”
Yorktown star running back M.J. Stewart was hampered by an ankle injury in the second half, carrying the ball only a handful of times. He was trying to get himself loose on the sidelines after halftime, and he was used largely as a decoy for full drives.
Shapiro told his team in practice leading up to the game that they would need to be close to perfect to beat Yorktown, to whom they’ve lost each of the last 30 regular season meetings.
“Defensively, we were close to being perfect tonight,” Shapiro said.
The other aspects of the game were far from perfect for the Generals. They were stopped inches from the goal line in the second quarter, and Stewart, who also plays defensive back, intercepted an Appel pass in the end zone in the first quarter. The Generals also missed a field goal and shanked a punt, but the defense was good enough to cover all the mistakes.
Yorktown’s offense, which had scored more than 30 points in all but two games before Friday night, never found a rhythm. Stewart never broke a big run, and quarterback Will Roebuck’s passes sailed high for much of the night, including when he threw a costly interception to Dwayne Williams, setting up Appel’s touchdown run.
None of the players on Yorktown’s roster had ever experienced a season in which they didn’t hang a National District banner up in the gymnasium. Several players were emotional as they quickly left the field, while the Generals and their fans stayed for as long as they could to soak in the victory.
“We’re going to give this game its just due and celebrate this,” Shapiro said. The Generals and Patriots, both 8-2, begin regional playoffs this month. “When you carry something like this on your shoulders for 30 years, it weighs on you. So we’re going to enjoy this.”