Leesburg, Va. — After surrendering the lead midway through the second quarter, the Loudoun County High School football team struggled to find any momentum. That was until midway through the fourth quarter when the Captains got the two big breaks they were looking for.
Trailing 17-10 with 8:30 left in the game, Loudoun County junior defensive back Jimmy Daughtrey intercepted a pass near midfield to stop the Heritage momentum. The Captains scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Then trailing 17-14 with 5:30 left in the game, Loudoun County junior defensive lineman Casey Robinson scooped up a fumble and returned it down inside the Heritage 20-yard line. Again, the Captains took advantage of the opportunity scoring on a touchdown run to take the lead from which they’d never look back, outlasting rival Heritage, 21-17, on February 28 in Leesburg.
“We just needed a spark,” Loudoun County first-year head coach Matt Reidenbaugh said. “Today was about as sloppy as you can play—and we certainly have a lot to address at practice—but we just told the kids to keep competing. Those big plays on defense really shocked us into playing the way we’re coached to play.”
While the defense got the train back on track, it was trusty senior running back Tariq Sims who took the offensive reins late to give his team the advantage. Following the Daughtrey interception, Sims caught a 34-yard pass from senior quarterback Gavin Pitts at the 2-yard line. On the very next play, Sims carried in a touchdown to cut the Loudoun County deficit to just 3.
Following the Robinson fumble recovery, the Captains once again turned to Sims, who pounded in his third rushing touchdown of the game, to give Loudoun County the lead.
“Our O-line got a lot more confident after those defensive takeaways then the rest of the offense followed along,” Sims said. “We just wanted to go pound it in.”
While it took more than three quarters for the Loudoun County offense to start clicking, when the Captains got rolling, it was a tough train to stop.
“I just told the kids to stop waiting for this to be comfortable,” Reidenbaugh said. “It’s uncomfortable: we’re riding the bus with masks on, we’re playing on a Sunday at 3pm, it’s raining; just about every weird thing that could happen happened. But if we just play the way we’re coached and compete, I think we can win some games.”
Sims and co. looked comfortable offensively, at least initially, to start the game, but the Heritage defense turned up the intensity late in the first quarter. Led by senior linebacker Max Jannes—who intercepted passes late in the first quarter and early in the fourth—the Pride defense completely dominated the Captains offense for more than 30 minutes through the meat of the game.
“Max Jannes is a stud. He was our heart and soul last year when we were struggling, and he’s still that,” Heritage head coach Joe Cockerham said. “We moved him from safety to outside linebacker, and he’s just dominating that challenge.”
Along with 11 other seniors, the Pride honored Jannes before the game in the most traditional-looking senior night ceremony we’ve seen throughout the COVID-era.
“Through COVID, the seniors really led the way,” Cockerham said. “They really did a nice job of getting the kids out there, working hard. We are head and shoulders above where we were last fall, and that’s all because of what the seniors have done.”
“I’m just trying to make the best of every day,” Sims said. “I’m just grateful I get to play the sport I love for one last year with my guys. I’m excited to keep on going.”
|1Q||6:28||Loudoun County||Tariq Sims 13-yard TD run (Jimmy Kibble PAT)||7-0|
|2Q||4:17||Heritage||Sean Robinson 3-yard TD run (Jackson Karam PAT)||7-7|
|3Q||0:21||Heritage||Jackson Karam 21-yard field goal||7-10|
|4Q||11:19||Heritage||Brandon Lofton to Max Jannes 7-yard TD pass (Jackson Karam PAT)||7-17|
|4Q||7:59||Loudoun County||Tariq Sims 2-yard TD run (Jimmy Kibble PAT)||14-17|
|4Q||4:42||Loudoun County||Tariq Sims 6-yard TD run (Jimmy Kibble PAT)||21-17|